Arsene Wenger: What Would His Heir Inherit at Arsenal FC?
The fans are angry, so must be the board and the players are lacking where it matters most. A aspirational beginning and middle to the season has been countered by an increasingly shaky end. There are some calling for Wenger's head but all in honesty, he has the job for life.
However, much of the blame can be put on him or at least more than his team which are hardly at their barnstorming best. While there are the usual excuses, bad luck, injuries, fatigue or poor refereeing, this season may have hurt more others simply because Arsenal were so close to silverware and stayed close for longer than some fans are used to.
As I said before, Wenger has the job for life, he turned the club into what it is and even the most well paid directors and executives know he's responsible for fattening their pockets. Even so, there have been reports in the past of how the workload and burden weighs heavily on our manager and with Pat Rice also edging nearer retirement, Wenger may find the Emirates a little lonelier in coming seasons.
That said, if he was to ever leave, what would a prospective manager hope to gain from managing Arsenal FC?
A Talented and Explosive Squad
A new manager would inherit a technically gifted side with plenty to build around. Plenty of talent waiting for a chance in the team and even more still developing further down the ladder. The club has also ingrained a level of technical ability at all levels at a standard though the senior team have been struggling to prove me right. Not forgetting a strong ladies team which is among the top of the game, something the men's team ought to be proving.
A fully fit Arsenal squad is world class, with fluid passing, plenty of shots on targets and recently adding a strong back line and keeper. We may have experienced this squad as Arsenal went on a two month assault on all four competitions resulting in 11 wins, five draws and a loss, which also does include the much poorer second string on a few occasions (Dec 27 - Feb 23). Obviously taking into account only three of those games. Arsenal were expected to struggle with, it did much to showcase the strength of the team.
However it's also a side which haven't won in a month and struggles when closed down. One that also frequently finds star players injured for a few weeks at a time, sometimes up to six weeks or twice this season seeing two player ruled out indefinitely.
The injury list would be a concern but new eyes would open up the possibility of a manager who hasn't invested a lot of time and energy into developing on an athletic and personal level but one who realizes an injury prone player is just as much of a liability. While Van Persie is the easiest target, a player who struggles to play more than 25 games a season but is also world class when fit, the balance in the team is too much to build on. At any one time there are often three or four players out injured but at Arsenal they often nurse more than five at a time.
It's also a team with players who can be inconsistent and there's plenty of dead weight in the squad. Room for improvement, no doubt but Wenger has built the team with many fine tuned balances. In defense a new name would mean theoretically, Koscielny would find himself fourth choice and Djourou possibly above him. A new midfielder would cause problems with playing time with an already big selection to choose from.
The team also lacks leadership, not form within but from the man in charge. A weakness of Wenger's who often allows his team to play their football, there is hunger but no fear and drive.
World Class Facilities and Staff
The reported £390 million stadium is one of the best stadiums in the league and also benefits from increasing ticket prices and being the Brazil squad's preferred venue for friendlies. Elsewhere, the club has the typical training grounds and other facilities which have been okayed by Wenger so they must be good.
With that, there's a host of ex-players at the squad working in various roles from Pat Rice, Steve Bould, Liam Brady and Giles Grimandi. The backroom staff would be in doubt loyal to Wenger but provide experience from their playing days.
The club is also doing well financially, managing to remove most of the debt the new stadium caused and Wenger would still be proud to have a club which is UEFA's favor example of doing it right. With a big squad, there is room for sales and would lower wages overall or at least counter new signings.
With the finance, this is something Wenger has been building for years and not something any manager would take lightly. Bringing a world class signing in would mean taking into account wages and other costs to the clubs and a player on £100,000 a week would cost the club around £5,000,000 a year.
However, Arsenal's wage bill is already at the point where it is sustainable, a new manager would need to understand that balance before going into the transfer market.
There is also more trouble in terms of the ownership of the club, which at the moment is pretty much in limbo as Usmanov and Kroeke are trying to buy as many shares as possible for a takeover. Either one would have different effects on the club and unlikely to be quiet.
Arsenal's Many Relationships and Partnerships
On a financial level, Arsenal bring in a lot of revenue from sponsorship and advertising, the recent acquisition of Miyaichi brought up some questions over the true intent of his purchase. On one hand, he's proving to be a very good prospect, bear in mind he had very little experience before this and more importantly added an Asian presence in the team. There were rumors of a lucrative Asian tour and Miyaichi would be a part of that, though quite what will happen remains to be seen.
On a club level, there are a few feeder and affiliated clubs such as Feyenoord, Celta Vigo and Salamanca. All have been used as training grounds for players waiting for work permits and have hosted youngsters in the past though Vela may be the most famous. The club also has good links with many championship sides as five players are currently there on loan with three players in Spain, one in Holland and two in France.
Feyenoord and the Championship teams in particular are looking more fruitful as they allow the younger players to build up experience at a lower and possibly more physical level. In the Championship, all 5 of the players out on loan are in the top half of the table and three of them are in the top five, each playing their own part and the influence alone will have a few teams enquiring about loans next season.
As well as a good relationship with Nike, featuring in different virals and taking part in different events and initiatives. Which explains the inclusion of the video above, not only because of my love for it.
It also helps the clubs image that the club and players are involved with various charities with the current official charity being Centrepoint, which helps young and homeless people but also individual players doing their own bit for charity. As well as Bacary Sagna becoming a new ambassador for Grassroot Soccer.
Big Shoes to Fill
Wenger has been instrumental in the development of the club and no doubt they are big shoes to fill. Off the pitch, Wenger cannot do any worse as he's running a successful club. He may have a few years left in him but there's no denying it would be an attractive prospect for any manager.
Any replacement would have to improve on the areas that Wenger does not always gets right. The tactics and squad choices have left many head scratched this season as well as his unwavering faith in players who don't perform.
They would also have to bring in that winning mentality and also be willing to bring in new faces where needed. Fans have been begging for a new goalie since Lehmann was still at the club, the first time and he's only brought in Fabianski who had only played well this season, after some major mistakes only for Szczesny to be even better.
Wenger's stubbornness has cost the club over the years and it's always the same problems that occur which are never fixed. Leaky defense? Dodgy goalie? World Class Striker? Defensive midfielder? Playmaker? Someone who isn't injury prone? All things we've been wanting for years and while they may have in part been dealt with, there's still a few of them left, we really need.
Wenger also refuses to spend big on established quality and likes his unknowns. They are a gamble, Koscielny and Squillaci were liabilities and cost us valuable points. Chamakh is a good player and was something special until he was dropped from the squad and has taken a few months to find some form again. They all can't be Sagna's but we need someone ready from day one of the season.
Of course silverware would be a massive target, it has seemingly eluded Wenger for so many seasons, that we simply cannot rely on the memories of the "invincibles" any longer. Honestly, silverware would win many fans over and a financially stable club doesn't quite pack the same punch as being the Champions of England or Europe.
The team isn't far away, after doing so well up until March, it's certainly a team that doesn't need wholesale changes. Freedom to purchase world class players but also have the options of many talented ones as well as an excellent base to build around.
Obviously, it all depends on what Wenger does next season, I can't imagine the boos will stop and the pressure is mounting. He may never be fired and may be stubborn enough to want go out with at least one more piece of silverware but until then we can only have faith in him to not repeat mistakes.