Not sitting on the Fence – The Case for Arsene Wenger’s Defence


At a crossroads

At a crossroads

We are at the crossroads. Either Wenger goes or Wenger stays. Get two Arsenal fans together and that is the sole topic of interest – To Go or To Stay.

The case for him going is strong. This season was ours. We had the squad; Wenger had spent on Cech, the much acclaimed final piece of the jigsaw and in front of him was experience and ability and confidence. The players were fit, the pre-season went well, it was summer, the weather was warm, the sun shining and the Emirates Cup had offered a glimpse of Iwobi and Adelaide. The home defeat by West Ham, however, in the first game of the season was a sign of things to come. We responded well but doubts nagged and our confidence – never strong – dogged us. Injuries followed; form faltered; doubts crept in. And yet in the New Year we were many pundits tip for the top but it was not to be. A draw at Stoke, then a defeat at home by Chelsea and another draw at Southampton saw us fall from first to fourth. We beat Bournemouth and Leicester but were badly undone by successive defeats at Old Trafford and then at home to Swansea. Far from looking at top position we are now worried about qualification for the Champions League. We were also beaten at home by Watford in the 6th Round.

Should have been the final piece of the jigsaw

Should have been the final piece of the jigsaw

The mood has changed. Steadfast anti-Wengerites have upped the vocals. Critics have become angry. Supporters of Wenger began to doubt and of course the rise and rise of THFC did much to magnify our shortcomings and weaknesses. In a row of terraced houses the house next door has refurbished it’s interior and exterior; its garden is full of blooming flowers; its family are happy and singing. You get the message?

And of course there is history – more bad history than good in recent years. The barren years that came after the 2005 FA Cup Win. Top four placings and always qualification for Champions League but the trophy cabinet was bare. Questions being asked about Wenger – familiar phrases came into every conversation “past his sell-by date…overtaken by younger coaches…unwilling to pay top money for top players…stubborn…blinkered…unaccountable…tolerating second rate players…tampering with the tradition of AFC by failing to produce a title winning squad”

More key injuries

More key injuries

And the injuries – more and more injuries with key players lost for two/three months and longer for Wilshere, Welbeck, Rosicky and Cazorla. If you were summing up in front of the jury and looking for a conviction the evidence was there. The Judge was already putting on his black cap.

There is a case for the defence – there is mitigation but it is harder to make the points on Wenger’s behalf because the critics are more vocal. A bit like the debate on Europe – UK Out is more bellicose than UK in. Wenger Out gets more air time than Wenger In.

But there is a case for Wenger. He has achieved much. He has done the Double twice. He has managed the change from Highbury to the Emirates and long term financial stability. He has kept us at or close to the top. We have never flirted with mid-table or worse. He has maintained a reputation for quality football. We play we do not kick. We pass we do not hoof. It is a considerable achievement – underrated by his critics – to have qualified for Champions League year after year especially when we were a selling Club – RVP, Nasri, Cesc, Toure, Clichy, Henry. All top players who were replaced by lesser talent but we still competed and always in the top four.

Wenger, too, has been loyal. He has voted with his feet and made his way every day to the Emirates when financial reward was merely average at the time he was being seduced by top European clubs with mouth watering offers. He stayed with AFC. He resisted overtures and entreaties and the better packages elsewhere. He could have walked out but he has never broken a contract.

Are we now in our moment of frustration going to turn on him and break his contract? That is how football is with some other clubs. Don’t worry about old fashioned ideas such as loyalty or integrity. Fear the supporters -terminate the contract.  Pay him off, let’s go with someone else. “It’s all about money after all” – say the cynics. “Every man has his price so put a big fat cheque in his hand and the job is done. He is gone.”

But this is not an issue of money. We do not appease our consciences by adding a zero. He has never done it to us when we needed him. We should never do it to him because the Wenger Out Brigade are trying to pull down the walls.

So where do we go for replacements – how many are gilt edged certainties and they have to be gilt edged. No good employing a coach who gets us to 5th place. He has to win. Mourinho? Martinez? Would you have taken Ranieri last summer? Aren’t Barca faltering? Weren’t Real M talking about a change in coach? It is a leap – an uncertain leap but more than that it is wrong. Wenger has been loyal to AFC and we should be loyal to him. He must remain if he wants to remain. He is entitled to that.

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There is another point. I tweet and I get the negatives thrown at me and get called all kinds of bad names because I won’t bow to the baying critics. But I also get the positives. So many tweets from fans who know the record is not right but recall his dignity, his character; his commitment throughout his time at AFC. They do not want to be party to a hatchet job. They want him to remain – they are the silent majority. They won’t boycott the Emirates

There is one last point – we may be the bridesmaid and not the bride. We have fallen short a few times but as I said we were most people’s tip for the title on 1 January. Messi said we were the best team they had played against this season. We know there are signings that are needed and we also have some Iwaki’s coming through. It is not naive to suggest that if we are where we are today we will be better off with additions especially in front of goal.

Praise for Arsene's Arsenal from the best

Praise for Arsene’s Arsenal from the best

So detaching myself from the mob atmosphere – recognising the arguments for and against I summarise matters with two conclusions. I have faith in Wenger as a coach and I have faith that AFC will do things the right way and act with integrity, good practice.

If we are different and I hope we are then the way we conduct ourselves must be with probity and good practice. And I do not rule out a title win next season. I actually continue to believe in the finest manager we have ever had.

I am tweeting daily @arsenal circular.

I encourage you to follow me so that we can get more opinions aired.

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10 Responses to Not sitting on the Fence – The Case for Arsene Wenger’s Defence

  1. Arsnil April 20, 2016 at 4:51 pm #

    He is the highest paid manager in the Premier League at 8.2 million a year. On the board we have two of the richest men in the world in Usmanov and “silent” Stan who never put have never once put their hand into their pockets. Under Wenger we have become Arsenal PLC instead of what we were Arsenal F.C.
    It is always said that a team is in its manager’s liking. Enough said. So spare me the Wenger is loyal drivel and he never breaks a contract. At 8.2 million per annum for consistent failure, would you???

  2. Lee Meade April 20, 2016 at 5:38 pm #

    Not sure why we need to see another rerun of what we’ve witnessed with Wenger’s teams over the past decade. We don’t defend leads as well as we should. We don’t convert as many chances as we should. Our midfield seems perpetually undermanned. And let’s not leave out the continuing horror show that is our defence of set-pieces. All of this was enough for me two years ago, the FA Cup triumphs were a temporary salve, but the the problems persist. As does Wenger’s seeming inability to solve any, or all of them.

    I’m not sure why we need to give the manager time to solve problems he seems incapable of even acknowledging the team has. Look how long it took to solve the goalkeeper issue? Taking a castoff from Chelsea is better than what we had, but what does that tsay about the situation?

    Wenger has been amazing at Arsenal. He has taken us firmly into the 21st century in terms of facilities etc,but he seems stuck for answers to questions our opponents are posing on the pitch. And on the pitch is where we need to go in a different direction.

  3. Akin April 20, 2016 at 6:26 pm #

    Lovely write up, it was a good read and you are so spot on. He’s earned it, if he decides to remain.

  4. Ivy Alexander April 20, 2016 at 6:40 pm #

    You are so ignorant and racist hey back to your hole if you can’t provide a well argued view.

  5. Willy Young April 20, 2016 at 6:55 pm #

    Sadly he has brought this on himself through stubbornness and more concerning negligence

    Yes he has achieved great things and for that we should all remember him fondly but when he or he as spokesperson for the board treats the fans with sustain and contempt there are repercussions and that is the back lash.

    My stating he will stay one more year today it means few players who needed will sign up to Arsenal not knowing whom the boss will be after one season!

    Bad board decision and he Wenger should go as he is implicit in that decision

  6. paul35mm April 20, 2016 at 6:59 pm #

    Finally a balanced examination of Arsene Wenger. Without Le Prof Arsenal would be Liverpool; oscillating between top four and mid-table for the last two decades, with zero titles and the odd trophy to show for the club’s efforts and dozen different managers.

    In the last 22 years Arsenal, under Wenger, have;

    won the League 3 times.
    won the FA Cup six times
    won the Community Shield 6 times
    finished second in the league 5 times.
    runners up in the Champions League/UEFA Cup twice
    Qualified for Champions league knock out stages 13 straight seasons
    Qualified for Champions League every year

    When you look at those accomplishments in relation to the resources available and the opportunities that record brought but were ignored, the Wenger Out mob can’t be thought of as anything short of delusional.

    And who do they want instead?

    Mourinho? He wins, yes. He also alienates his players, rips apart the back room staff, and causes turmoil in the boardroom. He won the league with Chelsea and with the same team plus two terrific players, was on the birnk of the relegation zone when he was fired. That’s your savior?

    The guy can coach but he’s no manager.

    Wenger’s the better man, the better manager, and the right man for the job.

  7. Jimmy Gooner April 20, 2016 at 7:03 pm #

    Oh come on Graham. I respect your right to an opinion, but your case for him staying is beyond poor. The opening claims all relate to the period 2006-2012. I agree he deserves a certain amount of credit for managing the club through the financial restraints we had – although a bit more honesty from everyone at the club would have been appreciated – but even then, he could have achieved more with the resources he had if he had simply accepted some additional coaching/tactical advice.

    He earns £8m basic a year and reportedly gets up to 40% bonus on top of that for hitting certain financial targets – yes financial targets. They may be partly related to footballing achievement – top 4 anyone – but they are still financial hence the willingness to penny-pinch. You say he has resisted “better packages elsewhere”. Do you have proof of that? Do you take into account the added pressure those alleged packages would have come with? Maybe Real Madrid did offer him more in the wake of the Invincibles season, but he wouldn’t have lasted long had he not won the league and/or Champions League during the first couple of years of his tenure there and I’ve not seen any reports suggesting they have been in touch during the last 8-10 years. PSG seem to be his only current suitors and they have more money than sense.

    By all means say you want him to stay – you are a fan of at least as much standing as anyone else – but you belittle your stance by trying to justify it with nonsense.

  8. NuttnTiddy April 20, 2016 at 7:23 pm #

    And this is an Arsenal supporter? God help us all.

  9. meehog April 20, 2016 at 8:49 pm #

    I agree that he should stay, although it doesn’t seem like there’s many of us left who think that. I think that Wenger is building his team bit by bit, and I do think he’ll bring the title back if given the time. I would like the board however, to be putting a bit more pressure on him to do it quicker.

    I think Arsene will know the players he wants to make his team perfect, and that is probably his biggest flaw, that he’s prepared to wait until he can get those perfect players, at the expense of success. That is where the board aren’t helping. Somebody needs to sit him down and tell him to get the players he needs to win the title, leave worrying about costs and financial stability to the board, and just concentrate on managing the team and winning the league again.

    • Lee Mead April 20, 2016 at 9:07 pm #

      Worrying about the books seems to give Wenger more pleasure than actually coaching the team. If that’s his true passion nowadays, kick him upstairs to count money to his heart’s content.

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