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An Arséne Wenger Stand and a Statue: Neither? Both? Poll results may surprise you…

DOPE - Arséne Wenger | ©2016 @invinciblog | www.GunnersTown.com

Time heals all wounds.

There has been no subject more divisive for 21st century Gooners than Arséne Wenger. He became a meme (WENGER OUT) before memes were really a thing. Antagonism towards him gave birth to an online Acronym war: WOB vs AKB. Arsenal fans became their own worst enemies – marching against each other, openly confronting each other in social media, in the stadium, each accusing the other of being a) ignorant b) anti-Arsenal.

Years before the almost-general consensus among Gooners that Arsenal under Wenger was stagnating led to his acrimonious dismissal, a small but vocal minority was calling for his head on a stake, ostensibly because of a lack of silverware, but also related to the purchase of the Club by KSE, the brandification of Arsenal, the move to a new stadium, the perceived loss of traditional values, and an overall dissatisfaction with the direction that football was heading.

As the Premier League fanbase grew exponentially, millions of new fans arrived on the scene, whose history of football began in the early 90’s with the death of the old First Division. Many young Arsenal fans had only ever known one Manager: some may even have thought that the Club was named after Arséne… Older fans resented the fact that recent successes overshadowed prior golden eras that that Arsenal had enjoyed through the 20th century. Proclaiming Wenger “Arsenal’s Greatest Manager” triggered angry reactions from those who had witnessed Arsenal’s successes under George Graham, Bertie Mee and even Herbert Chapman.

Tainted?

The debate still rages on as to who is Arsenal’s most ‘successful’ manager. Even the current manager’s association with Wenger is cause for some hostility. Remnants of the disbanded Wenger Out Brigade remain quick to paint Arteta with the same black brush they used on Arséne. It’s been more than three years since Wenger left was ejected, but he remains a trigger for many Arsenal fans.

Which brings me to the impetus for this post – a poll that we ran on the Gunners Town twitter account, asking whether it was time to honour Wenger with a statue, or to name a Stand after him. Or both. Or neither….

The results were pretty interesting. More than 9/10 of respondents (presumably Gooners) agreed that Arséne should be honoured – and 4 of those 9 felt that he should receive both a statue AND the naming of a stand at The Emirates.

There were, of course, dissenters. A tiny minority were of the opinion that Wenger deserved no further tribute:

“He has a bust at the stadium already. Bertie Mee and George Graham should be honoured next, not Wenger.”

Some of those in favour of Arséne’s service being recognized suggested that the East Stand be renamed The Arsene Wenger Stand, similar to The Sir Alex Ferguson Stand tribute paid to Manchester United’s most successful modern manager at Old Trafford.

Of those who supported the idea of a Wenger statue at The Emirates, it was suggested that the statue be erected at the entrances to the West Stand.

There were others who proposed that the Arsenal training ground at London Colney be renamed after Wenger.

Arsenal Emirates Stadium Herbert Chapman statue - panoramio

The Chapman statue at The Emirates

Successes

Arséne Wenger (1996-2018) was manager at Arsenal for 22 years and won 3 Premier League titles (including going one season undefeated) and 7 FA Cups (making him the competition’s most successful manager). He also won 7 Community Shields (English Super Cup).

He oversaw the move from Highbury to The Emirates (Ashburton Grove) and the building of the new training ground at London Colney. He also achieved 20 years of consecutive Champions League qualification for Arsenal, an achievement that has taken on more significance as the club has struggled to return to the competition.

Bertie Mee (1966-1976) brought Arsenal their historic League and Cup double in 1971, and their first taste of European success in the 1970 Fairs Cup. (Winning the League at Spurs and beating Liverpool 5 days later in the FA Cup Final at Wembley must surely been of the best weeks in Arsenal’s history – and it is understandable why Gooners who witnessed it would want Mee honoured for his contribution to Arsenal’s success.)

George Graham (1986-1995) won two League titles for Arsenal, including the glorious 1989 season, when Arsenal beat Liverpool by two clear goals at Anfield (against all odds). He also won an FA Cup, two League Cups, a shared Charity Shield and the Cup Winners’ Cup. Could the fact that he hasn’t received the recognition his contribution deserves be related to the scandalous nature of his sacking?

Herbert Chapman won two league titles, an FA Cup, and three Charity Shields whilst managing Arsenal. His sudden death (of pneumonia) brought a sad end to what was an impactful reign at the Club. (The team Chapman assembled went on to win the league for the following two years, completing the first First Division hat-trick.) Chapman’s other contributions on and off the pitch were numerous and ground-breaking.

My Thoughts

I’d like to see all three honours bestowed upon Wenger: a statue, naming of a stand, and renaming the training ground. His contributions to the Club, in my humble opinion, are that important.

I’d also like to see George Graham and Bertie Mee honoured for their contributions. A line of manager statues lining the path from Highbury to The Emirates would be a wonderful way to recognize how these men helped build Arsenal into the giant club that it is today.

Recognition of one person doesn’t have to be at the expense of other worthy individuals.

Arsene Wenger bust

Wenger’s bust at the Emirates

Arsenal and Wenger

Current manager Mikel Arteta has hinted that he would like to see Wenger take up an official role at Arsenal as part of his rebuilding process:

“Arséne and I have a really special relationship. He’s been away too long and we want to bring him much closer. We had a talk and I think he’s in the right place because for us as a team, for me personally, it would be a massive help to have him much closer.”

The Club has insisted that there are no plans for this.

Trusted Arsenal journalists James McNicholas and Amy Lawrence seemed to confirm on an Athletic Handbrake Off podcast in 2020  that the creation of an Arsene Wenger statue was well underway, and that the naming of a stand after Wenger was a distinct possibility.

While this remains speculation for now, I have no doubt that when the time is right – when persistent scars have healed – one or more of these honors will be bestowed upon Arsenal’s most successful Premier League manager.

I would love it to happen while Arséne is still alive. It may take a statue or stand-naming to bring him back to the Club to which he devoted such a large part of his life – since the nature of his departure wasn’t ideal, (it was by all accounts very painful for the great man) and Wenger has been conspicuously absent since his dismissal.

Your Thoughts?

What do you think? Please leave your comments below.

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8 Responses to An Arséne Wenger Stand and a Statue: Neither? Both? Poll results may surprise you…

  1. Gary March 4, 2022 at 9:40 am #

    Maybe include George Graham winning the Cup winners Cup?

    • Gunners Town March 4, 2022 at 5:53 pm #

      Thanks for that reminder. I’ll
      update the post. Cheers!

  2. David March 4, 2022 at 12:29 pm #

    Those of us who were fortunate enough to enjoy the 22 year ride from the start know that AW is an Arsenal Legend, pure and simple. He deserves all the accolades the club can bestow on him and we have him to thank for building on Gunner Graham’s platform to make our club a world contender. Look at what he achieved, not just the league and cups, but what he achieved with so little due to the financing of Emirate stadium, namely the consistent champions league qualification.
    Of course all good things come to an end and although I think he could have continued for another year or so more the curtain was drawn and it was time to move on. In summary, I agree, give him all three! Anything less would be disrespectful.

  3. allezkev March 5, 2022 at 1:38 am #

    Interesting post although I’m not sure that a straw poll of just over 2,200 fans should be held up as some kind of definitive proof, Twitter is after all a minority view in general.

    A statue would be good though.

    • Gunners Town March 5, 2022 at 5:10 am #

      Fair comment – however, as you are well aware, Twitter is the one place you’d expect toxic responses to anything Wenger-related. I was surprised how near-unanimous the support was for Wenger being honoured.

      • allezkev March 5, 2022 at 2:52 pm #

        That’s very true regarding Twitter it does seem to bring out the worst in some people, which is probably why 4 out of 5 aren’t on it, it’s a guide and a good guide but that’s all. Thanks for the post all the same, it’s a subject that definitely needs attention by the club.

  4. Bob March 5, 2022 at 2:01 am #

    “I would love it to happen while Arséne is still alive”

    I love it when someone writes from their heart and representing others feeling (including myself) as well. Thanks mate!

    I would love to see the smile of “our father” once again, a true and pure smile, when he sees his family recognized his 22 years unconditional love and effort.

    I would love to see our club living its expectation; a club representing class, harmony and values.

    Welcome to Arsenal FC home ground, the stadium of Arsene Wenger.

    Come on.. How many club in the world having a manager worth of such appreciation while at the same time his name rhymes with the club? =D

    • Gunners Town March 5, 2022 at 5:13 am #

      Thanks for your reply, Bob. Glad you (and quite a few others) feel the same as I do.

      I don’t know about naming the stadium after him – we could probably do more with the extra millions those naming rights bring than the sentimental reward!

      However a stand (and the training ground) would be tribute enough – along with a statue in my Managers Row from Highbury to The Grove.

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