The past 16 years of Arsene Wenger helming the reins at Arsenal have produced some of the most magnificent talent known in the footballing world. He has been regarded as Arsenal’s most successful manager ever and definitely is the longest serving manager of Arsenal Football Club till date. Although the fire seems to have dimmed down over the years, Wenger was also once criticised (read as ‘exalted’) for producing one of the fiercest rivalries known to British football. A rivalry which has fizzled out over mutual understanding and respect, not to mention lack of confidence and impetus from the Arsenal personnel, with another great manager by the name of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Now while the United supporters reading this while have a coy smile on their face, which they always do at the mention of SAF, GGMU or Red Devils, I have an entirely different perspective of the matter; as an Arsenal supporter of course. I respect Sir Alex and, for what it’s worth, I believe he definitely deserved to be knighted considering his contribution to the world of sport, in particular to British football. But as the title suggests, I would still rather have Wenger in the manager’s hot seat for my favourite club rather than Sir Alex.
Sir Alex is brilliant. He has been managing a top level football club for 26 years, a feat which any football fan knows has become impossible to achieve with modern day football’s tenacity. But not just that, he assured them to consistently be among the top competitors in England as well as Europe. He deserves the credit but everyone seems to forget the skeletons he has hidden in his closet.
Sir Alex did whatever it took to win the accolades he did for United. He also did whatever it took to remain the manager of United until this day. Going back just a few years will reveal the discrepancies which Sir Alex cut aside whenever his job was in question at the cost of numerous of his players who trusted and praised him. In the late 90’s when the Neville brothers were both at United, there was a magnificent sense of belonging and confidence within the team which went on to win the treble. It was a team even I was fond of watching with Sheringham, Yorke, Solskjaer, Giggs, Scholes, Stam, Beckham, Schmeichel, Butt, Irwin, even Roy Keane to some extent. It was said then that the Neville brothers were the talk of the dressing room and all the players loved them; they were fast becoming as popular as the manager.
So what did Sir Alex do? He decided to split them up and got rid of Phil Neville to keep the balance of power in his favour. When Jaap Stam was let go from United, his comments clearly expressed that Sir Alex instructed his players to take a dive in Europe to influence the referees. When David Beckham was en route to becoming one of the most popular players in the world by curling in freekick after freekick for the United team in sublime fashion, Sir Alex was probably feeling warm under the collar and had to let him go for fear that Beckham would soon command more respect in the dressing room than the manager himself. He obviously cited that Beckham had lost focus after marriage and wasn’t training as intently as he should. With the money received from Beckham’s departure, Sir Alex was able to purchase two young players.
The story of Cristiano Ronaldo is one which need not be stressed on, but the second player, Eric Djemba-Djemba, was on schedule to be a great player as well. He was brought in to be a potential solution for United’s depleting midfield. He could have easily slotted into any top 10 team in England, but instead, Sir Alex held onto him for two of his formative years in a rotation policy which saw him make only about 20 or so appearances. In the end, Sir Alex let him go but Djemba-Djemba’s possibly illustrious career was nowhere to be found. In short, Sir Alex always made sure he had his back covered when he needed it, no matter what the cost. He did what was best for the club but only after doing what was best for himself.
On the other side of the tracks, poor old Wenger can’t buy a trophy to save his job. 7 seasons and running without a trophy has had numerous counts for his head on a plate. But if you ask me, the board are smart not to have let him go and should do everything within their power to hold onto him as long as they can have him.
Wenger has always propagated a brilliant brand of football. Although standards have visibly dropped over the years, Arsenal can still be one of the best teams to watch on the football pitch on occasion. Wenger has been trying to bring the silverware back to Arsenal’s trophy cabinet but it is no easy task. In a day and age when teams are being bought out by billionaires who are looking for a new hobby, Arsenal has still managed to be a club which is not owned by a single individual (or two or three individuals). But that does come at a cost. Arsenal has not been able to hold its head high in transfer markets because a lack of funds from wealthy investors.
On the other hand, Arsenal are one of the few clubs in Europe to be churning out a profit every season and this after moving to a new stadium in a time of economic turmoil which has affected the whole world, not just football. Although most people don’t know this, Wenger is actually one of the people to thank for this situation. Wenger is well known for being meticulous about the condition of the ground, the stadium, the dressing rooms, and everything else, but while the high standards should have driven the club to the dust, Wenger was able to strike the best deals possible. Wenger carries the weight of the world (read as ‘boardroom and supporters’) on his shoulders but is still able to keep the club financially solvent which is no mean task.
Even further, Wenger understands football, footballers and football clubs. He knows what a rivalry is all about. He knows the dreams and passion of a young footballer who wants to make it big. He knows the culture that goes along with loving and supporting a football club. Although he would never say it, he has a passion for the sport and for Arsenal which goes further than just a pay check and a medal. He believes in a certain style of football and I am glad that he is ready to see it out to the end. In spite of the calls for his head, he is true to what he believes in and wants the best for the club. He continues to give young players a chance and credit to the man for supporting even his injury-prone players through thick and thin to turn them into the superstars that everyone else picks off by dropping a few million pounds. Wenger’s faith has given a chance for players like Eduardo, Rosicky, Ramsey, Diaby, Frimpong, Wilshere and even van Persie to have a career after bouts of long term and persistent injuries. I think at the end of the day, all Wenger wants is to see Arsenal play the beautiful game they are known for as long as he is in control of the club.
Not to say Sir Alex does not have some great qualities himself, but given a choice I would always say “In Wenger I Trust”.