Two More Years – Arsene?
So we have got Mr Arsene Wenger for another two years at the minimum. Given the fact that he never walks out of his contracts, I guess we are stuck with him. To be honest, I’m confused as to what to make of it. I have always loved Arsene Wenger and to a large extent, I still do. Recently though, this love for the man has not translated to love the role he performs in my life, manager of the football club I support.
At several points during the season, I have called for this to be his last primarily as anger towards him led to an increasingly toxic situation at the club. At any other club, the manager would have been sacked, but we know Arsenal is not any other club. Or is it, Arsenal under Wenger is not any other club? Part of the reason why I wanted him to leave was to see how the club would operate under different circumstances. Only then, would we really know whether the Arsene Way is really the Arsenal Way.
In truth, the contract had always been on the table waiting for him to sign and like all things Arsenal, their well-oiled media conscious machine had to wait for a time when it would be more palatable to announce. Our FA Cup victory gave this opportunity and Wenger who for many weeks prior to that brushed aside any questions with regards his future was very open to answering. He told us the meeting date, he told us the purpose of the meeting and even the day it would be announced. He knew the cards were once again in his hands and there was only one way he was going to deal it.
I was particularly interested in the sequence of events that led to the announcement of Wenger’s new deal. Arsenal won the FA Cup on Saturday and Wenger when asked if this was a perfect way to say farewell, he responded
‘There’s no perfect way (to say farewell),’ he said. ‘I just want to do well for this club. After that it’s down to the board members. Am I the right man to lead this club forward? It’s not about popularity.’
I find it interesting how Wenger always makes reference to the board when in reality we know his real reporting line is straight to the owner. Sir Chips Keswick, the Arsenal Chairman famously said in 2014, “if he (Wenger) has a plan we back it, if he doesn’t have a plan, we keep quiet”. If we were ever in doubt that this is how things work at Arsenal, the new deal puts everything in perspective. Wenger met Kroenke on Monday and agreed to sign a new deal, the board meeting where this should have been discussed held a day after the manager had already committed to signing. Read this quote from David Ornstein writing for the BBC
Wenger and club owner Stan Kroenke met on Monday to determine the Frenchman’s future, with the decision relayed to directors at a Tuesday board meeting.
The decision was relayed to the directors? lool
While this might seem funny, there are deep-lying questions here and I believe they speak directly to the problems we have had at Arsenal in recent years? Did Wenger make a presentation to Stan on why he thinks he is the best man to continue leading this club? Did Kroenke align the manager’s results with targets he had set before his last contract? Did Kroenke set new targets for Wenger? Were they financial or football related and which one had the higher priority? Were any other members of Arsenal Holdings part of this decision-making process?
So Wenger faced the board room table from a position of strength, his head, already anointed, most likely wearing an endless overflow of smiles with the knowledge that his cup was running for at least another two years. The Arsenal board members all itching to rubber stamp directives from the owner. How then do we really expect these people to demand anything from Wenger when he and the owner are brazen in their lack of regard for them? Will this special relationship change in the next two years? I do not think so.
So, who is more afraid of change? Arsenal Football Club or Arsene Wenger?
I honestly couldn’t answer that myself. At least we know Gazidis is open to change, he already stated this when he said “this season should be a catalyst for change” at a fans conference during the period the team was faltering. Gazidis hinted that there would be a major shakeup at the club and Wenger’s referred to Ivan’s comments as “superficial talk that is not important”. Further stating:
“I don’t know what ‘catalyst for change’ means. The problem in our game today is that what is superficial is at the heart of the debate and nobody talks about the things that really matter.
So we know Gazidis wants change, Wenger and Kroenke do not. As always, Sir Chips is the man in the middle stating earlier “Arsene has a contract until the end of the season. Any decisions will be made by us mutually and communicated at the right time in the right way.” Keyword there for me is “mutually”. Does anyone know what does Josh Kroenke wants?
One thing we cannot debate is what the fans want, the league title. Can Wenger deliver it? What was on Arsene’s mind when he was signing his new contract? Did he honestly look at his results, his team, his hunger and ability and say to himself I can take this club to another Premiership title? Not a Premier League challenge, not a Spurs like “Put the Pressure on”? Take us to a Premier League title. If those were not the only thoughts in his mind when signing the contract then he would have acted very selfishly.
The FA Cup might have put some gloss on what was a tumultuous season, but we have seen from our previous Cup wins that it has not led to any real desire to challenge for the league title. Arsenal might have avoided breaking things by giving Wenger a new deal but if we are going to make any progress something must change. It would be near impossible to have constituents of the board changed, but there is a gap between the board and the manager that could do with filling. The current situation with Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez also means something has to change about how we pay players? Whose decision is to make? Kroenke? Wenger? The Board or a Director of Football?
Wenger himself needs to change, are we going to sign the players we need early enough in the campaign to allow them to bed in before the first game? Will he revert to a back four now he is not under pressure to do something drastic? Will we start the campaign strong? How quickly will he make improvements to the team? Arsenal has won only one of the last 5 opening day fixtures. These things are not random failures, they are effects of indecision by the club as epitomised by Arsene Wenger.
The truth is that the only clarity we have and might have is who our manager is next season. If Arsene, remains the way he is, we might be back here next year asking the same questions. Hopefully not. Until then, we will do what we always do. Support the Club and its Manager. Come On You Arsenal !!
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