What began as a major uncertainty 22 years ago, when Arsene Wenger made his way to North London from Japan, has now turned into a painful and frustrating separation. It was a relationship that had moments of beauty and excitement, but also had its hurdles and hardships.
For years, we all asked ourselves what would the future look like after Arsene. Realistically, we knew he wasn’t leaving just yet, but, that scenario was always floating around in the back of our mind. What if?!
Now, that time has come. While we had essentially put all our eggs in the Europa League basket, leaving the Premier League for experiments, we’re left reminiscing on what was a long and memorable career, which ended without that European title that Arsene Wenger, the club, and the supporters had dreamt of. To boot, it all ended against another La Liga side. Anyone remember Paris 2006?! Damn you, Spain!
And if that wasn’t bad enough, Kos ruptured his achilles, leaving him with a recovery time of at least six months. Fortunately, Arsene’s final match at the Emirates was a positive one, on and off the pitch.
No more struggles with his coat zip
Watching Lê Prof on the sideline, you felt emotional for him, at least I did. After so long, this was it. He would no longer make the team selection in the stadium he built, nor would he get heckled by Arsenal supporters, in the stadium he built. No more jumping out of his seat with clinched fists celebrating a goal. No more struggles with his coat zip while every camera in the ground is attentively watching him.
When he arrived, this man took a group of men who were talented, but weren’t disciplined off the pitch, and turned them into world beaters. How? Simply by making sure they knew their value, their worth, and that, in order to be successful, it wasn’t just about what happens on the pitch. The key to a long successful career is also taking care of yourself off the pitch. Who would have known?!
A tall, skinny Frenchman coming from Japan knew it, and with his ideas and views revolutionized Arsenal, English Football, and even World Football. It was the perfect love story. Arsene, at Arsenal, playing beautiful football. What more could you ask for? Don’t say a European title!
In my opinion, Wenger’s willingness to take on the Emirates project says a lot about him.
Highbury was a fortress, but Arsenal needed to take that next step in order to be in the discussion with some of Europe’s elite. Building the new stadium would make an already frugal club more disciplined with their spending.
With the success he had at the club up until that time, and his own stock value rated highly across Europe, he could very well have gone elsewhere. He knew that financially we were fucked for a handful of years, which naturally meant the club would likely struggle on the pitch, so why stick around for that?
Loyalty, Drive, Doubters!
Those are three words that come to mind when I think of why Arsene stuck around.
During his time at the Arsenal, he received a number of enquiries from some of Europe’s top clubs, as well as international teams, and when things were not going so well, he could have easily walked, leaving the club in a tough transition period. But, he didn’t.
There were plenty of sharks circling the waters, with rescue boats offering Wenger a helping hand, but he stuck with his boat. Isn’t that an unwritten rule? Captain goes down with the boat?
He could have gone on to earn the same salary, if not more, at a club that would give him much more money to spend, but he said no. Apart from being loyal, that was down to Wenger’s own drive, and desire to silence all his doubters.
The amount of flip-flopping from all parties involved was and is ridiculous. Reporters and pundits loved him, then hated him. Some supporters, the same. It was relentless, but fortunately, Wenger used it as motivation to prove them wrong, in some cases. Those same reporters who slagged him off time after time and dragged his name through the mud were those same reporters who posed for a picture with him at his final presser at the Emirates. Yet, he never disrespected them.
Think about the times you’ve been working on something, and you know you can achieve it, outsiders doubt you, and you just keep trying and trying. There was obviously a lot more at stake for Wenger, but he’s human, and he loves the club.
Ripping the band-aid off
Had he left after the FA Cup over Hull City, would we have already won a Premier League title by now? Or a European title? No one knows, but the WOB will argue that we would have. We could also have run into a situation that Man Utd did, and had to dig themselves out of.
You have to rip the band-aid off at some point, and maybe it could have happened a few years earlier, but one shouldn’t abuse a man who gave us and the club so much. There’s a way to respect him, what he did, and also want change.
Because of him, the sacrifices he made, the abuse he took, and everything else, Arsenal Football Club are in a fantastic position for whoever comes in next.
So, for any of those Arsenal supporters who say he is selfish and only cares about himself, have a good look in the mirror, think about everything this man went through in the last 10-15 years. If he cared about himself, why would he put himself through the abuse from the supporters, the media, and even opposition supporters?! And again, if you’re using the salary argument, a manager of his stature and experience will go anywhere and earn that same salary, or more.
To prove that, he’ll have agents ringing him daily trying to line up a new opportunity, and that’s all off the back of a tough previous 10-15 years at Arsenal. Think about that!
All we have left to do now is appreciate what he’s done, and look to the future with a positive mindset. It’s in our nature to think the grass is greener on the other side, but will it be?!
Editorial credit: DCmuller / Shutterstock.com