Story by Zach Selassie '18
In just one season with Arsenal, he became the first foreign manager to win the Premier League and FA Cup in the same season, the first to field a full non-English lineup, and the first to go undefeated in a full season. So—where did it all go wrong?
When he arrived on the first of October 1996, his tactics and training regimen were brand new to the Premier League. He micromanaged players to the point of exhaustion, controlling their diets, exercise, and any activities they did apart from soccer. His training focused on stretching and trying to keep players healthy for longer, a foreign concept to the Premier League. In his first full season, he changed his tactics frequently, switching between a 3-5-2, 4-2-3-1, and 4-4-2 based on the opponents. In just his second full season, he won the Premier League title, the first of three in the coming decade. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, he was regarded as one of the best managers in world soccer. In the 2003-2004 season, he did the incredible, almost impossible task of going thirty-eight games undefeated. Wenger had won over the hearts of not only Arsenal fans, but also soccer fans from all over the world. From there, however, it was all downhill. After winning three Premier League titles and four FA Cups in his first ten seasons, he won just two FA cups in his last ten.
Tactically, Wenger is well behind the game. Soccer, like life, is always changing. Other Club managers like Antonio Conte, Johan Cruyff, Diego Simeone, and even Mauricio Pochettino are and were the kings of adapting to the way the game is played while Wenger, on the other hand, hates change. His outdated training regimen is harmful to Arsenal’s players. Theo Walcott has not been fully healthy for six years, Aaron Ramsey has not been healthy for a full season for three years, and Santi Cazorla, Arsenal’s most important player, has been injured twice this season and four times and the last two seasons. If a player plays a full season for Arsenal, it’s a gift from the gods. Because of these injuries derived from Wenger’s lack of adaptability, Arsenal has not had its best roster ready to go for its biggest matches. Apart from his training, his tactics haven’t changed at all either. He continues to play with a 4-2-3-1 formation, which has gotten his Gunners nowhere in the last six seasons.
His inability to spend money on players also never ceases to aggravate fans. Last season, one of the best young talents from France, Ousmane Dembele, went to Borussia Dortmund for just under $7 million—a bargain for a player of his potential that is touted to be next Pires. In the months before the deal, he seemed a shoo-in to come to Arsenal. Wenger, however, did not come through. Likewise, when Julian Draxler, a young two-footed German, begged to leave Wolfsburg and come to Arsenal, but for whatever reason, Wenger was unable to make the deal work. In addition to these young players, Wenger has also missed chances to sign Benzema, Luis Suarez, Higuain, and the one and only Cristiano Ronaldo.
I am a lifelong Arsenal fan and I can’t imagine an Arsenal without Arsene Wenger. It’s in his name for Christ’s sake! I’ve never experienced Arsenal without Arsene, but as the saying goes, all good things come to an end. He has been one of the best managers in the club and league history, doing things that fans could only dream of while playing “FIFA”. He has done so much for the Gunners, including directing a massive stadium transition flawlessly from the Highbury to the Emirates. I am so thankful for all that he has done for Arsenal, but if this club is to progress, he needs to leave. For a decade now, the club has been stagnant without any signs of improvements. Now that other Premier League teams have recruited an incredible wealth of fresh managerial talent, it would behoove Arsenal to do the same.