Below is an article I wrote for A Cultured Left Foot that was published almost one year ago. I want to revisit it because it seems that following Gary Neville’s observations, more people are accepting that the last 8 years have indeed been a success.
The blog was published on the same day Judas chose to publish his now infamous letter to you Guys which rather stifled the debate on my article. That saw me having terrible fall-outs with people who I hold in the highest regard. But that’s another story
It also followed a few days after a landmark piece that marked “what felt like the end of an era” as we were told by our former allies on that site.
Well it looks like they were right. We were coming to the end of an era, just not the one they began to hope for. They wanted Arsene gone. Instead it appears he is to enter a third stage of his glorious career with us, armed with the weapons he has forged over the past decade .
Here it is then:
I Am An AKB.
Although people intend it as an insult, it’s a badge I am happy to wear with pride. It will come as no surprise to most that I believe Arsène Wenger is the best football manager in the world. My opinion is based mainly on his achievements at Arsenal but by no means solely on these.
In his first full season at Arsenal, Arsène took us to a League and FA cup double. For the next 7 seasons we never finished below second place. We were on a par with Manchester United, the biggest football club in the world, a club with vast financial clout compared to Arsenal.
Not only did we compete on equal terms, we did it with style and flair never before seen in England, the pinnacle being an unbeaten season. Something many people – expert pundits, former players and managers – thought to be a foolish pipe dream when Arsène suggested it may be achievable, some two years earlier.
In this 8 year spell he changed the game in this country forever. United had to spend hugely in order to keep pace, other clubs followed; diet and fitness improved. For this period alone he has claim to being the greatest.
With the planned move to the new stadium things changed. Arsène had to work within severe financial restrictions. Big players were sold and the fees helped relieve the pressure of the move, in what turned out to be an unexpected recession. The reduction in the wage bill must have done no harm either. History had shown that a new stadium usually led to a rapid downturn on the field; relegation beckoned.
I would have thought that our aim would have been to stay in the league in the early years of the move. However, Arsène kept us in the top four, guaranteeing Champions League football and further reducing the financial burden with the revenues generated.
He has only recently let it be known (as if we didn’t know already) that he could have left and been paid much more money elsewhere. He gave up that financial gain and personal glory for the good of the club. I think that this period is a greater achievement than his first 8 years of on field success. It is a staggering achievement. And also could give him a claim to be the greatest.
All of the above is nothing new; it is said time and again, written about by better people than me. What I want to add comes now. The other day on Twitter I asked people to briefly write what words they felt best described Arsène Wenger. I am listing some of them below. It should be noted that I did not get even one negative word in reply.
Genius; unique; visionary; a dolphin in a sea of sharks; a genuine ‘special one’; loyal; dignified; progressive; passionate; winner; hero; devotion; intelligent; inspirational; revolutionary; absolute magician; he lives and breathes the club.
In January 2011, the International Federation of Football History & Statistics v0ted Wenger ‘World Coach of the Decade’. The organisation aggregated the results from each year of the decade, and Wenger had narrowly beaten Alex Ferguson and José Mourinho for the honour.
Now here is my point. If those two are his modern-day rivals for the accolade – and they likely are – how many of the descriptions of Arsène could equally be applied to them? Not many I suggest.
For me it’s Arsène’s standing as a human being that sets him apart from his rivals. Of all the people I have ever seen in football, he is in a class of his own. I respect him more than any person that I don’t actually know personally.
If I had to choose one person to run the country it would be Arsène. One dinner guest? Arsène.
Now I accept that him being human he makes mistakes. How many and how bad they have been we have speculated on endlessly on this very blog, and we will never be well enough informed about the club’s business to know the extent of his errors. What we do know is that he has gotten a lot of things very right, against a few that seem a little wrong.
To conclude my words to best describe the great man is “honourable and trustworthy”.
I truly love the man.
I feel recent developments and commentary has helped my case.
FunGunner said this the other day:
“The bit I meant was what you said earlier about the board tying Arsene’s hands, I really can’t see why you think that. Although he has been frustrated about other clubs blowing us out of the water with money they have not generated themselves, he has never complained about the board not matching the petro-dollars available to Man City or Chelsea. He knows the funds have not been available – they have not been withheld, which is what you seemed to be saying. The strategy of the club has been short-term pain for long-term gain – they chose to pay off a lot of the debt quickly, make infrastructure improvements, create a commercial department etc etc and build up capital reserves rather than spend more money on transfers and salaries, but AW is totally on board with that strategy for long-term success.”
I can’t think of a better way to put it than that.