Arsene Wenger: The End of an Era?

Mark HenryContributor IMay 9, 2009

PORTSMOUTH, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 02:  Arsene Wenger manager of Arsenal looks on prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Portsmouth and Arsenal at Fratton Park on May 2, 2009 in Portsmouth, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Tuesday night may have been the end of an era. If not in name then at least in spirit.

Because after ten horrendous opening minutes at the Emirates, which saw Ji-Sung Park take advantage of a slip from the unfortunate Kieran Gibbs and then Arsenal’s first leg saviour Manuel Almunia bamboozled by a long-range free kick from Cristiano Ronaldo, you could literally feel the belief of the fans in Arsene Wenger began to seep away as Arsenal’s last hopes of a trophy were extinguished at the hands of an ice-cold Manchester Utd side.

The end of the season will now mark four years without any kind of trophy and for a member of the big four, that’s just not good enough. For all Wenger’s protestations that the team is young and need time to grow into world-beaters, patience is beginning to wear thin.

On top of the failure to really challenge for honours, Wenger’s claims that success should not be measured by trophies has increased the whispers that maybe his reign may have overstayed its welcome.

Arsene Wenger has transformed Arsenal from top to bottom after arriving at the club as a virtual unknown in this country in 1996. He took an ageing side which was only heading in one direction and transformed them into not only a title-winning side, but a double-winning side in his first full season in charge.

In doing so, he completely changed the style of football, dispensing with the "boring, boring Arsenal" tag and adding a dose of "va va voom", creating a side which played arguably the best football in the world and most importantly, won. 

Most significantly, he transformed the youth set up, setting up a network of scouts to scour every corner of the globe to ensure Arsenal secured the signatures of the world’s best young talents.  

Ironically, it is the success of that same youth system that could end up being Wenger’s downfall with his insistence on concentrating solely on bringing young players through and moulding them into stars rather than buying proven "stars" beginning to prove costly.

Why he can’t see or refuses to acknowledge what even the most casual of fans can see, Arsenal’s chronic lack of a world class experienced centre half and a big, dynamic defensive midfielder, is baffling.

His insistence at a press conference on Friday that there was no need to panic and that this had been a promising season has increased the discontent still further. Why he insists that just adding two or three players to what is undoubtedly already a talented mix of players is panicking, is beyond me.

While his loyalty to the development of young players is admirable, he would only be helping them not hindering them by adding in a couple of world-class performers from them to learn from. If they are good enough, they will eventually succeed these players not be pushed out by them.

The mixed financial messages coming out of the Emirates don’t help the situation with money seemingly available one day according to the directors, and then not the next according to Wenger himself.

The signing of Andrei Arshavin however is a signal that there is money if needed and the little Russian’s subsequent success also clearly demonstrates that success can be bought with the chequebook on some occasions.

After all Arsene Wenger has achieved at Arsenal, it would be a shame if the amazing legacy he has built in 13 years is irretrievably tarnished. With the way things are going however, this sadly becomes a bigger and bigger possibility with each trophyless season.

So please Arsene, if only for your own sake, loosen the purse strings and save your own legacy.