A guest post from Red Henry
One of the more recent strands of popular criticism of Arsene Wenger includes the description of the Arsenal Manager as a dictator.
It is claimed that the manager listens to no one, that he does everything his way. The claim came from Stewart Robson, after he had been sacked from Arsenal Player, some say for being too negative in his commentary.
But fans and commentators picked up on the ‘dictator’ label and before we knew it, it was effectively official, signed, sealed and delivered. And the damage was done. Someone – could have been anyone – who had once had a tie to the club had said it. So of course that today now means it’s 100% fact in the minds of some.
You then start thinking:
“Hang on. Are these people serious? Have they forgotten who managed Arsenal before Wenger? NO, not Bruce…”
One of Arsenal’s most recognisable features as a team back in the Graham years was the strict discipline between manager and players and how the order of dressing room was brought out on the pitch.
Lee Dixon described it as “A sergeant -major approach to management”.
Paul Merson has alluded to it being a case of “If you weren’t working hard, you weren’t playing.”
Alan Smith talks about how Graham wanted to be the one earning the most money.
Then we had the fees the manager would get for making his own transfers, practically blocking even David Dein from any transfer negotiations so that George could handle them personally. We all know how that ended …
Dein himself talks about what a wonderful duo he made with Arsene, with Dein handling the transfers while Wenger trained and revitalized existing players and integrated the new ones.
Wenger on the training ground, pitch and dugout with Dein behind the scenes in the boardroom, attending meetings and controlling transfer negotiations.
The ex-players who had experienced both regimes talk about Wenger being liberal with regards to his players … sometimes, apparently, way too liberal.
They all seemed happy to follow his “orders” and his diets and his advice while being treated like professionals. The manager himself treated everyone as equals, as any respectful manager -no matter what line of business – surely should. What I have said above is just a reminder of past events and some quotes, as I recall them.
What follows is not a criticism of George Graham’s playing or managerial style or even professional ethos.
Nor is it glorification of the Wenger managerial philosophy and playing style. I recognise that each manager has his own ways.
No. What baffles me is how the word ‘dictator’ can be used to describe a manager whose operational and technical framework simply does not allow for such insulting and outdated concepts.
Mostly it seems the ones who call Wenger a dictator are people who are in the age-bracket where they experienced the Graham years in full. But it is a totally absurd concept. Maybe what they mean to say is that Arsene is stubborn in his methods…
Mr Wenger is a highly qualified player-development manager who together with his staff (Boro Primorac, mainly) have a ton of knowledge and experience in working with both youngsters and experienced players in general.
Let us not forget that between them they have hugely contributed to the development of Weah and, amongst others, Patrick Vieira, Henry and Cesc Fabregas, so forgive me for saying that they can be as stubborn as they want since their work shows exceptional results through various decades.
They clearly know a few things
Recent success can be seen in Theo Walcott, a boy who some years ago looked more of an athlete than a footballer, yet, is now one of the first team’s main attacking threats. Oh and he provides assists too. Wenger and Primorac know what they teach and how to teach it. Aside from their work at Arsenal they have won major titles in France and Japan. And all over Europe, those clubs who want to progress, will take a peak to see how Wenger does it.
When we played Barcelona last time at Camp Nou, the coaching and playing staff of Feyenord and Eindhoven (fierce Dutch rivals) were at the game and were quoted as saying “We are here to watch two proper football clubs play proper football.” Now this might not mean much to the pre-Wenger-era aficionados, but for those who know how to value their club’s progress, they understand that such words would not likely have been uttered prior to Wenger’s appointment.
It’s one thing trusting the working practices and routines that have produced you a Weah and an Henry and given you doubles, unbeaten seasons and champions league finals.
And quite another calling this manager a dictator and a stubborn old git whose lost it just because you don’t know what his job is about or what he brings to the game and the values and methods he represents.
His practices have produced results that shouldn’t be questioned by ignorant punters who can’t separate a dictator from a facilitator. These tried, trusted and proven methods are presented as the stubborn methods of a lunatic dictator bent on proving all his doubters wrong. When in fact it is quite the opposite.
They employ a liberal and responsibly mature approach to management that has brought results, records and built entire reputations.
Why would anyone of sound mind deviate from something that works?
Maybe only those with a poor grip on reality themselves would describe adherence to such outstandingly successful methods as dictatorial.
At the very least, it’s a funny kind of label.