Arsenal: 10 Reasons 2012-13 Will Prove Arsene Wenger Is a Top-Tier Manager
As the most successful manager in the history of a club with one of English football's richest heritages, Arsene Wenger's pedigree can rarely be questioned. Yet, seemingly without fail, every year the safety of Wenger's position as Arsenal manager is queried, as critics try to find reason to depose Le Professeur.
Characteristically, however, Wenger has time and time again defied those who would lambast him, and with the 2012-13 season readily approaching, the Frenchman will do all in his power to prove his doubters wrong once more.
Here are ten reasons why Arsene Wenger will prove his credentials yet again this season.
When trying to summarise Wenger, one thing that cannot be denied under any circumstances is his consistency. Namely in league competition, wherein Arsenal have never finished lower than fourth whilst under Wenger's jurisdiction.
Similarly, the last time Arsenal failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League was the 1999-2000 season—and even then, the club reached the final of Europe's second-best club competition, the UEFA Cup, only to suffer shootout heartbreak to Galatasaray in Copenhagen.
Though his detractors will perhaps rightly point towards Arsenal's current trophy drought, seven years seems like nothing when compared to Manchester City's 35-year wait for a major trophy, for example. It seems like even less when put into the context of Arsenal's excellent, almost unrivalled consistency under Wenger's tenure.
In true Wenger style, it seems Arsenal are almost guaranteed a top-four finish yet again in 2012-13.
Defying Critics' Expectations
In a similar vein, Arsenal consistently appear to deny those who would doubt them with Wenger at the helm. For example, when predicting the final standings of the league table before a season begins, more often than not critics tend to follow a pattern, illustrated here by the BBC's Phil McNulty. Often, such predictions that are made include:
- Chelsea, with their big spending, will always improve on their performance from last year
- Liverpool are seemingly always expected to contend
- Arsenal, crucially, are commonly expected to lose a step and finish below their rivals
For reasons unknown, this pattern is adhered to by many journalists and "industry experts," but year after year, Wenger's men defy this prediction. Wenger's consistency and ability to outdo expectations will be showcased to the league yet again this season.
Shrewd Dealings in the Transfer Market
Arsenal's manager has always been a vocal opponent of the obscene spending of clubs of the ilk of Chelsea and Manchester City, even when the noticeable lack of spending has given these clubs an edge over Arsenal (this certainly rings true for City, champions this year of course).
Wenger knows finance: After all, he is the possessor of a degree in economics from Strasbourg University.
Yet, this season, Wenger has already taken a substantial dip into his transfer fund wallet, spending a decent sum of money on both Olivier Giroud, pictured, and Lukas Podolski. A further signing, of Malaga's Santi Cazorla, is also expected to be announced later this week, courtesy of various media sources.
The key component of these transfers is that they boost the Arsenal squad in all the right areas. This rings especially true with the ostensibly impending departure of club captain Robin van Persie.
Rightly, Wenger is keen to bolster his squad where it is seemingly weakest, logic which will stand him in good stead once the season begins in just under two weeks time.
Developing Young Players Cleverly
Ryo Miyaichi, pictured, is one of a plethora of young, gifted footballers at Wenger's disposal in Arsenal's first team. While he may not feature extensively in the manager's plans this season, this is all part of Le Professeur's master plan to infuse his young talents with the perfect mixture of experience, guile and spirit.
Those who can attest to his abilities to do such include Cesc Fabregas and Jack Wilshere, both of whom would likely cite Wenger as an important influence in reaching the heights that they have in the game.
To put this into context, the recently confirmed loan move of Benik Afobe to Bolton will give him vital first-team experience he cannot currently receive at his parent club. The likes of Wilshere, Ryo and Henri Lansbury can all speak highly of their loan moves—all three are much better players for their experiences.
Wenger just seems to have a knack with younger players, building a rapport and aiding their footballing development. 2012-13 will see this tradition continue.
Some managers enjoy success while sticking rigidly to one formation, putting all their trust in the benefits it can provide.
Arsene Wenger, on the other hand, is unafraid to switch things up, making sure his formation suits the players at his disposal.
From the 4-4-2 of his team led by the likes of Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp, to the 4-3-3/4-5-1 hybrid of recent seasons, Wenger's grasp of tactics has made him a revered strategist to compare with Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho.
With Arsenal's strengths and weaknesses changing seemingly every season, Wenger's ability to recognise this can be seen in his choice of formation in every new season.
Playing Football with a Style and Flair Most Can Only Dream of
Early last month, I wrote a piece trying to explain why Arsenal are, effectively, the most exciting football team to watch in the world. While I realise that seems outlandish, a few reasons why this statement makes perfect sense certainly exist.
Wenger's transformation earlier in his tenure of the "boring, boring Arsenal" into the exciting, fire-on-all-cylinders creative force it is today has cemented his legacy as perhaps the second most important manager in English football's recent history.
The skill and panache displayed by his teams have displayed that, while results have not always gone their way, Arsenal teams under Wenger have delighted audiences with slick passing displays and skillful goals that the likes of Bergkamp, Henry and Van Persie can all be proud of.
Expect Arsenal to excite once more this season.
Keeping Pace with the League's Big Spenders
Earlier, I mentioned the spending habits of teams who've won titles in the interim since Arsenal's last silverware was achieved—Chelsea and Manchester City.
Last season, Arsenal managed to reach third in the Premier League table after a dreadful start, putting Chelsea's league campaign to shame and keeping pace with Manchester City more than any team outside of Greater Manchester.
Though their signings thus far this window have suggested Arsenal are finding their ambition once more, their two—soon to be three, perhaps—signings do not come close to the absurd £50m figure paid for Fernando Torres by Chelsea in January 2011, for example.
Wenger cannot promise the title, but Arsenal can expect to stay in contention and keep pace with the Manchester clubs this coming campaign.
Inspiring Every Member of His Squad
While his key focus this preseason has been on his actions in the transfer market, Wenger has been keen to inspire confidence in his existing squad members—especially those who have been missing for some time through injury, in particular Abou Diaby.
Giving all the talents at his disposal a chance to impress has been an integral part of Wenger's managerial philosophy for years, and it is part of the crux which has allowed, most recently, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to flourish in Arsenal colours.
As such, Wenger rarely plays with a full "first 11." Instead, he has a set of players who will often make the team sheet straight away, but he consistently gives starting chances to a whole host of his second-level players.
This philosophy will continue to inspire his entire squad to believe in him and, ultimately, perform on the pitch for him.
Maintaining Continental Reputation
Under Wenger, Arsenal have built a genuine reputation as stalwarts on the continent, regularly featuring in the UEFA Champions League. Part of this reputation was built on becoming only the third Premier League club since the league's inception to reach the UCL final, and the first from England's capital to do so.
To cement their consistency, their third-place finish last season confirmed their 15th consecutive qualification for the UCL group stages, a remarkable achievement that outshines the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool.
Whomever Arsenal are drawn against in the UCL group stages this year, expect Wenger and company to relish their opportunity and put on a real class act against Europe's finest.
Overcoming Personal Criticism
This ongoing trophy drought, coupled with Arsenal's desperately poor start to the 2011-12 campaign brought the Frenchman under heavy fire—yet, friends and managerial cohorts Steve Bruce and Roy Hodgson both came to his defence and rightly so.
Wenger's achievements in English football are surely unrivalled except by one man, and while some criticisms that he's past it may be justified, to criticise his legacy seems absurd.
As he did last season, Wenger will rise above any personal attacks on his managerial style to lead Arsenal to commendable success again this season, with more than a few surprises in store for the way there.