Sepp Blatter, Michel Platini, Jose Mourinho. Some of the most divisive of figures in this beautiful game of ours, but they are mainly men who give the game a bad rep. Another man, who divides the footballing spectrum the most, especially amongst Arsenal fans, and sympathizers, is our very own French-born Economics ‘Professor’ cum Manager, Arsène Wenger.
Since joining Arsenal and the English League in 1996, Monsieur Wenger has transfixed and held in awe many of us, for various reasons, both good and bad. It’s December and another title challenge is tearing apart at the seams. Many are quick to point to the manager when things are not going well in any football club, leading to the shortest life-span of a manager’s career in the English Premier League, in ages. It might be the fault of the manager, but there are various factors that can cause a title challenge to falter. Injuries, lack of motivation, lack of character, amongst a host of other reasons. Oh wait; these are also the manager’s faults? No, they really are not, but in this cut throat world, where the Internet has created a platform for fans of opposing teams to mock the living daylights of another’s team with banter, fans are quick to point to the manager when any wrong move is made.
This is what happens with Arsenal fans, every single time. Thus, whenever there are one or two bad results, opposing fans begin the taunts even before Gunners do, by announcing the appearance of ‘the #WengerOut’ brigade in Arsenal. These fans are a minority of the total fan base of Arsenal. But still, they are a loud minority, led by the rebarbative Piers Morgan. Piers Morgan for years has led calls for the dismissal of Arsène Wenger. He knows this is something that will never happen, erm, unless Wenger does something as unpalatable as Ched Evans or Ray Rice did, even then some leeway might be given.
Some among the #WengerOut brigade believe Arsène should be driven out to keep his legacy intact. They believe failure from now until his departure in 2017 (when his contract ends), will taint his legacy. I beg to differ. This is a man who has played a pivotal role in the revolution of the modern game.
One of the main things Arsène did to revolutionize English football had to do with training and dieting. He led the move where players started eating more vegetables and fish and less sugar and meat. He was one of the first to encourage stretching among players, and he led, and continues to lead shorter, sharper training sessions which negate the arguments of those who aim to pin every injury on his shoulders.
Also, Arsène Wenger is the main reason why many foreign managers have an opportunity to manage in this league. The Klopps, Mourinhos, Guardiolas you clamor for to manage Arsenal by force, when Wenger has not left gracefully, have a chance to join this money-churning league because of Arsène Wenger. Before he joined Arsenal, the major foreign manager in the league had been Dr. Josef Venglos, whose failure made other teams laugh at Arsenal when he was recruited in 1996. Sir Alex Ferguson regrettably said about Wenger, “What does he know about English football, coming from Japan?” Well, he was answered when Arsène won the Double in his first full season at the helm. His early success is the reason teams can go out on a limb to hire foreign managers now, because they aim to find what Arsenal found in Arsène Wenger, a rare gem.
Thierry Henry. Yes, his recruitment to Arsenal was revolutionary. Henry was a winger in a rut in Juventus when Arsène brought him to Arsenal and turned him into arguably, the best player to ever play on the shores of England. The fact that he was able to stick his neck out and go all out for a winger down on his luck and enduring a frustrating time and later turn him into one of the most feared strikers the world ever has ever seen, is testament to his qualities as a manager and a man. This transfer coup increased the rate at which English team had scouts travail across the globe to find talents who would usually be overlooked for finding themselves in a bit of bad form.
This might not be enough to change the mindset of any of the #WengerOut brigade. But these few final words might. Arsène Wenger is not leaving the building until 2017, at the earliest. Even if a new owner comes in, he cannot force him out as he would need the goodwill from a majority of the fans, who still want Wenger in charge. So the best thing right now is to cut down on the vitriol and all the toxic feelings you have for this Frenchman. Rather channel that energy into supporting this team we have vowed to support through the thick and thin of it all at least until 2017, when a new manager might walk through the marbled hallways of the Emirates, to take over the institution built by the man who put career advancement, family and legacy aside.
Victoria Concordia Crescit. The motto of Arsenal football club. It is Latin for ‘Victory Grows through Harmony.‘ A simple but smart message, as a fan base divided cannot stand together against the barbs of opposing fans, because one thing is certain, Arsène Wenger is and will remain, a living legend.
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I’m a 20 year old from Ghana in West Africa. I strongly believe I fell in love with The Arsenal in 2000 after watching that heartbreaking loss in Liverpool, thanks to the now pestiferous pundit Michael Owen. Or maybe, I love The Arsenal because Gunner rhymes with the name of my country. Shrug. I am an avid supporter of Monsieur Wenger and still see him as a visionary. Also, I believe the result must not always trump the means and glory days on the European stage are just a few steps away. Thanks to all who take time out to visit and read.