Arsène Wenger, The Last Of His Kind

By Manas Saraswat
In Arsenal
Oct 26th, 2015

Arsene Wenger recently completed 19 years at the head of Arsenal, moving into his third decade with the club. There’s a growing feeling amongst many associated with the club that this might be his last contract. While it’s hard to face the inevitable fact that he’ll leave someday, how we go through the transition will be very interesting. Replacing Arsene isn’t really the question because, well, the state he will leave the club in my milkman’s daughter could replace him and deliver reasonable amounts of success (I may be exaggerating).  It’s how we go about the following transition to replace a man who was so much more than just the first team coach to the club.

In the last 19 years Arsene has played multiple roles at the drama that is Arsenal Football Club. He has managed the club almost single handedly, note that I say managed because it entails not only taking care of the first team coaching. The manager role includes a broad spectrum of functions and with it comes multiple responsibilities. In his first decade with the club he went about revolutionizing English football, carefully working on expelling the ‘bad’ traditions surrounding the English game and bringing a new fitness regime. His second decade was more about being pragmatic, working on a razor thin budget to keep the team competitive through the years while the stadium debt was payed off. His role as manager extended to not only keeping the team in the Champions League but getting in players on a budget. Some of the deals turned out to be real gems (See Samir Nasri, Per Mertesacker, Mikel Arteta etc.) other not so much. Regardless, he had to work with pennies while the landscape of the transfer market was being re-written in oil and corruption.

In the age of instant gratification the end game is to get results. No one is concerned with building something for the future, getting their hands dirty and possibly a stain or two on the resumè. The formula is simple these days, spend money – win trophies with a little bit of get up in the morning and go for training. While that in itself isn’t a bad thing it speaks volumes of the current generation of football. Arsene is perhaps the last of his generation of managers, a true monarch, who created the blueprint of all future success at the club. He embodies Arsenal and most of the current generation of fans have only known one version of Arsenal under him. Perhaps it is Arsene FC? He’s the man who took it upon himself to usher the club into a new era of football. Pep Guardiola, in his pre match press conference before the Arsenal – Bayern Munich game said that managing a club for 20 years is not possible anymore, and also ruled himself out of doing that citing that no one has the energy anymore.

He essentially assumes 3 roles at the club, Sporting Director, Transfer Committee and first team manager. 2 out of those 3 things, if you notice, don’t exist at our club. There are schools of thought that having one man in charge of everything isn’t sustainable, giving him too much power to affect change. There has to be accountability and that’s right. It makes replacing him that much harder as he has controlled the major functions of the club for so long. Since the transfer market exploded in the past few years; and with the injection of new TV money, football has become a sport majorly driven by transfers. That’s probably the reason most major clubs across the world now employee a Sporting Director. This makes the manager’s job easier and shields the club from any liability that is introduced when a new man walks through the door. It’s essentially a mediatory role between the manager and the Board. It’s alleviates most of the managers responsibilities regarding matters other than football.

Having said that, cogs already seem to turning for the transition that happens when Arsene decides to hang his overlarge jacket.  Small signs are there that we have begun the process for transition. Gazidis and co. are much more involved in the transfers than before. Steve Bould’s involvement behind the scenes, or rather lack of it was much talked about but our solid defence is evidence that perhaps Arsene has allowed someone else to have a say in the dressing room. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it but it does make me think that it could have been a conscious decision to have someone else with a voice in there as well.

The idea would be to keep the transition period as short and smooth as possible. The players would need time to get used to the new man and vice versa. The ideal situation would be that whoever comes in would need to be synonymous with the club’s philosophy and would stay for an extended period of time. However, taking over from Arsene will not be an easy task simply because of the magnitude of responsibilities he’s held over the years. I don’t think he’s decided just yet to walk away, waiting for the stars to align for the opportune moment. He will perhaps see the structure to ease the transition get implemented before deciding to call it a day.

We’ve become used to the purist approach, of seeing that one man at the top for generations. It’s hard to accept that perhaps we won’t see anyone like that, anywhere in football. Arsene Wenger will leave a philosophy which will define the club for many years and The Emirates as his legacy, the last of his kind.

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Arsenal lover from India. Occasional blogger.

3 Responses to “Arsène Wenger, The Last Of His Kind”

  1. DEW says:

    he had to work with pennies while the landscape of the transfer market was being re-written in oil and corruption. The last of his kind.

  2. O.L.A says:

    Nice article. Although I find an exception to the notion that the defence has improved due to Bould. It’s demeaning and disrespectful. When the defence is bad, it’s AW’s fault, but when it’s good, it’s because of Bould? AW has won the league without losing a game, which points to a great defensive unit, and Bould wasn’t around. Our better defensive record has been due to having better defenders, and a WC goalkeeper. Read a post last week that pretty much stated the same thing – that the only thing AW is doing right is allowing SB handle the defence, and it couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s the whole shape of the team.

    • Manas Saraswat says:

      I only mentioned Bould as a suggestion that he might be open to another voice on the pitch. Don’t think I’ve suggested anywhere that he is the sole reason why we have a solid defense. Having said that i do agree with your point that Arsene Wenger obviously is capable of making a great defense.

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