The Crucifixion of Arsene Wenger
theThe man is a legend – English football is forever in debt to Arsene Wenger for revolutionising the game and instigating the Premier League’s elevation into the richest, most powerful league in the world of sport. Unfortunately, Le Professeur seems to be languishing in the depths torment and the cruel world of football is shunning him. Pundits, players, former players, managers and supporters are, in their masses, calling for his crucifixion – harsh considering his contribution to the beautiful game.
This is not meant to be an Arsene Wenger defence but rather a level-headed, balanced dictation of his current position – of which I believe to be untenable. Is it his own doing? Partly yes, of course. As anyone that has competed in team sport understands, the recipe for success is ‘to rise as a team and fall as a team,’ therefore blame must be shared amongst all involved parties when fortunes are opposite to the desired. This historically evident feature of the greatest clubs in sport has been tainted by the ugly matter of greed. In today's world the more you win, the bigger your sponsorship deals, television contracts etc. thereby affording you the ability to pay larger wages and attract the world’s best players. I agree to winning being the ultimate objective in professional sport however, supporters have become fixated on the amount of money you ‘need’ to spend to succeed even going as far as chanting ‘spend some fucking money’ at home grounds. It's a level or naivety which is dictated by the media. How many times have you heard Sky Sports news speak about Arsenal needing to spend £150 million to compete? It's utter nonsense as exemplified by Leicester City winning the Premier League and reaching the last eight in the Champions League on a shoestring budget. What did Leicester City have that Arsenal don't. To me it was comradery amongst ownership, management and supporters - cohesion can create the greatest of symphony's.
Rightly or wrongly, Arsene Wenger refused to submit to the calls from the terraces to spend the extortionate amounts which clubs he has to complete against to. Let’s not be blind to the fact that he did spend money on world class players – it just wasn’t enough to satisfy the masses. Ultimately, I believe his fate was sealed when players he nurtured into maturity such as Robin Van Persie, Cesc Fabregas and Alexander Hleb began to abandon him for what they thought were greener pastures. The reason they left was due to the fact that they wouldn’t be supplemented by multiple, established world class players – one or two wasn’t enough.
The exodus created a ripple effect through Arsenal nation creating the impression that the club were inferior - ultimately due to the notion that money has become power in football. the ambiance of the Emirates became increasingly hostile Young players coming up through the youth system had to endure the trepidation of playing in front of disenchanted supporters. This hindered the free flowing mentality youth should express on the pitch as fear took over. The experienced players began to realise that the young generation weren't providing the assets to compete for trophies, partly due to their football naivity and introduction to the simmering tension that the club had become. The philosophy was doomed from that moment forward – the identity of the club was lost. No longer a club that could bring through the best youth talent in the world that were destined to become world class combined with being a club that doesn’t have a philosophy of flashing the cash.
Frustration amongst Arsenal fans is rife and is quickly turning into unsubstantiated anger at one another, despite the commonality of all ultimately wanting the club to win. The glorious football that Arsenal played throughout the majority of Wenger’s tenure has turned into timid, boring football that lacks conviction and desire. Some blame Arsene however, I lay the football on the pitch solely at the feet of the players. Yes, Wenger’s tactics may be questionable, his squad may have gaps however, that is no excuse for the spineless way the players have crawled into their cocoon of safety and let their manager get nailed to the cross each and every week by even the most staunch Wenger advocates.
Throughout my football career, I have played for some managers I consider mentors and others of which I think should be coaching little league baseball rather than be stood on the touchline barking orders. However, never have I gone onto a football pitch and given less than 100% of my effort for my team – all of them. Sometimes my technical performances have lacked conviction – in those circumstances I supplemented through digging into the concaves of my soul to put double the effort in the form of sheer passion and desire. Who did I have to answer to at the end of the day – well, every evening I left the pitch and went home, I had to look in the mirror and determine if I was proud of myself – I answered to Chris Verdi, the most fierce critic I have ever had.
What I see and hear is players not putting in the effort for the manager and this isn’t just at Arsenal Football Club. I witness it at every level of the game today. Attitudes and a conviction that the world owes you something – if I don’t get it or don’t like what I get, I’ll throw a strop until change is exercised. It’s utterly pathetic and a sad reality of football in today’s era. It’s the disease of selfishness.
Ultimately, Arsene Wenger will leave Arsenal Football Club but the identity crisis the club has is attributable to everyone. The downward spiral has increased pace and I'll be extremely surprised if the club finish in the top four this season. Ultimately, change will be enacted however, I don't believe the problem to be solely Arsene Wenger. The ownership, the board and the players have acted in a cowardly fashion refusing to publicly condemn critics of their leader. One must wonder if there are deeper issues at the core of the club which the lack of transparency over the years seems to exemplify.
There is definitely an ugly side to the beautiful game.