Financially, Arsenal are in good shape, they own their stadium and have a steady stream of revenue for the next 5 to 10 years. The Arsenal academy has unearthed a nucleus of talent which will serve the club well in the future and this is in no small part, is due to Arsene Wenger.
The results haven’t been what they should have been over last 8 or so seasons and the silverware has been scarce. What a pity the Frenchman’s ambition and endeavour wasn’t matched by the team he managed late in his career.
He always wanted to win and struggled with failure but until the very last day of his tenure, Wenger was a devoted servant to the club he loved. It was more than a job, it was a vocation, a passion and by football standards, a lifetimes work.
The Wenger era gave supporters so much, including unparalleled success from 1996 to 2004 and at that time Highbury was a magical place, where fans witnessed the type of football that was more associated with other leagues around the globe. There were stars, so many stars, that went on to achieve fame and fortune at other clubs but their careers were built at Highbury and established by Wenger.
He was a pioneer, he changed the ambitions of every club in the Country. Managers and their teams tried their best to replicate a style of football that had been alien to these shores. It may sound like an exaggeration but it isn’t, before Wenger’s arrival, teams would gain an advantage and promptly lock the doors, grinding out wins and results in a dreary fashion and Arsenal were one of them.
The splendour of Wenger’s initial reign was only matched by the silverware and adulation that Wenger and his squad were afforded. There was an undeniable class about their attacking game and a style that somehow made them appear superior to those they faced. It was a time of outstanding brilliance, a period of sustained quality, that will be committed to the hearts and minds of diehard Arsenal supporters.
The second phase of the Wenger era was a series of disappointments, a new stadium meant that Wenger reluctantly had to sell the best of his players and as a result, they became underachievers and also-rans. The glory days, however , were incredibly special and those that never had the opportunity to see the Arsenal sides during those periods are entitled to feel hard done by.
Wenger’s story is one of an unknown manager transforming an average side, playing average football, without grace or finesse into a brand. The most exciting football in the World was played at north London and even the impartial football fan grudgingly acknowledged the sheer brilliance of the Arsenal team Wenger had assembled.
If Wenger is to be judged by football and its fans, they will have to dig deep, ignore the ineptitude of recent years and recognise the work of a single-minded man who wanted to play football in the right manner. Manchester City are the closest there has been to a Wenger team but they will be judged on their future achievements under Pep Guardiola and measured against an Arsenal at its peak.
It’s staggering to think that Wenger only claimed three Premiership titles, it’s scant reward for the enjoyment Wenger gave us. He deserved so much more and the fact that his rival Sir Alex Ferguson achieved 13 titles with a much less gifted side must rile the Frenchman.
He believed in beauty and simplicity and made it part of Arsenal’s DNA. In recent seasons, only glimpses have been evident but before he had to sell the shirt off his back to finance a stadium, it was delivered on a weekly basis. Wenger expected the good times to return, his work was still of the highest standard, his commitment was undiminished, yet with all the strength of character and determination, he was unable to make it happen.
His most recent collection of players are simply not of the same spirit or in the same class as his best team ‘The Invincible’s’ and the performances of the side in the last few years have dwindled season after season. Every Arsenal fan should be grateful and celebrate Wenger’s Arsenal career. It’s a sad end but one that is absolutely necessary for the club. The awful thing is that we may not see an Arsenal side under any manager play the same as Wenger’s at their peak. It may be one of those sporting moments that is consigned to memory, we will see.
Like Ferguson at United, Wenger casts a huge shadow over Arsenal and after he leaves, we will all learn if life at the Emirates is better without him or not. Characters like Wenger and Ferguson come along very rarely but they will always be part of the English games fabulous history. Merci Arsène, pour le beau football, le succès et les trophées. Chaque fan d’Arsenal vous souhaite du succès.
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