Arsene Wenger Deserves Admiration for Sticking to His Guns

Mark HenryContributor ISeptember 3, 2009

Well, the transfer window is now officially closed until January and despite summer-long speculation involving the arrival of names such as Fulham’s Brede Hangeland, Saint Etienne’s Blaise Matuidi, and Bordeaux’s Marouane Chamakh, the signing of little-known Belgian international Thomas Vermaelen has been the lone arrival at the Emirates Stadium.

Although Vermaelen has made an impressive start to his Arsenal career, bringing a touch of steel and authority to the backline and forging what looks like the beginning of a solid partnership with William Gallas, no doubt the disgruntled voices of dejected Arsenal fans will be expressing their disappointment that no one else has joined him at the club despite the departures of Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor to Man City.

Whilst I won’t deny that I am also slightly disappointed with the failure to strengthen and probably less optimistic of Arsenal’s chances as a result, it’s not hugely surprising and is another indication of Arsene Wenger’s personality and his insistence on doing things his way, a way that he believes is best for the long-term future of the club which is a trait that deserves admiration.

Going back to my first article here on Bleacher, it’s clear to see that I was growing disillusioned with Arsene Wenger, something I never would have envisaged previously.

Now the financial situation is a little clearer however, thanks to Arsene Wenger himself. My faith in the man has been restored.

Arsenal do not have the money to compete at the top end of the market at this moment in time and Wenger has already said on countless occasions that he will only bring in players that he feels can improve the side and will only spend what he considers to be the right sum of money on that player— a brave position to take in the face of mounting criticism, but one which sums up the character of the man.

By no means, in my opinion, does this mean that Wenger is content to be amongst the also-rans, but it instead underlines his belief in the current squad which now has all the motivation it needs to prove him right. 

He has repeatedly stated that they are strong enough to challenge without any additions and is giving them the chance to do so— a conviction which has been vindicated so far with a solid start to the season.

Since walking through the doors, Wenger has transformed the club from top to bottom and done it in his own incomparable style.

With the unanimous backing of David Dein, he completely changed the way the club operated with amazing results-producing sides which played a style of football as good— if not better— than any side in the history of the game.

Most importantly, he won trophies with three premiership titles arriving in the space of seven years including two doubles.

Even as Wenger built those sides, he kept one eye on the future— a characteristic of the very best managers— creating a huge network of scouts to scout the globe for the best young talent which could develop into the next generation of Arsenal first-team players. Players such as Gael Clichy, Alex Song, Johan Djourou, Nicklas Bendtner and captain Cesc Fabregas arrived in this way and are now firmly cemented as key members of the first team squad with a further batch including Carlos Vela, Kieran Gibbs, Fran Merida and Jack Wilshere on the cusp of breaking through.

After years of preparation and in such tough economic times when the gap between the haves and the have-nots of the football world has expanded, why should Wenger abandon the long-term plan that he has cultivated since his arrival at the club in 1996 and furthermore why should he be forced to after all he has achieved?

I don’t subscribe at all to the line that some Wenger fans are trotting out at every opportunity which is that Arsenal have punched above their weight since Wenger took over and are probably now more at the level they deserve to be.

Arsenal have been one of the country’s biggest clubs since the 1930s when Herbert Chapman revolutionised the club, taking them to the pinnacle of English football, but Wenger did unquestionably drag them out of a barren period in which they possessed an ageing, unspectacular side with few big names which played an unattractive style of football that hadn’t come close to winning a league title since their last success in 1990/91.

He came into a club on the slide and did an extraordinary job against the odds and consequently deserves the respect and faith that goes with such achievements.

In addition, if it wasn't for the huge influx of money into the English game at clubs like Chelsea and Man City, Arsenal would have come much closer to the title than they have in recent years and Wenger's reputation would be even more magnified. 

Who could have foreseen at the start of this century that Chelsea and Manchester City would be amongst the richest clubs in the world? Certainly not me.

The announcement of contract extensions for both Denilson and Nicklas Bendtner just one day after the transfer window closure was another clear deliberate sign of Wenger backing his squad and letting them know his faith in them hasn’t wavered.

With the African Nations Cup on the horizon in which Alex Song and Emmanuel Eboue will be surely involved, I wouldn’t rule out some transfer activity in January anyway. But Wenger has chosen his path, for the next few months at least, and I, for one, am willing to keep the faith that he will succeed.


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