Between fan protests, poor results, falling to 10th place in the English Premier League for the first time since 1994, calls for his head and the club's AGM in October being hijacked by irate fans, to say that 2012 has been a tough year for the Arsenal boss would be the understatement of the footballing year.
Despite a hard 2012, Wenger still managed to guide the Gunners to a respectable third-place finish in the Premier League in May. They made it as far as the Round of 16 in the Champions League where a disastrous first-leg performance undermined a heroic fight back in the second leg. And, most importantly for the board and club, Arsenal continues to make a profit.
As with any year-of-end report there are questions that need to be answered.
Was the year as bad as many Arsenal fans think? Did Le Prof work his usual magic in the transfer windows? Have Arsenal regressed or progressed? And where do they go from here?
Here, Bleacher Report takes a look at 2012 for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger.
Over the course of 2012 and between all competitions, Arsenal have played 52 matches.
The 52 matches of 2012 comprise of:
- 38 Barclays Premier League.
- 6 Domestic Cup Games.
- 8 Champions League.
Their win rate in the competitions reads as:
- EPL - Pld-38 W-19 D-10 L-9 (Win rate 50%; this would tally at 67 points)
- CUP - Pld-6 W-3 D-2 L-1 (Win rate 50%)
- UCL - Pld-8 W-4 D-1 L-3 (Win rate 50%)
The most amazing statistic that jumps out at you, regardless of games or competition, is that Arsenal win 50 percent of their matches.
This season, across all competitions, that winning percentage has dropped to 46 and puts Arsenal on course to finish outside the top four for the first time since 1996.
To put that into context, Manchester United's current winning percentage sits at 74 percent while Arsenal's Invincibles season in 2003-04 came in at 63 percent in all competitions. Manchester City, also currently on 46 percent after the worst English foray in the Champions League of all time, won the title last season with a win rate of 67 percent.
In other words Arsenal are performing at 20 percent worse at being considered title challengers, never mind being considered potential champions.
In looking at the Gunners' win/loss percentage, we must also consider their wages spend.
The 2010-11 season is the latest season we have financial figures for as far as overall Premier League spending is concerned.
That season Arsenal finished fourth on 68 points with a win rate of 52 percent.
The EPL 2010-11 final table:
- Manchester United - 80 pts - Win Rate 65% - Wage Spent: £152.9 Million
- Chelsea - 71 pts - Win Rate 53% - Wage Spent: £189.5 Million
- Manchester City - 71 pts - Win Rate 58% - Wage Spent: £174 Million
- Arsenal - 68 pts - Win Rate 52% - Wage Spent: £124.4 Million
- Tottenham Hotspur - 62 pts - Win Rate 42% - Wage Spent: £91.1 Million
- Liverpool - 58 pts - Win Rate 44% - Wage Spent: £134.8 Million
In 2011-12 the final table read as:
- Manchester City - 89 pts - Win Rate 67%
- Manchester United - 89 pts - Win Rate 65%
- Arsenal - 70 pts - Win Rate 57%
- Tottenham Hotspur - 69 pts - Win Rate 53%
- Newcastle United - 65 pts - Win Rate 47%
- Chelsea - 64 pts - Win Rate 51%
Interestingly, the six top spending teams finished in the top six positions in 2010-11. It is also worthwhile noting that between 2003 and 2012, the top four positions have been filled by the top four spending teams with the exceptions of Liverpool in 2003, 2005 and 2010 and Chelsea in 2012.
Arsenal have always flirted with being the third-, fourth- or fifth-highest paying team in the Premier League. In 2004, the Gunners were the third-highest paying team in the league at £69.9 million.
What this information shows is that Arsenal have continued paying high wages over the last decade and have always returned that with a place in the top four.
They have, despite almost doubling their wages in the last 10 years, dropped off and are now no longer considered automatic title contenders. The main reason for this is the calibre of player Arsene Wenger has picked up.
For every Robin van Persie there has been an Andrei Arshavin or a Marouane Chamakh—or even worse.
During 2012, Wenger signed four players for a combined total of £39.42 million:
- Thomas Eisfield, £420,000
- Olivier Giroud, £13 million
- Lukas Podolski, £11 million
- Santi Cazorla, £15 million
Of those four only Cazorla can be considered a success. Eisfield is obviously a player for the future and has only played one senior game this year, while both Giroud and Podolski continue to flatter to deceive.
Both strikers were signed to replace Robin van Persie's 37 goals in 48 matches last season but so far they have only returned 17 goals between them from 49 games.
What this shows is that Wenger is gambling rather than buying guaranteed quality. In this regard his transfer hit rate for 2012 could also arguably be put at a win rate of 50 percent. Hit and miss, if you will.
Transfer policy dictates tactical policy on the pitch and if the wrong players or below-calibre players are brought in, the results will always be seen on the pitch.
Arsene Wenger's tactics have been suspect right from the very first game of the year.
On January 2 Fulham beat Arsenal 2-1 and it started a trend whereby teams had developed a way to neutralise and better the Gunners. This culminated in a 4-0 Round of 16 demolition at the hands of AC Milan in the Champions League in February and, most recently in Arsenal's latest bogey team, Swansea, who beat them for the second time in 11 months.
They continue to have a soft centre and are particularly vulnerable at centre-back, while they are often also outbattled in centre midfield. The main problem this Arsenal team has is that it simply has too many passengers.
If things are going well and each player is playing well they win. The above stats back that up.
However, if even one player has an off-day the others do not have the requisite quality to cover up that gap and they lose or draw. The stats back that up too.
It all points to Arsene Wenger having too many inconsistent players at his disposal. Good one week, poor the next. A bit hit and miss, if you will.
When Arsenal won the title by the most amazing means possible in 2004, they had real quality in every single position. Since then there is a very good argument that the club have been stripped of its best players and are now built just to finish in the top four.
That season, Wenger would have received an A+ for the way his team played above themselves to claim the title.
In 2012, I'm afraid, Arsenal have gone the opposite way. The ghosts of glory days gone by would be distinctly unhappy with this current inconsistent team and manager. For that reason Arsene Wenger and Arsenal get a C- for performing below par in 2012.
Grade for 2012: C-
Teachers' Notes: Room for considerable improvement going by past exam results. Must study hard during winter transfer window and strengthen team and improve consistency for end-of-season exams.
Midterm exam in Munich during February will come much too early for needed improvement but should provide good motivation for final exams in May.
Potential Result in May: B or F (depending upon student application)
Statistics provided by www.soccerbase.com and www.premierleague.com.
You can find me on Twitter @WillieGannon