The Arsenal Boss has been subject to intense scrutiny this season culminating in fans calling for his removal as manager with a banner at the weekend.
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The stereotype of the Arsenal fans as the library dwelling, emotionally detached, ‘prawn sandwich brigade’ couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s seafood flying from the trenches, lettuce leaves strewn over no man’s land and mayonnaise splattered in the dirt as the Arsenal fanbase goes into uproar yet again.
Back to back defeats with Swansea and Manchester United, the embarrassment of the 3-3 collapse with Anderlecht, and the growing sense of deja vu have all compounded a feeling amongst some Gooners that enough is enough. They’ve seen this far too many times and believe Wenger doesn’t have the answers.
Whilst the monkey is finally off Arsenal’s back after winning the FA Cup last season, the joy brought from the Gunners first silverware in almost 10 years may have actually had a more detrimental effect than if they had simply folded to Hull City which looked so likely when they were 2-0 down in eight minutes.
Arsenal fans seem even tetchier and short tempered than before. Like a drug addict looking for that next high, Arsenal, remembering how good it felt to win titles, want that feeling again and as quickly as possible and are willing to make some very questionable decisions to get it. Namely the removal of Arsene Wenger as manager.
That issue has been brought to the forefront of the news agenda this week with the unfurling of a banner during the Gunners 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion which said: “Arsene. Thanks for the memories but it’s time to say goodbye.”
Now, fans are completely entitled to their opinions on players or managers, but statements such as that on the banner seem to condense Wenger’s immense and otherworldly achievements at Arsenal down to a pat on the back
The annoyance is that whilst Arsenal fans lap up the silky skills and magical goals from the likes of Alexis Sanchez they ignore the fact that the only reason world class stars like the Chilean say, or Mesut Özil, are racking up at the Emirates every week is because of Arsene Wenger.
Arsenal would be nowhere near the team that they are today, having achieved some of the unbelievable feats of the past without Arsene Wenger’s management.
Fans of other clubs may chuckle at the now much derided and ridiculed Frenchman but there is a reason that if the 65 year old was sacked by Arsenal tonight he’d have handfuls of job offers from Europe’s biggest clubs by tomorrow morning.
It should be made clear however, this is not intended to be a defence for Wenger as a manager. No matter how much the respect he deserves you can still question his tactics and decisions on the pitch.
This season’s apathetic results combined with the series of defeats, or maybe the better description is eviscerations – by the likes of City, Chelsea and Liverpool last season certainly intensify the magnifying glass on his methods. But someone who has sacrificed so much of their professional and personal life toward one club deserves more respect than chants of derision and disrespectful banners.
Wenger too has sacrificed personal glory for the benefit of the club that he loves. Just look at Arsenal’s move to the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners were intending to improve their appeal, income and standing in world football but all bets were off with the arrival of Roman Abramovich and lately Sheikh Mansour at City. They not only had to compete with their own budget restraints whilst they paid off stadium debt but also the unlimited chequebooks of City and Chelsea.
He may not have led his side to a trophy for almost a decade but the fact that Arsene managed to keep his team in the top four and compete for the Premier League should be celebrated rather than seen as nine years of failure since the Emirates move in 2006. Especially when you consider every other side who has attempted to build a new stadium has been relegated in the season after due to the constrains they found themselves under.
But that storm has passed. The waters have certainly been choppy and it hasn’t been a comfortable journey but Wenger has marshalled Arsenal through with minimal damage and the club now finds itself in a position where it could, arguably, dominate European football.
Commercial income is set to increase, kit deals with Puma and a new sponsorship deal with Fly Emirates started in July this year at higher rates the majority of their competitors, TV revenues are on the up and their stadium loans are now almost non-existent.
Compare that with Arsenal’s rivals who have been penalised by Financial Fair Play regulations or are drowning in debt. Arsenal have the head start, and it’s all down to one man keeping them afloat.
Rather than bickering the Emirates faithful should be celebrating. Arsene Wenger has done so much for them that he should be the basis of a Monty Python sketch in the same vein as “What have the Romans ever done for us?”.
Whether he should stay or go is redundant in this argument but what shouldn’t be debatable is the respect he deserves and that’s at least more respect than is own fans calling for his head.
For all he’s done, Arsene Wenger deserves better.