You win league titles, cups galore, you elevate your clubs to standards previously unimaginable and take them to within minutes of winning a European Cup. Beyond the pitch you navigated the tricky waters of high finance and effectively built the type of modern stadium that should bring in enough revenue to see the club compete at the highest level for years to come. One bad season? ‘Your time is up. Please leave your personalised boiler jacket at the door and return your company credit card’. There’s gratitude for you.
It’s been a rough year for Arsene Wenger. Since about the time his defence handed Birmingham a surprise Carling Cup, things haven’t been going to plan. After a tedious amount of flirtation with other clubs, a couple of his star players decided they’d have more need for a trophy cabinet if they pursued careers away from the Emirates Stadium. A run of seven years without some silverware looks so unlikely to end this season that Bono and Bob Geldolf are said to be considering putting on a free concert to highlight the drought.
For so long he thrived on taking the low-budget euro-supermarket special of the week and turning it into a feast of Michelen star standard. Then, when the money was available and his purchasing power extended beyond the bargain bin, he has failed to capture players of a similar ilk. Andrei Arshavin did enough in his early Arsenal career to avoid being labelled a flop, but he was an early warning about the dangers of Arsene with a chequebook. Per Mertesacker and Mikel Arteta are the more recent examples, but in reality he has rarely got bang for his buck when he has reluctantly splashed the cash and it’s left Arsenal with a squad low on quality and high on flimsy excuses.
In a case of what Over The Line is calling ‘future made-up symmetry’, at some point in the future Kenny Dalglish will experience what Wenger is going through right now. There will be a point when the residual goodwill created by your previous deeds in the name of progressing the club will be superseded by the desire to turf you out. For the moment, however, Kenny is judged to be going along quite nicely in his second stint in charge of Liverpool and that makes the Reds a useful barometer for the Gunners. They’ve had major issues dispatching the comparative minnows at Anfield, but when the league’s elite come to town they’ve performed well and not looked out of their depth. If Arsenal struggle on Merseyside, the pressure will increase exponentially. If they win, it will ease marginally. It’s not quite ‘lose-lose’ more ‘lose-minor short term positive’.
The summer may offer some hope. Or further ammunition for the detractors to bash Arsene with. The talk this week suggested the Frenchman would be handed a huge war-chest to bring in reinforcements when the transfer window opens again. The temptation will be to splurge and bring in superstars, but that’s not Wenger’s style. If stays true to his principles and plucks a few bargains out of the air that are more Henry than Hleb, he could yet return Arsenal to the pedestal he once had them at. Equally however, there will be those will less faith and allaying their fears will take time.
Again, there is a similar story at Anfield. There is again likely to be money to spend during the off-season, but there’s no guarantee it will be spent in the way that most benefits the club. Damien Comolli calling the shots isn’t universally popular. Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson aren’t the complete and utter hopeless cases certain sections of the media have suggested, but the vast sums of money forked over for their services has added to the pressure and limited the length of their honeymoon period. A sizeable transfer kitty may help Liverpool reach another level, but it needs to be spent wisely.
It’s a pivotal time in the history of Arsenal football club. The man who metaphorically built the Emirates is losing support. The time for a change will inevitably come, but for some it can’t come soon enough. The win over Tottenham was nice, but the underlying problems remain the doubts about the Frenchman’s tenure will persists for some come. Our Arsene Wenger Infographic gives you a succinct review of Wenger’s life and Arsenal career. When you weight it all up, is it really right to show him the door? That’s not a leading question, merely a question. You’re entitled to your own opinion.