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Why Arsene Wenger Criticism Is the Fault of the Board

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 24:  Arsenal fans participate in a planned rally in support of their manager Arsene Wenger before the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Stoke City at Emirates Stadium on May 24, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Mark HenryContributor IMay 25, 2009

"But, as well, I do not expect people to think that I'm stupid enough to have £100 million at my disposal and put it in the bank because I am scared to spend it."

That short quote could arguably be the most important words that Arsene Wenger has delivered in his 13-year association with Arsenal.

By finally addressing—and more importantly, rejecting—the growing talk amongst supporters that he has a huge pot of money available that he stubbornly refuses to spend out of fear, Wenger has shown that he does place importance on the thoughts of the fans, whether it be a minority or not.

This is the first time in Wenger’s reign at Arsenal that he has had to fight his corner, and although some may feel it unfair in light of what he’s achieved at the club, it’s something that he has needed to do for a while now.

The criticism is also not something that the fans should be denigrated for because it’s down to the people at the very top that this situation has been allowed to develop.

The continued proclamations from members of the board that there are "considerable" amounts of money for Wenger to spend, which are then ultimately followed by a lack of big-name signings, seem to be the board’s way of using Wenger and his past accomplishments to temper the complaints that are starting to grow with each passing trophy-less year.

While that seems to be the intention, all they are succeeding in doing is heaping pressure and unnecessary blame on Wenger, because in today’s huge multi-million pound footballing universe, no manager is immune to criticism regardless of who they are and what they’ve achieved.

Sir Alex Ferguson wasn’t immune to it a few years ago when Man United went three years without a Premiership title, and if arguably the greatest manager of all time isn’t, why should Arsene Wenger be?

The board seem content to use Wenger as a scapegoat, knowing that his character, integrity, and loyalty meant that he was unlikely to contend otherwise, but it seems that the flak has finally got too much for Wenger in the last few weeks. I, for one, am glad that he has finally spoken out and in the process calmed the fears of the doubters, which I was admittedly amongst.

The comments from major Arsenal shareholder and Uzbek magnate billionaire Alisher Usmanov, stating that he is ready and willing to provide the funds for the big-name signings that the fans crave, are only succeeding in complicating the situation further, because it’s down to the other board members to decide whether they are willing to sanction this action, not Wenger.

For one of the "Big Four" to go four years without winning a trophy and to seemingly fall further behind each season in terms of losing important players without adequately replacing them is hard to digest for a lot of Arsenal fans, and the mixed messages coming out of Arsenal don’t help.

Now that Wenger has spoken, the situation seems a little clearer. Arsenal’s move to the Emirates alongside the board’s intentions to keep Arsenal as a self-sustainable club—despite Usmanov’s best efforts, and not one that is loaded up with debts in the way Chelsea, Manchester United, and Liverpool are—mean that Arsenal will not be able to spend the type of money that the other big boys can for the foreseeable future.

Whether you agree with the policy or not, that’s the way it is, and that’s the message that the supporters need to be getting.

By sending out mixed messages, Wenger is being caught in the crossfire—and after all he’s done for the club, that just isn't right.        

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