The Wenger DilemmaArsenal are no longer winning trophies and either Wenger or the club must change
by Scott Nicholls | Friday, September 07, 2012
Earlier this year I wrote an article about Arsene Wenger and Arsenal. The title of it was “Why I don’t feel sorry for Arsene Wenger, or Arsenal,” and the content of said article was pretty self explanatory. However, that was only at the time where Robin Van Persie had stated his desire for a move away from the Emirates. Now that rumor is a reality and the badge-kissing Dutch mercenary (he’s already done it for Manchester United, took him less than 3 games) is part of one of the best (if not the best) team in the English Premier League.
Arsenal fans will have been distraught as Van Persie just about seems to be fulfilling his potential at last, he had a stellar season last season and has began the season this season the way he ended last season - scoring goals. While depressed, Arsenal fans could at least take solace in the fact that Wenger had sort of strengthened his side with the signings of Lucas Podolski (who for me has only ever looked good wearing a Germany shirt) and Ligue 1 goal machine Olivier Giroud upfront who will be fed assists by Alexandre Song and newly acquired Santi Cazorla right? Wrong.
Less than a week later (5 days, to be exact) Song, Arsenal’s top assister joined Catalan giants Barcelona. What is going on at Arsenal? Bacary Sagna would like to know. Sagna has recently come out and stated his discontent with the decisions to let Song and Robin Van Persie go. Sagna said of the moves:
“When you see the two best players of last season leave, you have a lot of questions. Sometimes in the street the fans talk to me. I can understand they are upset. I am just like them, I don’t understand everything.”
Sagna has received criticism for these comments from UK fans and media, but why? Sagna is a human being doing a job. Sagna is an employee of Arsenal Football Club and is entitled to voice his concerns that the team is not necessarily moving in the right direction. Sagna has also stated that he would like to stay at Arsenal and be a good player for Arsenal but when asked if Arsenal had contacted him about a contract extension he replied “No, no one.” Well, they’d better sooner rather than later because Carl Jenkinson is not the answer.
To say Arsenal have moved backwards as a team would be a bit of an overstatement. We know exactly how good of a manager Arsene Wenger is. Despite his seemingly clueless approach to man management and team transfer policy Arsenal continue to qualify for the Champions League. It must be incredibly frustrating though for Arsenal fans that they only look like they’re two players away from being genuine contenders again ... it’s just that they sold those two players.
The argument that seems to have finally waned this year that comes every year from Arsenal fans is “at least we’re not in debt,” to which supporters of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea reply “but look at all our shiny pieces of silver!”
Arsenal fans are growing discontented.
The whole saga started with Patrick Vieira, would he go, wouldn’t he go. Every season these rumors circulated in England and every season he stayed because Arsenal were winning, because Arsenal were doing things to ensure they kept winning. Eventually Vieira did leave, and then Henry left, and then Nasri, and then Fabregas, and then Van Persie & Song ... you get the picture.
My point is that Arsenal never used to be a selling club. They (the club and fans) never used to have to worry about players leaving to go to “greener pastures” because there wasn’t any. Nowadays it seems like when the offseason rolls around, Arsenal fans wonder “who’s leaving?” and “what unknown are we buying to replace him?”
Is this an acceptable way to run a football club? I don’t think so. Especially with the money that Arsenal do have. Teams need to take financial risks on occasion in order to give themselves the best chance of winning, Chelsea do it, both Manchester teams do it and Arsenal used to do it. Look at the shift in power since Arsene Wenger’s “project.” Arsenal have won nothing in 7 years, 3 months, 16 days and counting (source: http://www.sincearsenallastwonatrophy.co.uk). In that time their London rival Chelsea have won: 3 EPL titles, 4 FA Cups, 1 League Cup and 1 Champions League.
I understand Wenger’s philosophy, I think everybody does ... but in the world of modern football it seems to have proved that you can do a lot with a little, but you cannot be great without mixing the products of your (more like smaller teams) youth system(s) and buying top players.
Even Barcelona, who are world renowned for adopting Johann Cruyff’s system from the Ajax team of the 1980’s and making it into their own including La Masia, their world famous youth academy and training facility, have bought big. Barcelona love marquee signings, lets name a few: Maradona, Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Samuel Eto’o, Dani Alves, David Villa, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Cesc Fabregas, Alexis Sanchez and most recently Alexandre Song. Arsenal don’t make these signings anymore and subsequently they don’t seem to win anymore.
Something needs to change at Arsenal, and soon. The players are becoming unsettled, the fans are becoming restless and the club are becoming a punchline for the rest of the league. Will they play good football? Yes. Will they entertain? Yes. But will they win? No.
These days I feel sorry for Arsenal fans. I feel sorry for them because the philosophy of one man is currently set to be the undoing of a once prestigious, successful club. Arsene Wenger will eventually feel the wrath of the board, the players and the fans. I admire what he has been trying to do, but I can’t honestly say in my heart that I would disagree with any of them, either.