Wenger May Not Be Special But He’s Definitely Something More …
By Tai Emeka Obasi.
Arsene Wenger is a man many get away with insulting, cajoling, taunting, etc… just because he’s too modest to dwell on unnecessary inanities.
Few seasons ago, one man who hates the Arsenal manager with so much passion to promise punching the Frenchman should they run into each other on the streets, called on the British media to unearth stats on winning percentages of EPL managers. He coyly cajoled that Wenger’s winning percentage should make an interesting viewing.
In last 30 matches in the EPL and counting, the same overtly mischievous character has garnered a paltry 33% win rate from winning just four of his 16 for Chelsea last season, drawing three and losing nine plus winning five, drawing six and losing three from 14 so far in Manchester Utd suits. Total: win nine, draw 10 and lose 13!
In Wenger’s last 30 matches in the EPL it has been win 16, draw 10 and lose four, which accumulates to over 50% win rate. But Wenger’s significant leverage over the loquacious one is just a reference rather than the basis of this write-up.
Wenger’s history of perseverance, tenacity and focus are so legendary that one needn’t waste space recounting the chronology of his 20 years’ of toil, dedication, passion and unrivalled commitment to not only oversee the coming of one of the most modern stadia in world football but also fashion out an appealing playing pattern that has transformed the hitherto modest Highbury outfit to a global brand.
His careful plan to transit as seamlessly as possible was severally threatened by the coming of one billionaire, who was looking for an arena to dump some billions of pounds for mere cosmic gag reel. He found very willing customers at Stamford Bridge, perched and boisterously dragged one egoist from Portugal along. Immediately this firing-form-the-hips manic character stepped foot on the English soil he set his gun muzzles North of London and decided the one man, who dared go one season unbeaten was an enemy to completely annihilate. In law they call it premeditated mind set. In football the ever tongue-in-cheek English press coined it “mind games”. In reality it is envy, greed, excessive provocation and not playing to the rules rolled up together.
There was no trick in the book and out of it, this new breed didn’t use to truncate Wenger and his sails toward a lasting legacy. The British press became willing allies as much as the English FA, quite bizarrely. Most astonishingly, the English referees, assistants and match officials played along. Having another cunning timer in clandestine fur coat gradually withering to retirement tunes at the red side of Manchester aided to burn Wenger’s bridges. Dear Wenger should and occasionally did lose his cool. And the press stung deeper!
Nonetheless, the Emirates became real on schedule but the other plan of returning to trophy winning days evaded the carefully-planned timetable. More billionaires had seen football as a part time El dorado and followed the Stamford Bridge owner in loitering around.
Manchester City found such favours and the stakes went ever higher. Manchester United, without a stadium burden or similar investment, complimented in going haywire with crazy transfer fees for players.
With the stadium debt a constant burden, dear Arsenal couldn’t follow suit. Even when tempted the Board found an excessively prudent manager blocking all routes to financial recklessness.
Instead, the hawks, not done with out-bidding and out-pricing Wenger in the transfer market, drove the dagger closer to Wenger’s heart by tapping and poaching away his nurtured players via lure of the lucre. Ashley Cole, Patrick Vieira, Alexandir Hleb, Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy, Alex Song, etc deserted their manager when the suddenly-becoming-lonely Frenchman needed them most.
To make it a far more bitter pill to swallow the press had ganged up in a seeming grand and extremely mischievous plot to mock Wenger’s years of toil, claiming that only TROPHIES mattered in football. Unfortunately, and most painfully, a great percentage of Arsenal fans bought their garbage and cloned themselves into AAAs and WOBs just to see the back of a man, who sacrificed every personal glory to re-position dear club. The most nauseating enemy is the one within!
But somehow the Board remained smarter and kept faith with the rare gentleman many called just Arsene. And just as well for events are gradually emanating that the orthodox French workaholic could be dead right after all. Wenger believes that building a team is a gradual process. He believes team chemistry far outweighs an assemblage of strange bed fellows in name of stars. He continuously preaches that adding more than three first team players to the previous season disrupts the technical balance of any side. Little wonder he was adding just one world class talent season after season for the past four?
Today, Arsenal is no more a selling club. For past three seasons and counting Arsenal have not lost a first team player they wanted to keep. In pasts three seasons they have added world class talents in Mesuit Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Petr Cech, then potential world class talents in Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi. They have joined the great talents in the team in Laurent Koscielny, Santi Carzola, Francis Coquelin, Aaron Ramsey … even Theo Walcott, Kirean Gibbs and Oxlade Chamberlain have appreciably caught the ‘A’ class bug. And while on it two classy youths in Hector Bellerin and Alex Iwobi, with potential of real greatness, were nurtured from the youth ranks to add to a gradually-evolving great side.
From that moment the club ceased being a selling club, two FA Cup trophies with subsequent Community Shields have been garnered to kick start the new dawn. The league positions have geometrically improved from 4th to 3rd to 2nd.
And significantly the team has silently improved on about all their failings last season.
- It took holding breaths for Arsenal to quality for second round of UCL via goal difference from last match to get to the nine points that pushed her over the line. They won three and lost three
This season, Arsenal qualified for knock out stage with two matches to spare. In the end they topped the group for the first time in five seasons, garnered 14 points, scoring 18 goals (record is 21) and conceding just six by winning four4 and drawing two.
If that is not a massive improvement perhaps nothing ever would be regarded as one.
- Arsenal have played 15 matches in the league – winning ten, drawing four and losing just one. By this time last season they already lost 3. But that is not the significant thing to notice.
Last season the Gunners lost to Chelsea at home, lost to Swansea (home) drew with Southampton (home). This season, they won all matches. That’s eight points on the positive. Though we lost to Liverpool who we drew with last season… that’s dropping one point which leaves us with seven positive points.
On the away count, the Gunners lost to Man Utd (away), drew with West Ham (away), drew with Sunderland (away) … this season, they won both drawn games and drew the lost one – that’s five points gained. Though they drew with Leicester City which were beaten last season (two points lost). We’re left with three positive points.
In all we have 10 positive points from 14 matches. Even a blind man in a darkened room would clearly observe the positive strides of this history-seeking side.
Ironically, Jose Mourinho it was who engineered the phrase that top 4 is no trophy in mockery of Wenger. True. But it will be interesting to see the loquacious one battle just for that top 4 trophy this season. Even with the costliest player in the world in his array of world class talents, the ex-Chelsea bully will sweat all the way to the finish line in a marathon race he’s already 13 points off top spot and six points off fourth. And more, he’s three points off fifth. One team may have a blip at a time. Two perhaps but for all five teams to standstill for Mourinho and Man Utd to catch up will certainly be a mother of all catch-ups.
Little wonder then the Confused One has suddenly pledged priority to Europa League competition. Reality that top 4 finish is becoming impossible?
Time ticks but for all Arsenal fans that have been calling for Wenger’s sack, it’s time to come together. Your sins are forgiven. Stay behind this man for this interesting season and even beyond. This is not your usual Arsenal team that would bottle it at the business end. This team is for real. Wenger may not wish to be called special but he’s certainly something more. A trophy got via Wenger’s approach far outweighs other 10 ‘bought’ elsewhere.
Tales from Untold