Coming from the unchartered territory of Japan, on the back of little coaching experience in France before this, Arsene Wenger was for many reasons a topic of huge debate when he took over the reins at Arsenal in 1996.
His appointment even sparked a considerable amount of discomfort in the dressing room, with club legend Tony Adams questioning the newly appointed manager’s credentials due to his appearance, which he felt was closer to that of a school master as opposed to a football coach.
But Wenger rose above all that, forming what must be one of the strongest teams in the history of modern Premier League football, going a record fourty-nine games unbeaten, enough to seal his fate as one of the finest managers the country has seen.
Recent years have not been so kind to the French manager though, with a trophy drought yet to be broken, following a series of poor seasons.
It’s easy to blame him for the stagnation in quality that the team has suffered in recent times. Some of his recent signings have been rather questionable too, with Gervinho, Chamakh, Andre Santos and Park Chu Young probably not even suitable to play in the n-power Championship.
Added to that, our board seems hell bent on putting their best player up for auction every year, leading many to believe that it is much more a business organisation than a football club. It almost seems like Arsenal nurtures all it’s players to a creditable level and then decides to sell them to the highest bidder.
If it is so heart breaking for the supporters of the club, I can’t even imagine what the manager must be going through. To convert raw talent into world class products takes talent in itself, and many players have praised Wenger for being more than just a coach to them. The players look up to him as a father-figure. Cesc Fabregas famously even named his daughter Léa, just like Arsene.
Wenger is known to be a master at unravelling the best out of a player, almost like a gemstone cutter. He helps groom slightly volatile personalities, as in the case of Robin van Persie and Tony Adams, enabling them to convert it into sheer aggression and determination on the field. The only drawback to that is that for the past few years, we have been in a situation where we have had no option but to let go of our players if a substantial offer comes along.
The switch from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium has taken a heavy toll on the club financially, with a huge loan seeing the necessity to sell at least one significant player every year.
The blame has often been put on the Arsenal manager, and in all honesty, it’s not as if I have not doubted him myself. Practically thinking about it, he’s not really at fault. The club is short of money and like anyone else in his position, he has had to make do with the resources at his disposal.
The hallmark of a great manager is consistency, and to achieve the sort of results that Le Professeur has achieved year after year is remarkable. Working on a tight budget, with the stark need to sell more quality than he can buy and still somehow managing to get us into the Champions League every year is enormous.
And for all those of you claiming that it’s all about trophies and that the lure of Champions League football does not hold that much merit, the prospect of getting Wayne Rooney or Luis Suarez from rival clubs are both largely due to the fact that we Gunners strut our stuff in the premier competition of Europe.
With recent reports suggesting that the club now finally have some money to spend, you could realistically look at this year as a defining one in Arsene’s managerial career.
I know the same lines have been used for many years now, but this year is going to be different, purely because we have never formally lodged an offer of anywhere close to £40 million, plus of course an extra quid just for safe measure, in our entire history. With Suarez formally being courted, as well as his public attempts at trying to get a move to the North London, the early signs are certainly bright for The Gunners.
People have been ranting about how we need at least four new players this year, quoting the names of a series of marquee players in the process. The way I look at it, we’re only about two short. Someone like Suarez would be a dream. For all his rather questionable behaviour on and off the field, he is a world beater, and can rip apart any defence in the world on his day.
However, the prospect of spending over £40 million on a player seems rather absurd, especially when you put it in context with the buying team being Arsenal. It’s simply not the Arsenal way. On top of that, he’s not French. He’s not even Black for crying out loud!
Considering the fact that we do somehow strike gold and manage to be the lucky ones paying for all the ice cream that Suarez has during the remainder of his suspension in the stands, there is only one more position that needs to be addressed.
Mikel Arteta has played a pretty important role for us over the past two seasons, but do not kid yourself into believing that we do not need a defensive midfielder. It is of utmost priority, maybe even more important than a striker, because I genuinely believe that Giroud will come good this season, and with Podolski and Walcott as well, we could probably just about make do if we play one up top, which is very much the Arsene way in recent times.
A midfield general is what we really need. A guy who sends shivers down the backs of his opponents when they see him in the tunnel before the match.Someone people would never want to get into a brawl with. A thug, a disgustingly strong and relatively mobile thug.
While Alexandre Song was never the most skilful player, what made him extremely important to our team was that he could break play up, either by getting a tackle in on time, or more commonly, conceding a foul. For a team that plays a game as fluid as Arsenal, the defensive midfielder needs to have a defensive mindset from the beginning.
And while Arteta continues to have the smart footballing mind, he is naturally a lot more attacking than the role he has been forced to play over the last season. Just look back at how he was at Everton! He was menacing, he was a creator as well as being a finisher. For us, he’s the guy who tries to get the game to tick. Although he would be right up there when it comes to the completed passes and all the idiotic statistics going around, he is still not the kind of player that is best suited for the position. He gets out-muscled far too often, and I really doubt if he is going to get any stronger after entering the dreaded thirties.
It’s almost like playing Wayne Rooney in midfield. He may not be useless, but we all know that he would be a far bigger threat as a striker.
For this signing, I would like to revert to the old Arsenal handbook, which surely points towards a strong African connection when it comes to desirable defensive midfielders.
The media often like to add numbers together and come up with absurd links, and to expect both Fellaini and Suarez to join would definitely be asking for a bit too much.
At Arsenal, the recent failures have helped us stay in touch with reality, it has made us aware of the fact that we can’t always afford a luxurious lifestyle, and sometimes, one needs to wait a little bit till you see the sunshine peeping out again through the crevice.
The storm seems to have subsided now, and this year, the boys from North London will finally become men. While there are never any guarantees in the sphere of football, the early signs are rather promising.
To put it in typical Arsene Wenger style, “We are little bit comfortable now. Will we win the league? I do not want to comment on speculation”.