Arsene Wenger sets foot in his twentieth season as the Arsenal manager next season having won the most FA Cup trophies – tied with George Ramsay on six – and three Premier League titles.
Notwithstanding the fact that every English club will relish welcoming him, his job is in jeopardy, as there have been rumours that claim his contract that runs only until the summer of 2017 may not be renewed.
Wenger’s position has come under intense scrutiny again this season, with the club all but spurning what had been mooted as their greatest opportunity to end their English-title drought. Disparaging banners have been unfurled at the stadia, and the WOB has been vocal about their stance.
However, people who have been directly involved in football or people who know a thing or two about how football clubs function – David Beckham, David Seaman, Gilberto Silva, Patrick Vieira, and Ian Wright – have voiced their backing for the French gaffer.
Despite the veterans’ attempts to quiet the critics, Wenger’s denigrators continue to take pride in lambasting their most successful manager in history.
By the looks of things, however, the WOB may be forced to eat humble pie not long after the manager calls it a day.
Is the board to blame?
Stan Kroenke, the majority shareholder, also owns Colorado Rapids, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Rams, and a few other sports enterprises, and observers need no introduction to the intentions of the American business magnate, given his decision to take £3 million home despite hardly ever rocking up at Emirates Stadium.
Fans somehow envision Alisher Usmanov as the savior, failing to ponder why he would ever pump money into the club, especially given his notorious business background. Odds are that the Russian would transform into Kroenke 2.0 though the possibility of him buying Kroenke’s shares out remains highly unlikely.
Arsenal have been ill-fated as far as ownership is concerned, as the London club are owned by businessmen, who picturize the historic club as a sports project that generates a great deal of money throughout the year. One needs to look no further than the season ticket prices for the evidence.
Despite fickle and close-fisted ownerships, Wenger has succeeded in retaining the Champions League status of the club whilst also equipping the club with state-of-the-art stadium and training ground facilities.
Genius or underachiever?
Claudio Ranieri has been earning plaudits for Leicester City’s fairy-tale season, but somehow, Wenger only garners flak for pulling off a ‘Ranieri’ between the season Arsenal made the Emirates switch and the season that saw Mesut Ozil sign for Arsenal.
European football, let alone English football has seldom come across a Wenger story, but he is an underachieving – or deluded – manager in the eyes of the multitude of clever dogs online; it is very much likely that his worst Arsenal-supporting detractors would sing his praise, given his ability to finish within top four despite being handed only a shoestring budget for many seasons in a row.
With Arsenal’s current board, only a very few managers keep the club where they are now, and Wenger ostensibly ranks first amongst that unique breed of football managers.
Today’s most successful managers such as Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, and the likes have always boasted war chests multiple times bigger than what Wenger has been given throughout his managerial career, and the abovementioned unique breed of managers in the likes of Jurgen Klopp will all accept that no one does it better than Wenger.
Pressure and sacrifices
Managerial jobs come with a plethora of pressure. Jacob Steinberg of the Guardian elucidates the hardships Football League managers go through thanks to intense scrutiny and emphasizes on the strain the job puts on their families.
Former Peterborough United (League One) manager Dave Robinson spoke of the frustration and humiliation managers and their families go through because of the criticism.
“We lived in the city, my two boys were in school in Peterborough,” the former Peterborough manager said.
“When the pressure comes and the results don’t, it’s tough. I had a 12-year-old and a six-year-old at school in the city and people were saying: ‘Your dad’s a rubbish manager’ and you have to hear all the other things that are said. It does have an impact on you and your family. The boys went through the obvious frustration of feeling hurt because there were friends from school who were repeating those things.”
Sacked Sheffield United manager David Weir: “Your family sees you suffering. You’re in the middle of it, trying to remedy it, and they see that. They see the worry, the phone calls, how hard you’re working to try to get success, and they feel disappointed as much as you do and have no control of it. Your closest friends and family – plus staff – feel that disappointment. The football industry now is so sharp and cruel.”
Whilst the third-tier of English football could be so cruel, the pressure of being the manager at one of the biggest club in the planet shall know no bounds. Wenger has had his fair share of sufferings, as he is currently separated from his wife and teenage daughter.
Fans clearly overlook his sacrifices and the fact that he could have abandoned the club in a poor state like the celebrated former Manchester United manager in Alex Ferguson.
Who needs whom?
Fans slam him for taking £8 million annually, but, with the Premier League going through the biggest transition in the recent history, the club need Wenger more than he needs the club.
With the television deal changing the course of the happenings and keeping every top-flight club bereft of financial struggles, the league may witness a shift in power and dominance, as evinced by the rise of West Ham United and Leicester and the fall of Liverpool and United in the recent years.
Through such a vulnerable period, Arsenal – and every other top club – need to maintain their consistency, lest sink into mediocrity and a stabilizing factor like Wenger is, thus, imperative. The WOB must be aware of what they are asking for.
Usmanov: “The only thing is that today such situation occurred, like in any sport, there are ups and downs. The club must retain its major symbol and main asset – manager Arsene Wenger. It is very important for the football club to maintain the principles that were established by those people who created its victories. Arsenal needs Arsene Wenger.”
Wenger’s long-standing criticism is being a monomaniac and not being pragmatic, but he has addressed the same, given the tactics he had employed against the big six, Bayern Munich, and Barcelona.
Wenger has also shown ruthlessness in the transfer window of late; Wenger is evolving, and he should be in the Arsenal technical area at least until the television deal madness sets in.
Written by Praveen Paramasivam
Follow Praveen on Twitter @49Praveen
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