Tomorrow Arsene Wenger will be celebrating the landmark of his 1,000th game in charge of Arsenal. With Sir Alex Ferguson retiring at the end of last season, the Frenchman has become the longest serving Premier League manager by a huge distance. “A specialist in failure” he certainly is not, contrary to what some (well one certain individual) believes.
To even reach the milestone is a definite success. Over the course of these 1,000 games and the many seasons that have passed since his arrival at Highbury (as it was back then), he has implemented a whole new style of football which has been revolutionary not only for the Gunners themselves but to the whole Premier League. If he was a specialist of failure, it’s doubtful that so many teams admire the way Arsenal play and look to emulate it. A few have tried but none of them have truly succeeded. Pundits, journalists and fans of all clubs would not be eulogising about Arsenal time and time again.
Unfortunately for Wenger, success in football nowadays (for clubs of Arsenal’s stature) is seemingly quantified simply by the amount of silverware you win. Arsenal’s eight year trophy drought has, of course, been well-documented and every year Wenger and Arsenal are under even greater pressure to end this drought. Their attractive football is, whilst continuing to win admirers, isn’t winning them any trophies. However, a few years ago it was the foundation of success for Arsenal. “The Invincibles” who won the title without losing a game in 2003/04, are probably the greatest side to grace English football having outclassed all opposition in their path.
However, given the way the Premier League has evolved over the years and the ridiculously uncontrollable amount of money being pumped into it, Arsenal have fallen behind. Sadly, no longer is the game solely decided on superior sporting ability, money is power nowadays. Arsenal have spent absolutely nothing in comparison to Chelsea and Manchester City in particular in recent years, Mesut Ӧzil being the only huge money signing they’ve made. The German playmaker cost around £42 million. The two aforementioned clubs have been consistently splashing those amounts of cash in transfer windows of the last five to ten years. The incredible squad Arsenal possessed ten years ago has unsurprisingly never been replaced and without paying over the odds for the world’s top talents, they never will. That’s just the nature of the game now.
Jose Mourinho can simply go out and buy virtually anyone he wants. Given that power, surely he would be the true specialist of failure if he were to emerge from this season trophy-less? The pressure should be (and is) firmly on him to bring back the Premier League title to Stamford Bridge this season, especially with men like Roman Abramovich breathing down his neck. Even if Arsenal don’t win the Premier League, barring a catastrophic capitulation which sees them drop out of the top four, this season has surely been a success. Arsenal have been a lot closer to winning it this season than they ever have been since actually winning it back in 2004 (plus they’re overwhelming favourites for the FA Cup).
Unfortunately, it seems that the only way for Wenger to bridge the gap between Arsenal and the usual suspects at the very top of the league is to open his cheque book more often. A club the size of Arsenal is surely making as much money as Chelsea are. Yet to Wenger’s credit, he has often chosen not to and has continued to follow a policy of bringing players through the club’s youth system into the first team. Whilst this is very admirable and has produced an array of quality players down the years, again it hasn’t culminated in winning trophies. Yet Arsenal remain in the hunt and that is another success.
It’ll come as no consolation to Arsenal fans who are still waiting for that elusive trophy but they are definitely in better shape and in better hands under Wenger than anyone else. Who knows, maybe Arsenal could yet take the title from Mourinho’s Chelsea and the FA Cup and force “the special one” to eat humble pie.