Arsene Wenger’s career is seemingly coming to an end at Arsenal with his contract set to expire at the end of the season. So far there has been no indication of an extension and form in the new year has not helped his case.
It’s become common place to put your money on Arsenal finishing in fourth place and you’d be forgiven. They always seem to secure Champions League football but fail to challenge for the title in the final weeks of the season when it really matters. It’s become a familiar story in the last 10 years but Wenger’s record at the north London club has been sensational no matter what.
When Wenger joined in 1996, Arsenal had not won the league title for over five years but he secured one within his first two. He was a relatively unknown manager in England and despite some shrewd managerial work in France during his time with AS Monaco, he was yet to really be tested on the main stage. So when Arsenal brought him in it came as a bit of a shock but instantly Wenger settled the nerves of some fans. His presence in front of the media was, and still is, exemplary and he boasted an aura of confidence and professionalism.
It didn’t take long for that attitude to transfer to his players on the pitch and after making a number of shrewd signings – many from across the sea – Wenger started to build what would go on to become an incredible legacy at Arsenal. Within eight years, the “Incredibles” had been created and Arsenal made history when they became the first team in the Premier League era to go an entire season unbeaten – a feat which is yet to be equalled.
In his first 10 years, Wenger would go on to secure 10 major trophies with the Gunners as he guided some of the greatest players in Premier League history to glory. Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp were just a few of his most famous students and he changed the way football was viewed for many years.
Not only did Wenger introduce a full-flowing possession-style game at Arsenal, he encouraged flair and creativity and asked his players to express themselves on the pitch. Off the pitch though, he expected less indulgence and he was one of the first managers who encouraged his players to learn the science of sport and to look after their physical conditions. It would pay huge dividends and success was brimming in his opening decade.
However, the second part of his managerial career has taken a much less favoured route. He has still led by example on a professional front and the club are still attracting some of the biggest names in football. Arsenal have qualified for the Champions League in every single season under Wenger – an incredible achievement – but they are always falling short of the final hurdle.
They are no longer seen as one of the biggest clubs in England, with Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham leading the way in recent years. They have also failed to provide a consistent threat in Europe, with their last final appearance coming in 2006.
Wenger has always preferred to work with a budget and maintains the belief that no player should receive higher wages than himself in order to protect the hierarchy of the club. However, times are changing and Arsenal risk falling behind. He was a revolutionary in his time, but Arsenal now need a new face to implement further changes in London and after Wednesday’s humiliating loss to Bayern Munich there will be more pressure than ever for a change at the Emirates.
Whether or not performances on the field end on a high, Wenger’s career should certainly. His achievements may never be paralleled at Arsenal and even if they are, measured in silverware, the impact of the Frenchman’s arrival in the Premier League cannot be understated. He changed an era of football and created memories for fans all around the world so he should be applauded as such.
He remains a professional of the highest calibre and he should leave as one too.