The BSM’s apparent stance on Arsene Wenger has been done to death, resurrected and done to death again... about 8,000 times. “You’re that ‘Wenger Out’ group aren’t you?” No, we’re not and we never have been. Have a read (or another read) of our website – you’ll find out there what we’re about.
But while here, I want to talk about the manager from a personal point of view.
Now, I totally get that plenty of fans will be fiercely loyal to Wenger. To many, he’s all they know at Arsenal; they’re unaware what the club was like before he came, what it was like as a supporter, to a large extent how things were shaped on the pitch and the foundations laid by previous legendary managers and players.
On the flip side there are ever-growing numbers who now oppose Arsene Wenger remaining as manager. This has seen a huge divide cut through our fanbase – and it continues to grow at an alarming rate. I’ve been an Arsenal fan all my life, I’ve been going to games for around 30 years and I’ve never seen such a spiteful, aggressive and at times physically violent mood against each other. Civil war is taking place among our own fans.
The two sides
To some, Arsene Wenger is responsible for the dismantling of the Invincibles, replacing them with inferior products, and stubbornly refusing to accept our teams since just haven’t been good enough. The numerous strange signings of sub-standard players, lack of in-game tactics and his general “you all know nothing” attitude to anyone who dares question him. Many fans think he’s been left behind by modern day football and is holding us back. There has been amazing growth in numbers on this side over the past few months.
Then you get the loyalists who are steadfast in their defence of the manager. The “keep the faith” people who are fine with an Arsenal team achieving a top four place and one trophy in the past ten seasons, because Wenger is the man in charge. Whether it be the early success he had at the club, the way he’s managed to keep us treading water following the stadium move financial restrictions, or how he’s battled against “oil money” (*cringe*) – the consistent message is we should have pride and confidence in our manager. To huge numbers of fans across the world, Arsene Wenger is THE man and simply irreplaceable.
Middle ground? What’s that?!
I absolutely get that people are entitled to their opinions and I can see both sides of the argument. Until recently I was bang in the middle of these two groups – neither a ‘Wenger in’ (or AKB – Arsene Knows Brigade) or ‘Wenger out’ (WOB – Wenger Out Brigade).
However, quite strangely, we have so many fans with the mentality that if anyone criticises the club, they MUST be having a pop at Arsene Wenger. I have a message for those people... Arsene Wenger is NOT Arsenal. We were already a huge name in football before he arrived, we’d won plenty of trophies (at home, and abroad) and we’ll still be a huge club after he goes. Yes he’s brought so much to the club, but no one person is bigger than The Arsenal.
There is a hint of similar sentiment from the ‘WOB’ side – that if you see any benefit in him being manager, you’re one of the ‘AKB’.
On the fence? Middle ground? Yes… it CAN and DOES exist. Get used to it!
My views on Wenger
So where do I actually stand on the subject of Arsene Wenger as Arsenal manager?
I know the usual suspects who’ll maintain I’ve always been anti-Wenger. They’ve been adamant and no matter how much I argue back, apparently I hate the man because I’ve dared to criticise him at times.
Along with these assumptions and declarations I’ve had all manner of insults. Death threats, ‘promises’ of people coming to Arsenal to beat me up, I’ve been called a racist, a BNP / UKIP member, recently the “son of a rapist and a whore” and just recently some charming man declared me a “vile human being”, that I’m the worst WOB, and one of the worst Arsenal fans of all time.
Bearing in mind the people aiming this stuff at me know zero about my level of support for the team, how long I’ve been a fan, the distance I’ve travelled, the games I’ve been to, following my club through thick and thin… to me it makes their comments, threats and insults utterly laughable. Ignorance is in abundance behind the keyboards of these warriors.
So am I Wenger in or Wenger out? Before I go on to explain, I’ll say this – it’s not something that’s easily black or white. There are valid arguments on both sides.
I’m completely grateful of what Arsene Wenger has brought to the club. I consider him one of our greatest ever managers and I’ve been truly lucky to be at matches to see some of the world class players he’s put on the pitch. The best football I’ve ever seen from Arsenal has come from some of Wenger’s teams.
In recent years, I totally get that we’ve had the stadium move and I side more with Wenger than the Board on the issue of money to spend. Despite assurances that funds for squad improvement would be “ring fenced” when we moved, it’s been blatantly obvious that money has been held back and the club has been far too conservative with what’s been spent on new signings.
Are there any other managers who could have kept us treading water over those years, achieving a top 4 place on minimal spend? I very much doubt it. And I doubt if there would be many other managers who would have wanted that job anyway. He’s stuck it out.
Of course that said, Arsene Wenger has been extremely well rewarded in financial terms because of his performance. I truly believe that the Board gave him the sole Key Performance Indicator to get us Champions League football while keeping a close eye on expenditure, and have based his huge contracts on this. I still think it’s the case to be honest.
That said, since 2006 I’ve become very frustrated with the sub-standard players he’s tried to pass off as quality. I’ve been pissed off with the amount of dead wood he allowed to accumulate and the ridiculous wages he paid them. £52,000 a week for Bendtner? £60,000 a week for Diaby? Those are just two; we’ve had so many other players on salaries above market rate and we’ve been stuck with them because no other clubs are silly enough to pay them equivalent wages. Thankfully we’re now getting past that debacle but Wenger has wasted tens of millions of pounds in the process.
I’ve not liked the lies (spin) and the excuses. I’ve hated the outbursts at journalists who’ve dared question him, especially the utterly embarrassing “why do you look at me?” press conference. Some fans love it and make out he’s sticking two fingers up at the press, but I think it lacks class. It’s simply not the Arsenal way.
So there are pros and cons in my mind for Wenger. But when it came to last summer, and Wenger’s contract was up, did I want him gone? No, I didn’t.
The summer of 2014 was heralded as the time when the financial shackles would come off – when the hugely improved sponsorship deals and TV revenue would give us the financial muscle to go and compete with the big boys. Gazidis teed it up and we awaited a fruitful summer transfer market.
After so long in the job and steering us through tricky times around the stadium move, especially after winning the FA Cup in May, I thought he should be given the freedom to go out and spend our new riches on building another title-challenging team. That said, I thought a rolling one year contract would have been best; after all he was approaching 65 years of age and I thought he could carry on his role as Manager, but work with the Board to help identify his successor. After all, he would need to give input on this because the Board haven’t got a football bone in their collective bodies. As we know, the Board deemed that a new three year contract was deserved and I shake my head in disbelief at this decision.
The summer was again spun as a successful transfer window but I disagree. There were ‘one out, one in’ replacement signings; Ospina for Fabianski, Debuchy for Sagna, Chambers for Jenkinson. Despite our desperate need for a top class striker there was no movement until Olivier Giroud broke his ankle and in came Danny Welbeck. A decent enough player but top, top class? Not for me.
The one luxury signing in Sanchez has been immense and he’s carried the team so far this season. A centre back to replace Vermaelen? Promised, but not delivered – despite knowing for months that our former captain would be gone. The much-needed defensive midfielder to shield the defence? Nah, nothing.
So it would appear that the manager is still being stubborn in his ways. A v-sign at those who claim they know what the team needs. I’m the boss and what I say, goes. Even this crap that people giving opinions know nothing because they’ve “managed zero games”. How rude and disrespectful?! Telling us that some of the club’s greatest ever players don’t know the game and don’t know how to set up a team on the pitch to defend a lead? Absolute rubbish.
Right here, right now
Ultimately for all the greatness he brought to the club and what he’s done for us, I respect him and thank him. I stuck by him in the summer and wanted him to move with the times – I wanted him to show people they were wrong and that he could bring back the good times to this club of ours. But what I’ve seen since we won the FA Cup has been absolutely baffling.
I’d love to see Arsene Wenger turn things around, but I fear that modern day football has passed him by. There are other managers who out-think us on the pitch, who know how to deal with the teams we put out there. I don’t see any acceptance from our manager that times change and he’s flatly refusing to adapt. We’re still trying the same things over and over, and for me, it’s not working. Wenger is becoming (or has become) a dinosaur lost in modern day surroundings.
Unless there’s a big turnaround in the team’s performances I fear for the man. He’s looking frail and stressed and the teams he’s putting out just aren’t performing. There seems to be no camaraderie on the pitch and there’s a lack of fight that Arsenal teams of old would provide.
But would Wenger call it a day? Not for me – I can see his stubbornness keeping him there. Stan Kroenke loves the riches Wenger brings to the club so while we make the top 4 year on year, there’ll be no movement. The manager is here for another 2.5 years, unless he calls it a day.
Of course many Wenger supporters maintain that there’s nobody good enough to take his place. In my opinion that’s out and out blinkered, blind faith bollocks. Even Arsene Wenger would tell you you’re crazy if you said it to him.
I know that there was an Arsenal before Wenger and there will be one after he’s gone. I’ve seen pre-Wenger days, and while some were poor, some were absolutely amazing. At the end of the day, we are The Arsenal and we’ll go on, no matter what. I’ve loved what Arsene Wenger has done at Arsenal and I’ve hated some parts of his leadership. I’ve acknowledged both sides and I see that as realism, not carried away on a whirlwind of blind faith.
So where am I right now on the big question? For me the cons outweigh the pros and I think Arsene Wenger’s time may be up. We’re seeing the same issues, still, and to me the manager seems lost. His teams don’t seem to be playing for him, we haven’t really played good football for a few years, and I remain to be convinced that Wenger will change his ways and adapt to modern football.
As ever I’ll always support the team on the pitch. But football has changed, times change and right now I think we need a fresh approach.
Up The Gunners.