Arsene Wenger needs the support of the Gunners fans more than ever.
Le Prof is under pressure at the Arsenal like never before. To say that the last 12 months have been a roller coaster for the North London club would be a huge understatement. In September 2012, the Gunners were well-placed in third position to mount a title challenge.
Yet just over two short months later and Arsenal were languishing in 10th after losing at home to Michael Laudrup's Swansea City—the Gunners' lowest league position since 1994—and qualifying for the Champions League was nothing but a pipe dream.
Somehow or other the Frenchman turned the season around. A second-half-of-the-season surge after losing 2-1 to bitter North London and Champions League rivals Tottenham Hotspur saw Arsenal go unbeaten for the final 13 games. The Gunners won 11 and drew twice in that phenomenal run and pipped Spurs to fourth place on the final day of the season.
To say that Wenger had turned Arsenal around would also be a huge understatement. Le Prof worked a minor miracle.
He achieved that insurmountable task by exquisite coaching, superb man-management, a little bit of luck and inspired team selections. By the season's end he had earned the "In Arsene we trust" chants that emanated from the Emirates Stadium.
Here, Bleacher Report offers 10 reasons why Arsenal fans should back Arsene Wenger.
This video was recorded by Arsenal Fan TV immediately after the Gunners' 3-1 loss to Aston Villa on the opening day of the season.
It is a perfect example of the frustrations many Arsenal fans feel after a summer of inactivity in the transfer market. This feeling is further exasperated by Tottenham Hotspur bringing in over £100 million worth of talent during the same period. When you add in the fact that the two sides only finished one point apart in the final table in May, you can understand these frustrations.
This Arsenal fan let the board have it with both barrels and did not reign in on the expletives.
His words were not directly aimed at Arsene Wenger even though he did call the Frenchman incompetent at one stage. The majority of his frustrations were aimed at the board because of the thinning out of the Arsenal squad over the previous couple of seasons, which he felt caused the loss against Villa.
He wasn't wrong.
What he did not point out was that Wenger has had to work with his hands tied since 2004. Since then the Gunners have been asset stripped to pay for their 60,000 capacity stadium. Wenger has done a brilliant job since he started with the club all the way back in 1996.
He has proved a genius when working within economic constraints, and now that the financial tide is beginning to turn, he needs faith and trust from Arsenal's fans. If they can show the same patience now that they did during the last decade, Le Prof will turn the Gunners around.
Just five days after his rant went viral, Chris returned to Arsenal Fan TV to talk about his now famous video and the Gunners' 3-0 win over Fenerbahce.
He rescinded on many of his previous video's comments and was delighted that Arsenal had won and that some pressure had been lifted from Arsene Wenger's shoulders.
In this respect he is also right.
Wenger has been operating under massive pressure for sometime now. Yet, year after year he has succeeded in Arsenal reaching their targets.
The fact that the club has not released significant funds has been lost on no observant football watcher.
The fact that Arsenal's footballing targets have changed significantly has not been lost either.
Wenger is operating under pressure from his own board, the media, the many Arsenal fan groups—from the Arsenal Supporters Trust to the Black Scarf Movement—to the ordinary decent fan and most of all himself.
In the face of all the slings and arrows that have been hurled his way, he has come out fighting and, most of all, on top.
His spirit in such daunting circumstances is just one reason why the Arsenal fans should back their man—just imagine how he and the team would operate under constructive criticism only.
There is no denying that Arsenal's record since Arsene Wenger took over in 1996 is nothing less than impressive.
The Gunners have won the Premier League three times, the Double twice and gone unbeaten in an unforgettable 2003-04 campaign. That Invincibles year will live long with anyone who was lucky enough to witness it, regardless of the club he or she supports.
Since 2004, the club has sold its best players and replaced them with inferior stars. But that has not stopped Wenger from getting the club into the top four.
Tottenham Hotspur's recent overhaul under Andre Villas-Boas and Daniel Levy is threatening to break that 17-year dalliance as one of the Premier League's elite teams.
If that does happen it will not be the manager's fault. He must be given time to prove he is still the right man to lead the club back into title contention.
That will not be achieved overnight with the likes of Manchester City and Spurs spending almost £200 million between them this summer and with Manchester United and Chelsea capable of doubling that spend.
Even if Arsenal do drop out of the top four this season, their manager has proved he deserves the right to bring them back.
The bottom line is that he is the right man for the job; his record proves that.
Arsenal's fans are unhappy with the club spending practically nothing during the summer transfer window. By the time of writing, the Gunners are the lowest-spending club in the window, having only signed Yaya Sanogo and Mathieu Flamini as free transfers according to the BBC.
Speaking to a press conference on the prior to the Emirates Cup, Wenger said:
We have signed Sanogo.
He has not made the headlines.
Why? Because he is not £50m to £100 million. But I am quite confident he will make them soon on the pitch, and that for me is the most important.
The graph above shows Arsenal's wage and transfer spending between 2000 and 2011. On only two occasions did Arsenal spend huge amounts of money.
In 2003-04, Arsenal were the league's second-highest spending team with just £16 million. That was also the season that Cesc Fabregas arrived on a free transfer. He was sold to Barcelona in 2011 for £30 million.
The graph also clearly shows that final league position is not linked to transfer spend. It is linked to wage spend. Since 2004, Arsenal have dropped their wage spend—when compared to the teams above them—for two main reasons.
The first reason is that 2004 coincided with the first Jose Mourinho project at Chelsea, and since then the Blues have been the league's highest wage-spending team. In 2008 Manchester City were taken over by the Abu Dhabi Group, and their wages have skyrocketed.
While Arsenal's wages have stayed at a similar rate, they have fallen behind the two Blues' significantly.
They have achieved fourth on a lower wage-spend than Liverpool since 2009.
Now that much of the dead wood has been moved, the Gunners' wages have dropped even more in 2013. Thirteen players left Arsenal this summer including the flop that was Sebastien Squillaci, the disaster that was Andrei Arshavin, the disappointment that was Denilson and the haphazard Gervinho.
The club is rightly cautious in the transfer market and is poised to sign the right players having made previous mistakes. That is simply a far more complex task than reading statistical charts or checking fantasy football points as many fans are prone to do.
Patience is a virtue, and having spent nothing while others around him have thrown money around like confetti, Arsene Wenger must be the most patient manager in the Premier League.
If Arsenal's fans can show just a smidgeon of this patience they will be rewarded.
There is no doubting Arsene Wenger's loyalty to Arsenal as a manager.
Since 1996 he has been feted by some of the world's best teams and has been linked with numerous jobs.
The Sun says he turned down Brazil in 2012, Goal has him turning down Real Madrid in 2009, this summer he rejected Paris Saint-Germain FC according to the Guardian, and he ruled himself out of the running to replace Pep Guardiola at Barcelona FC as reported by the Mirror.
Remember, those are just some of the rumors from the last four years.
He has been loyal to a fault, and now it is the Gunners' fans chance to be just as loyal and support him.
Le Prof has one of the best philosophies in world football.
His teams require a fundamental belief in the system and style and must believe that the Arsenal way is the right way.
Give him a ball and a yard of grass. He'll make the move with a perfect pass.
Give him a ball and a yard of space. He'll give you a move with Godly grace.
"Give him a ball and a yard of grass" by The Sultans of Ping
The phrase "give him a ball and a yard of grass" may have been coined by Brian Clough when he was talking about John Robertson, but there is no doubt that Wenger believes the game should be played the same way as Old Big 'Ed.
Wenger, like Clough, likes his teams to get the ball down before attacking the opposition at pace.
This is obviously easier said than done. Not once during his 17 years in charge of the Gunners has Wenger belied his beliefs or become a hypocrite.
Jose Mourinho's win-at-all-costs, scorched-earth style of management holds no water for Wenger—nor did Sir Alex Ferguson's combative and argumentative style. Wenger is his own man, and he has consistently produced one of the best footballing teams in the world.
The great Danny Blanchflower once said:
Football is about glory.
It is about doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out and beating the lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.
Blanchflower and Wenger are right in their philosophy. Winning by any other means sullies the game of football.
Over the years, Arsene Wenger has helped produce some of the greatest players on the planet. There have been many, many great successes.
From Thierry Henry to (breathe in Arsenal fans) Ashley Cole to Patrick Vieira to the current setup—which includes Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson and Theo Walcott—Wenger has a proven track record at player development.
He told ESPN at the end of last season that he will always "make room" for young players to develop alongside world-class talent. His philosophy in youth stems around the belief that younger players will develop faster and better training with better players than by playing in lower leagues.
There is merit to both arguments, but there is no arguing against Wenger's eye for a talented young player or the amount of world-class players he has developed at the Gunners.
The current Arsenal first-team squad contains 11 players under the age of 25 and eight players aged 22 or under.
Wenger believes in good football, he believes in being frugal in the transfer market, and he also believes in developing his own team. He does not believe in signing Galactico's who will come and go when the money is no longer there.
Jack Wilshere is one of the best young players in the world. That is a fact.
Wenger is an advocate of the Wenger philosophy and warned fans to be careful of what they wish for when some called for Arsene Wenger's head following the Gunners' loss to Aston Villa.
"I want to win things with Arsenal and I want to be there in the future, but if the boss leaves then things could change," Wilshere told Zapsportz.com recently.
"Arsenal are always in my heart and by signing a deal for the next five years shows my commitment to them and their commitment to me so at the moment everything is good.
Arsene Wenger has been there for so many years and he's always delivered trophies.
OK we've had a little dip in the last five or six years, but he's a great manager.
People who question his ability are ridiculous.
He's qualified for the Champions League for 16 years so I think he's the right man for the job."
Wilshere's interview is significant for two reasons:
- He threatens to leave if his mentor is sacked.
- He calls people who question Wenger's ability "ridiculous."
It is quite clear that Wilshere is the jewel in the crown at Arsenal, and if he is coming out strongly to back his manager, then people should sit up and listen.
Are this current Arsenal team as good as previous Wenger teams? Not a chance. We can all remember the likes of Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp with misty-eyed fondness, and few of the current crop deserve to be named alongside these legends nevermind play with them.
But the players in this crop do have a certain deep-down quality that has been lacking in recent years. They are no hard-nosed warriors like the famous 1971 Double team or fierce competitors like in the George Graham era, nor are they as spontaneous or as magical as the Invincibles. They have something, though.
Talking to Sky Sports after last season's dramatic end, Arsene Wenger heaped praise on his team and commended its great spirit:
I'm proud of the character and the spirit, especially with all we had to deal with during the season.
The players are special. I've told them many times and they've shown it. In the last two months they have been absolutely exceptional.
It's a good basis, as well, on a longer term to go into next season on such a strong run.
I'm very proud. We were very far behind Tottenham and even after defeat there (at White Hart Lane) we've shown character and attitude to come back and make 73 points, which is three points better than last season.
I have had many groups in my life and the focus and the desire to do well was always exceptional. It's one of the best groups I've had in my life on that front.
The combination of quality and attitude has been great, and that's why I always had faith that we would come back.
Wenger has faith in his philosophy. He has faith in his players. And, he has faith in his team.
It's time for the fans to return that faith.
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 2012-13 was a tough season for Arsene Wenger would be the understatement of the footballing year.
Amidst all the furor, Wenger still managed to guide his team to fourth place in the English Premier League. The longest-serving manager in English football and the EPL—now that Sir Alex Ferguson has retired—continues to prove he is a great manager.
Over the last two seasons, the Gunners have lost Robin van Persie, Alex Song, Gael Clichy, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri to rival clubs. Each time an important player parts ways with Wenger's beloved Arsenal, he replaces them with aplomb.
This season, he was expected to add to the squad in a significant manner. It has not happened because the right players have not been available at the right price.
If he manages to bring in the right players, Arsenal will challenge for the title over the coming seasons, because like the old saying goes, Arsene knows best.