Wenger Still Has Fire In His Belly

By Martijn Stolze
In Arsenal
Apr 25th, 2013
14 Comments

On NLIR today I am delighted to welcome Martijn Stolze (@hahostolze) . Martijn is a Dutch history student with a love for Britain and has been a Gooner since 1997. Martijn has written an extremely emotive piece and I’m sure you’re going to love it. Grab a beverage and strap in for an epic ride.Take it away Martijn…..

You can’t blame Arsène Wenger if over the last two or three seasons he has looked glum, burnt out and tired. You can’t blame him if he has felt despondent and absolutely lost. This is a man whose love for Arsenal FC is absolute and unequivocal.  But also a man who has seen his hard work, on one of his finest generations, fail and falter at the last hurdle too many times, and seen the lure of money and glory rip apart the teams he set about to mould in his image. A man who was on par with the greatest manager in PL history when the influx of money set the PL alight. Yet during recent weeks Arsène Wenger seems a man repossessed. The fire in his belly that drove his incessant desire for perfection, for better, for prettier, seems to be roaring at its fullest again. And just when we needed it.

Very few things are as harsh on a person as their position in history. In the last few days the glory of Sir Alex Ferguson has been sung by all those who love him, need to suck up to him or those who respect the man’s achievements. Looking through the Guardian’s review of the titles he won it makes it very obvious that the only man who consistently got close to his all conquering teams was Arsène Wenger. But Arsène Wenger is not a man en vogue today. He is not popular. His legacy isn’t being remembered the way it should. Not even with some of the fans of the club he has helped into one of the biggest and most valuable in footballing history. That has got to sting. I know it stings me.

When Arsène Wenger arrived at Arsenal he revolutionised English football. There is no possible way to deny that. He changed the way football was played, he changed the way players lived, trained and behaved, he changed the makeup of nationalities in the league and he added a worldly panache to a league that was getting stodgy and where a career as a solid defender was enough to earn you a position as a manager. In essence he presided over the professionalisation of the game in England to the level we have come to expect today (and indeed that which was already going on in world football). Without an influence such as his I doubt that the PL would be nearly as attractive as it is today, certainly not to viewers and sponsors. I often hear lamentations from old school fans that football has changed. It has. But to me it had changed for the better. Wenger’s role in that should not be overstated, but most certainly not forgotten, as it is being now.

I'm here to revolutionise

I’m here to revolutionise

That was the Arsène Wenger we had that won us leagues. When he came to England Arsenal were far from a bad squad, and especially in defence were excellent. Their exploits under George Graham in Europe proved as much. But there was a real sea change when Wenger came in. And with that drive of his he managed to extend the careers of ageing players on the verge of retirement and keep the meanest defence in the league going for another few years. Who would have predicted in 1996 that Martin Keown would still be playing regularly in late 2003? Who would imagine that the PL, normally a league dominated by English footballers, would start depending on foreigners? That the World Cup winners of 1998 would soon be plying their trades in the old stadiums of English tradition? Say what you will but the continental thinking of Arsène Wenger was one of the most important catalysts for that.

Football was different then. When Arsenal won the double in 1997-1998 they did so with 78 points. Not a particularly large amount and typical for a league which was much closer together. The biggest difference between Arsenal at that time and most of the other clubs was not per se in the quality of the players.  After all many had been around when Arsenal finished fifth two seasons before or 12th the season before that. The biggest difference came from the attention to coaching, to diet and exercise, and to tactics. Clubs could be beaten by smaller clubs far more regularly than happens now but slowly the difference started creeping into the game. Selling Nicolas Anelka netted Arsenal a £20m+ profit in two years which was invested in Colney which until quite recently was the finest training ground in English football. Having a good training ground (and academy for youth) was something long recognised as important on the continent but only really became important after the mid nineties in England.

Careers extended

Careers extended

In essence, Arsène Wenger was a great reformer. Some of his biggest achievements spring not from the results he achieved but rather the changes he made happen.  Perhaps that is partly why Wenger is so well regarded by people like Roy Hogdson and (these days) Sir Alex Ferguson. They realise the effect he has had.

The effect on Arsenal was alarming too. Now to be honest Arsenal were far from a small club before Wenger took over and his ratio of trophies to games is, now, in 2013, not early as impressive as it was in say 2005, but together with the board (who do deserve credit) not only has he overseen a new training ground being built, they also built a new medical centre, new academy at Hale End and they built this shiny oval building just west of Highbury. Catching the wave of success Wenger and SAF created together in England Arsenal managed to build themselves a new stadium, the best (in objective terms) in the country, despite there not being a tournament to build it for or a state wishing to help fund them. The club built it all on their own. Now, I have to watch out with giving Wenger too much credit for this (after all, Ken Friar and Danny Fiszman did most of the work) but had it not been for the success he brought the club, the continued presence in the CL as well as the way English football became attractive to watch (for sponsors and viewers alike) Arsenal could possibly still be in Highbury. I know some wouldn’t have minded that, but without a sugar-daddy, the likelihood of that club competing at CL level every season would have dropped significantly.

Now all of this seems to be Wenger worship. It is, but it is mainly intended to show just what Arsène Wenger can do when he has the passion to do so. With the reactionary views of modern people something that happened nearly 20 years ago seems so easy to forget but I will not entertain the idea that without Wenger English football would have reached its current (and even more so before the last few years) pedestal. Ask modern journalists and pundits and they seem to forget (or worse, resent) that.

Possible without Wenger?

Possible without Wenger?

emiratesstadium

Probably not

Wenger has also always shown an eye for the fight with adversity. Not only could he outplay and outsmart most opponents and opposition managers, he could out-quip and outwit them too. When he said his Arsenal side (the one he built, with only Ray Parlour, Martin Keown and Dennis Bergkamp really left from the team he inherited) could go a season unbeaten, people laughed. They scoffed. They ridiculed.  And in a style befitting of his nationality he managed to achieve something very much unbefitting of his nationality, by proving them all wrong and going a season unbeaten. Call me a revisionist fanboy but that is as great an achievement as any manager in English football has ever made. A team that did not rest on their laurels when it was pretty obvious that they were to be crowned champions, a team that learnt their lessons from seasons in the past. Perhaps the season is forgotten slightly now by Wenger’s recent lack of success, and the fact that we failed against our rivals in the cup competitions, but that season is the crowning achievement of a man filled with passion.

So imagine you are a manager at the top of your game, all your club’s money invested in a new stadium that will protect your future for decades to come (no matter what ten years later stupid people will say) and a team you created yourself winning titles in the most amazing style possible. You have a dedication to the business of buying low and selling high (or raising your own players) and it seems a very sustainable plan. What do you not want to see?  Bingo. Roman Abramovich.

Now let me be clear. I am of the opinion that no matter what happens, the club made the right call. This stadium will keep us competitive for decades to come and as a fan who is in it for the long haul (and for the love of the club, not the warm fuzzy feeling of trophies) I would easily sacrifice nine years of trophies in an absolutely impossible time for world football (the time of the billionaires as sports historians will one day call this) for continued stability afterwards. Some seem to disagree, or at least not appreciate the fact that doing both was nigh on impossible. Chants of ‘spend some effing money’ may have held some truths in them but seem to ignore the simple fact that spending money did not, and does not, guarantee trophies. If it did Man City would be champions this year.

Great, another billionaire

Great, another billionaire

When the Invincibles triumphed they were perfectly set up to continue their dominance for years. But the game, ironically, was changing. Faster, stronger players became more important. Chelsea suddenly had the funds to sign a team capable of winning titles and the players at Arsenal like Vieira and Cole, who had always had a chip on their shoulders, left for pastures new. Henry, Pires and Ljungberg were slowly approaching that point where slow decline sets in. Without the onset of oligarchic money perhaps (or probably) Wenger would have been able to keep adding youngsters of the calibre of Cesc, RvP and others to a squad still based on the winning formula of the Invincibles and he could have made it work. Unlike ManU Arsenal don’t quite have the ability to hold onto most of their big names, however. Even in the mid noughties, when we were arguably more successful, our best players were angling for moves, whereas ManU let the players go they could do without. I don’t know what it is, but SAF always played that right. But Arsenal, especially after the 2006 CL final, slowly disintegrated.

With the usual fire Wenger sought to reinvigorate the squad and build it around players like the abovementioned Cesc, RvP and people like Toure. And at times he did so very well. Seasons like 2007-2008 and 2009-2011 got us challenging at the very top echelon only to falter, plummeting to the earth at the final moment. What went wrong is a very good question. Perhaps part of it was luck. Part of it was a media narrative of ‘they don’t like it up them’ leading to three broken legs and two traumatised sets of players. Perhaps it was pivotal players like RvP and Rosicky being out for half the time or the way some players were thrown in the deep end too soon.  Ultimately I think it comes down to a combination of factors. I still think that had Martin Taylor not made that tackle we would have been champions in 2008. And the continued injury problems did not help. But I think we just lacked that final bit of quality, that edge that other teams, more experienced and more willing to spend, did have.

Not that Wenger did not make mistakes. Making Gallas captain was criminal. The treatment of Gilberto Silva, and subsequent negotiations with Flamini and sale of Diarra depleted a very strong midfield. Signings like Squillaci, Silvestre and Santos were inexplicable, as was the lack of a good goalkeeper and the reliance on players like Diaby and Rosicky who sadly cannot be relied on. What would have happened had Diaby never met Dan Smith and Eduardo never met Martin Taylor, one can only imagine, but it could and should have been corrected by Wenger.

At their best these teams played the best football in England (and at times in Europe) and excited us with the prospect of new talent. But with the mistakes being repeated and yet another club arriving in England with the most embarrassing of riches things only became harder. Losing your best player and talisman to his boyhood club is excusable. Not replacing him isn’t. Now I know that our finances at the time were precarious (compared to other clubs and because of the stadium) but Wenger was too stubborn. I don’t mind stubborn people. Stubborn people make things happen. But this time stubbornness was detrimental to the team, to the club’s fortunes.

It was so painful to see, the look on his face last season when we were spanked 8-2. The fire was gone. Two of his project players had just left for differing reasons and his next big thing was out for the season. He was being kicked when he was already down.  Yet the next few days he made a few signings that might genuinely be a foundation to build on for the future. And despite the season in the end being one of failure and frustration, finishing third with that squad is a tremendous achievement. Wenger was still capable, but he seemed lost, heartbroken, his age suddenly and irrevocably etched on his face.

Tired

Tired

Then came the betrayal of last summer and even though Wenger genuinely strengthened his team, it was not enough. We’re not performing worse than we did last season but our opponents have gotten better. And we sold our best player and captain to our recent rival. I don’t know the machinations inside the club. But I refuse to believe Wenger is the culprit in all this. Yes he has made some mistakes, and some of these mistakes led to frustration amongst players like RvP that ultimately made them leave the club. But as long as I don’t know for sure what role the board and ownership play in this, I refuse to judge him.

Anyway, Wenger for large parts of this seemed a deflated man. Only sporadically before late January did we really kick into gear and certainly not enough to warrant a CL position. The new signings were all to varying degrees a success, but in a league that had gotten stronger it was papering over the cracks. I genuinely wondered at times whether Wenger might throw in the towel, whether he might leave the club that owed so much to him.

Instead we beat Bayern, the best team in Europe, in their own stadium. We subsequently went on the sort of run that champions go on. We look a stable team with excellent defending, midfield balance and (on and off) potent attacking. More importantly, Wenger looks back to the days of Invincibles, of double winners, of Wengerballers. The man looks (to me) like he believes again. And there is a lot to be excited about.

Not only do we look good for getting into the top four, but we have a solid base to build on. Excellent fullbacks on both sides and great central defenders, a squad depth that most would envy and a midfield full of passing and movement, all we need is a little bit more sharpness in attack. Wenger is not only lively again; he is showing his ruthless streak. Dropping Szczesny and Vermaelen and loaning out Chamakh and Santos shows he has that fire back. Players like Cazorla, the CBs, and most of our attackers are in the prime of their careers. The squad looks tight and harmonious with only a few bad apples. What we miss most is the sort of players that give us a bit more power (especially in midfield, although we seem to be doing ok right now) and a bit more stardust.

In the summer Wenger finally (and this has been said before) has money to spend, and looks to be willing to do so. Not only that, but he seems ruthless enough to replace those who don’t perform. Perhaps he can be ruthless when trying to sign players too. With the five youngsters who recently signed new deals we also have a fabulous base, all British and all (seemingly) dedicated. Wenger has always been criticised for his focus on foreign talent, making this an even more salient point.  The form of players such as Ramsey and Gibbs has vindicated the decision of Wenger to keep using youth with experience. In fact, this team more closely resembles the idea I had of what the aftermath of the Invincibles would look like (albeit far less good) and that combination of future and present is what we need. With the new Emirates deal, large cash reserves in our coffers and a new TV deal for the league this summer should be a moment to spend. If we spend right, and in the places we need it most (IMO CF, DM, CB, GK and perhaps a versatile attacker) we can genuinely challenge for the title again. None of the teams this season looked in any way impressive and whilst ManU won the title at a canter they can be beaten. Knowing how good Arsène Wenger is, and with the right summer, I would not put it past him.

Relax... I got this.

Relax… I got this.

When Wenger is in full flow, he is unlike any man I know. His ability to make sweeping reforms is alike to that of a politician. A man with a vision and the drive to make his vision stick, when he is on form he is one of the greatest football managers in history. Not only did he have a large hand in making Arsenal the iconic football club, with the facilities and financial future, that it absolutely is today, but he has helped make English football competitive in Europe and watchable for people who aren’t English. His desire to integrate youth is a view that is very important for both the future of Arsenal and the progress of our season. More than that he seems to be regaining that absolute drive that helped Arsenal remain unbeaten during a season, won a title in his first full season at the club, turned Thierry Henry into the greatest player in PL history and has changed the club from top to bottom. Perhaps all this is speculative. Certain people say that Wenger is far pricklier and agitated these days, perhaps hounded by the unhappiness of ungrateful fans and the short memories of the media that once relished him. Certainly I can imagine he feels that he is being underappreciated (despite his salary, which I’m sure people will tell me is very big etc.), although I doubt those that really know will do so. What I hope to keep seeing is that passion and that fire in his perfectly toned (I imagine) belly. Because it can do wondrous things. And perhaps this summer things will get better again.

Thanks Martijn. A great post, with great emotion and I couldn’t agree more although I suspect we’ll have our share of disagreeing comments. I believe that this summer is Wenger’s last chance to prove to the fans but most importantly himself that he can still do it and I think he wants to win something so he can either leave on a high or realise that he can still move us forward.

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About "" - 1 Posts

Martijn Stolze is a Dutchman with a past in England. Unwavering Gooner since 1998, his love of the club will never fade. All the staggering highs and shattering lows have taken a toll on his health.

14 Responses to “Wenger Still Has Fire In His Belly”

  1. nishant says:

    brilliant ! superbly written . emotional and made perfect sense . kudos ! about time wenger starts gettin the respect he deserves !

  2. doctore says:

    Wenger is past his sell date by a decade,he has had ample time already,I think its time we part ways with him,try someone else,something new….

  3. acho ojike says:

    Well said and rightly so, but I wonder if you are not too sentimental in favour of Wenger. Yes, you rightly pointed out that he made mistakes, but when mistakes are repeatedly done over a period of almost ten years you begin to ask questions. Again, you have to question the position of the management in the affairs of Arsenal as a football organisation. Are they solely out for financial gains alone or are they really interested in taking Arsenal to heights to compete wiyh the best both in football matters and in finance. If the management is really interested in taking Arsenal to those heights, then questions should be asked on why they allowed this retrogression to go on for as much as ten years. Why was it that few key players were not brought in to compliment the horde of talented youngsters evolving in the team? Why couldn’t they try all efforts in discouraging our best stars from leaving? Why allow Van Persie go to our bitterest rivals, and wanting to sign a striker now just after a season with almost the same wages we would have maintained Van persie on? I really feel for Wenger too but a lot of questions are beginning to emerge about his resoluteness in handling Arsenal. He listens to the crowd too much now and tries to please them, even when he is in a better position to know his players. A case in hand was dropping Gervinho for the Everton game because the crowd shputed down on him because he was poor on the previous game. In fact that was typical unlike Wenger. I know he would have loved to use Gervinho in that Everton draw at home. This and others make me wonder whether he still has that fire in him just as you remarked. Again on Gervinho, I wonder why Arsene don’t allow the team to play to Gervinho’s strength, knowing his weaknesses. He is still the only forward that easily creates opening for himself to score even though his finishing is still not way up there. But if he is played with one who understands him, we can still get the best out of him. Hazard used him well at their former club, and he said so as well. My case is that Arsene knows all this but he allows the chants of the crowd to sway him. There are a lot of other questions begging answers but this is hardly the forum for that. Like you said , I hope he gets his signings right this summer because it will be a shame if he does not right this retrogression in Arsenal.

  4. acho ojike says:

    I am also of the opinion that Wenger should reinforce the education of the basics of football to his players. which are- a. winning possession of the ball during play, b. retaining possession of the ball and c.directing all actions on the field of play towards scoring goals. The degree to which his team does these three will determine how well and effective they will play. All players must know that their basic responsibility on the field of play is to dispossess their opponent of the ball. It does not matter if you are the keeper or not, all eleven players must know that that is their first duty on the field of play. This is so because if you don’t have the ball you don’t play. The degree to which your team wins the ball back from the opponent determines how much you play. Then keeping possession of the ball must be mastered at all cost, and this is where concentration, focus and technique come into play. Again, the degree to which you retain possession of the ball will determine how effective you will play. Lastly, all actions resulting from the previous moves must be directed towards goal scoring. All moves must be rehearsed to be directed towards putting the ball at the back of the opponents goal. This too must be mastered and the moves must be spontaneous to outwit the opponent. Looking at Wenger’s sides lately one begins to wonder whether they actually appreciate these very basics of football. Wenger should do well to instill it and bring out the beast in them. Looking at this very Arsenal team this season, I believe their greatest undoing is the attack line. The strikers there are not brave and shy away from risks. Actually our defense is not as bad as people make it out to look, after the opposing teams also have game plans and are expected also to score goals. Infact our backline is way above average for the premiership. The problem is the attack. Most times they are bereft of ideas and sometimes they even seem scare to attack the opponent. We need fearless,skillful and intelligent strikers who can read the moves of their colleagues and know when and where to position themselves to wreck havoc. Come on Wenger you get this type of players. I want to see you succeed and become a threat to sir Alex once more. Please spend your money wisely where your heart is and not where the crowd want you to spend it. I believe in you. goodluck.

  5. Cupsui says:

    A great write-up Martijn…

    Your sentiment is almost exactly my own. He has his weaknesses: the biggest for me his out and out defence of his players when it is clear at times they need a good kick up the arse (perhaps even publically).

    Like you i had the feeling (peaked around november/december) that he was gonna walk, he’d had enough of the stress of being berated by the press and fans, and the club under-performing. But i agree there has been a change since Jan. Sending a few under-performing players on their helped i think.

    The man is a genius. A tactical master of football. I hope he stays for a few more years yet…However like you Martijn i agree he MUST do something this summer…if not and we start poorly then i think it may be time for a mutual parting of ways. IMHO i think we need:

    1) DM – A solid, versatile, strong defensive mid (Capoue is the main man for me)
    2) CF – Fast, tactically aware player with great movement touch and instinctual finishing (Lewandowski would be a dream come ture but Jotevic looks to be the main man here)
    3) CB – With experience but mid 20s not older. Need to be similar to Mertesacker, big strong and tactically savy defender. Leadership skills would help a lot (Fazio? Williams?)

    After that it needs to be on a outgoing – ingoing basis
    4) LW/AM – fast, great movement, good crosser, exceptional workrate. early twenties. Arsharvin leaving so this is a distinct possibility (I like the sound of draxler)
    5) CB – Youthful, but talented (this is if TV5 goes, and honestly i would be selling him if i was manager. As we cannot have our club captain sitting on the bench and he is NOT good enough to start ahead of Merte or Koz)…(i’ll leave this to the scouting team)
    6) RB – If Sagna leaves…(again Wenger will have his targets)

    Again great article Martijn…

  6. A very good post…pretty much agree with all of it except for a couple of minor disagreements which i’ll mention here

    “Making Gallas captain was criminal”
    This I agree…i’d add giving him the no.10 jersey too

    “The treatment of Gilberto Silva” – yes in terms of not getting captaincy (hence why I believe TV5 became captain this season in order to not repeat that)…no in the sense the better player kept his place due to a once in lifetime run of form (Flamini)

    “subsequent negotiations with Flamini”
    Not necessarily Arsene’s fault considering he never showed he was as good before his final season here and was nearly sold to Birmingham in 2007 for 3m. In the end we lost him to the club he supported as a youngster where he got parity with someone like Nesta.

    “sale of Diarra depleted a very strong midfield”
    This one is a mixed bag for me considering that he was rumoured to have refused to come on as a sub in a game and agitated for a move because he was unwilling to fill in whenever needed (while Flamini’s form kept him out). I would have liked to have kept him, but his impatience to move (needed playing time to impress in a season prior to the Euros) meant that we were in a situation where we gambled on convincing Flamini to stay, a gamble that sadly failed.

    “Signings like Squillaci, Silvestre and Santos were inexplicable”
    Silvestre yes, I wasn’t sure what he was going to add for us and never understood that.

    Squillaci and Santos (recommended by Guus Hiddink) on the other hand were far more straightforward and seemed logical and necessary moves at the time. One was an experienced CB and a proven winner to replace the outgoing Gallas while the other was an experienced international LB to rotate with Gibbs (who was then struggling with fitness issues)

    “as was the lack of a good goalkeeper”
    this one is debatable for me because for one, as much as people dislike Almunia now, its a case of history being rewritten by present opinion because he was a good (not great) GK for us, especially in his first couple of seasons as a starter (07/08 and 08/09, one of which saw him voted by our fans to top 3 AFC players of the season on the club website)…and you had a very promising Fabianski in the wings back then so the situation wasn’t as dire as many make it out to be (and also consider that genuine world class improvements would have cost something beyond what we could afford)

    “the reliance on players like Diaby and Rosicky who sadly cannot be relied on…but it could and should have been corrected by Wenger.”

    It worked with one (who betrayed us) and to an extent with Rosicky (considering how important he was in our run in last season). In Rosicky’s situation we also brought in Arshavin to do a similar role (Successfully in his first 2.5 seasons). Diaby was definitely a gamble, one that I believe was made purely on the basis that in the summer he looked fit, strong and past his injury issues (and it is possible that the med team suggested the same as well) and one that backfired this season.

    “Losing your best player and talisman to his boyhood club is excusable. Not replacing him isn’t…Wenger was too stubborn. I don’t mind stubborn people. Stubborn people make things happen. But this time stubbornness was detrimental to the team, to the club’s fortunes.”

    I disagree here for multiple reasons. One is that there is plenty of evidence to suggest that both Cazorla and Mata were our targets to replace Cesc that summer but both moved before we could (As you mentioned yourself, finances then were precarious and dependant on CL qualification as well as Cesc’s own sale terms). There is also evidence from BVB that we chased Gotze that summer but the bid was rejected so its not like we didn’t try to replace.

    The other is that, the stubborness is actually a good thing in this regard. Arsene was too stubborn in the sense he wanted a specific calibre of player, that combined with the lack in resources meant that we would have to be patient and search far and wide for just that. There’s little point in replacing Cesc with someone who isn’t nearly at the same level just because you need to replace because you’re using up your limited resources and getting a player who won’t really take you to the next level. This same argument is why I believe we didn’t get an instant replacement for RVP last summer. You might consider it detrimental to the team, but I think it is the better thing to do to wait and buy the right player at the right calibre than look to buy just anyone (Especially with limited resources)

  7. beyond the above disagreements though, this was a really fine piece (just 2 paragraphs that i disagreed with really)

  8. Nabeel says:

    Wenger deserves a CL trophy before his retirement.

  9. George says:

    One of the best articles I have ever read, absolutely spot on.

  10. FOYS says:

    Gave up reading after the author said that Wenger was on a par with Fergie. Absolute rubbish. Fergie had won back to back titles, Wenger hadn’t. Fergie had won in Europe, Wenger hadn’t.

    Wenger said a few years ago that our defence was the reason we don’t win the league these days, he then goes and buys a dud in Squallaci(sp). Yanited lose the league on GD and what does Fergie do…….. he buys the top PL goalscorer. Says it all really.

    • Bennis Dergkamp says:

      So you didn’t read the whole thing but felt you had to leave a comment and put it right? Smart.

      Martijn went on to say that there is now a gap between the two. He was talking about Fergie & Wenger in the early years.

      Regarding Squillaci, do you always make such retrospective revisionist statements? Are you the sort of person who says “I told you all from the start that Mugabe was a bad egg”? Squillaci’s CV read like Sol Campbell’s before he joined us and on paper he looked decent. No-one can predict how a player will adapt to a new league so to use the signing of Squillaci as a stick to beat Wenger with is grossly unfair. If you wish to complain about him keeping the player once it was clear he wasn’t cut out for the league then that’s fine (despite it not being easy to move a player on).

      Fergie has made many transfer mistakes and has bought many players who just didn’t fit the league. It happens.

      With respects to European cups you are also making odd comparisons. The Fergie and Wenger that Martijn compared only had one European Cup between them (1999) and United were very lucky that year not only to win it in the dying seconds but also to win the league by a point they gained in 7 minutes of Fergie time. At that point did that one cup make Fergie immeasurably better than Wenger? If yes then you are saying that Djimi Traore in 2005 was vastly better than Ashley Cole because he too had won a Champions League trophy.

      If we compare trophy hauls today then yes, Fergie is clearly the superior manager but that’s not what Martijn was getting at at all.

      Next time you put time and effort into something how about we all look at one section of it and then tell you how fucking stupid you are. Mug.

  11. Trev says:

    Excellent post and a very interesting read.

    Agree with the vast majority of it – although not quite as convinced as you are about the depth of quality in our squad.

    Describes the aspirations and transitions of Arsene Wenger brilliantly, as you would expect of a history student.

    Great stuff.

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