WENGER OUT! FINALLY. A TRIBUTE (SORT OF)…

Well, it’s the end of an era. Which is likely to come as no surprise to most football fans. Arsene Wenger, after almost 22 years as manager of Arsenal Football Club, will step down at the end of the season. The announcement was made just a couple of hours ago and statements have been released by both Wenger himself, and club majority owner Stan Kroenke. So its official.

I find myself with mixed feelings on the issue. I have several close friends and family who are life long Arsenal fans. And by their very spoilt standards, the past few years have been difficult. It was painfully obvious for all to see that Arsene Wenger and the club as a whole had lost its way. I would say the majority of Arsenal fans will always hold Wenger in the highest of regards. However, I think they all knew it was time for a change.

Looking at his record in England, Arsene Wenger should always be remembered as one of the greatest of all time. In almost 22 years with Arsenal his lowest league finish was 5th and that was last season. Under his stewardship, Arsenal won 3 league titles. Undoubtedly, this probably should have been more, but there was the small matter of a dominant Manchester United to deal with for the large part. He also won an incredible 7 FA cups. Including 3 in the past 4 seasons.

While its open to debate, Arsene Wenger probably built the greatest team in Premier League history. The 1997-1998 side that featured the likes of Seaman, Adams, Platt, Parlour, Petit, Viera, Overmars, Bergkamp, Anelka and Wright could arguably be the greatest assembled side in the history of football. I am sure others will argue that point, but my god they were a joy to watch.

A great goalkeeper, an impenetrable defence, both grit and flair in the midfield and an outstanding attacking line. Arsene Wenger deserves a lot of credit for bringing it all together. Amazing times. I also think we should give Arsene Wenger a lot of praise for what he brought to Arsenal and English football overall. Formerly mocked as “boring boring Arsenal” he implemented a style of football which was pleasant on the eye. A mix of hard work and attacking flair, it was a brand of football that hadn’t really been seen in England before. Even the great Liverpool sides of the 70’s and 80’s never played that way.

And then there was the 2003-2004 invincibles. A full 38 game season without a single loss. It had never been done before and will likely never been done again. Even this seasons great Manchester City side could not manage to do it. That goes to show you what a amazing feat it was. These are all things we need to give Wenger great credit for.

However, if we could label him with one criticism, one failure as you may call it, it’s his record in Europe. In his near 22 years with the club he only made it to one European final in 2005-2006 where they lost in the Champions league final. Quite frankly his record in Europe is poor. With the resources he had at his disposal and the quality of his squad, Wenger should be walking away with at least a couple of European trophies under his belt. Sadly it was not to be the case.

And then there is the past 5 years at Arsenal. They will have taken the shine of what has been an amazing career at the Gunners. After winning the FA Cup in 2013-2014, things kind of changed. His recruitment success seemed to fall dramatically. And while transfers were never an easy side of the business, his formerly excellent eye for quality had left him. I also believe around this time he lost his ability to be competitive tactically. On any given day, they could still play some spectacular football. But over the course of a season they would struggle for consistency. And continually failed to find the right balance between attack and defence.

Arsene Wenger had also became rather stubborn. He flat out refused to identify that there was a problem. Or that it could be possible that his skills were falling behind that of his peers. I think this became a major source of frustration for most Arsenal fans. Its true the media almost constantly harassed him regarding performances and his future, but his almost untouchable stature at the club seemed to cloud his thinking regarding the direction in which the club needed to go.

Alas, today he has finally seen the light. He understands that he can no longer regain the faith of the fans. And he realises that he can now only take the club in one direction, backwards. He will leave with a very heavy heart and no doubt move onto another challenge somewhere in the world and most will wish him all the best. From my perspective, no matter what happens between now and the end of the season, I truly hope that in his last game at the Emirates the Arsenal fan base in its entirety will give Arsene Wenger the legendary send-off that he truly deserves.

Bon Voyage Arsene Wenger.

 

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