Sorry Wenger, but the buck stops with you
ARSENE WENGER was an angry man yesterday but, even during an outburst, he chose his words carefully.
Responding to a journalist’s question about whether the fans’ behaviour would have any bearing on his signing a new contract, the Arsenal manager took his time before saying: “I have no problem to cope with everything but I fi nd that a bit boring in the end.”
There is a certain irony in the use of the word “boring”. Arsenal’s style of play used to be so uninspiring before the Frenchman’s arrival that they were often subjected to a three- word chant of “Boring, boring Arsenal”.
They were a club going nowhere at the end of George Graham’s days and during the short spell of Bruce Rioch, but Wenger gave them a new lease of life after walking into Highbury in October 1996.
Then he was “Arsene who?” but now he is arguably the biggest name in English football. Three Premier League titles and six FA Cups later, having developed an admirable style of play, Wenger has every right to believe he has transformed Arsenal into one of the world’s biggest clubs from one who were treading water.
Arsenal have also fi nished in the top four in every year Wenger has been at the club, as well as performing consistently in Europe.
Fans have grown accustomed to success and as with Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, few people aged under 35 can recall a time where Arsenal were not challenging for titles every season.
It is that expectation level that has made fans and pundits so quick to turn on Wenger.
And in some ways he may have the right to be so upset by the constant criticism of him and his side.
Wenger has always said what he thinks – sometimes to his detriment. But this time he feels very hurt that there are those who cannot remember the Arsenal of the past and the state that the club were in before he joined.
In particular the criticism last week by Thierry Henry, his protege and key man during his days at Arsenal, who suggested he had never heard “fans so angry” than against Swansea , will have stung.
But it is arrogance too. The Frenchman appears to be thinking, ‘ How dare people criticise me for all that I have done?’
Just because of his past success, he cannot be immune from discontent and needs to develop a thicker skin.
In a poor Premier League season, fans’ expectations have understandably been raised. After the failures of Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea, even a slightly above average season should be good enough for the title, without underestimating Leicester’s remarkable success this term . The possibility of north London rivals Tottenham winning the Premier League has only increased the tension among Arsenal supporters.
What next for Wenger? Maybe it is time for him to jump before he is pushed. He still has a year on his contract and may be given that time for one more bid for glory. But it may be appropriate for him to announce a retirement date. That will buy him so much time and goodwill among the Emirates faithful.
However, Wenger is not one for quitting. He has dedicated his later life in pursuit of glory at Arsenal. As he claimed yesterday, he works seven days a week for the cause and you can possibly add in brackets 24 hours a day.
He will not know what to do with himself should he no longer be a Premier League manager .