Arsenal FC: Arsene Wenger Is Not Going Anywhere, nor Should He
There's little doubt that Arsenal FC is in hot water in these early stages of the EPL season, having secured only four points in their first five fixtures, resulting in the slowest start for the North London outfit in recent memory.
Passion and emotion are often closely tied to the fan experience in modern football-loving societies, and it often seems common-place for masses of supporters to point fingers when a club is not living up to their perceived potential.
To that end, Arsenal's performance in the past few weeks has already sparked countless discussions revolving around the question of whether or not to "sack" one of the longest-standing and highly-respected managers in English football: Arsene Wenger.
Earlier this week, Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis spoke out about the debate.
"For us to have a manager that thinks about the future," he said in a recent interview, "is a relatively unusual situation. That's not because managers are bad people or short term thinkers. It's because of something that's endemic in the game, which is a little bit related to 'spending money solves issues, firing managers solves issues.' These are short term thoughts that actually have tremendous costs for football clubs."
The football manager is largely considered to be one of the most expendable positions within an organization, and managers are often fully aware of the lack of job security when they sign their contract. But most managers aren't exactly Arsene Wenger, who brought with him a largely untested (but remarkably successful) approach to the leadership role when he came to London from his former club in Japan.
He is a pioneer of statistics analysis within football, and of a fiscally sustainable approach capable of creating success for a long-term vision. For those of you planning to see the new feature film Moneyball this weekend, Wenger is the Billy Beane of world football.
In fact, Billy Beane himself said this of Wenger: "When I think of Arsene Wenger, I think of Warren Buffet. Wenger runs his football club like he is going to run the club for 100 years."
Wenger has never led his club to anything short of a top-four finish, despite being at the helm since many of us in our twenties were still in elementary school (a decade or more longer than so many other managers in the league). And a few poor EPL performances, even in the middle of immense Champions League success in every match they've played in this year's tournament, and we're already hearing the calls for resignation.
Arsenal's difficulty thus far in the campaign, many seem to forget, has come largely as a result of a single less-than-spectacular transfer-window performance, stemming from events that were often out of Wenger's control.
While it's unfortunate that Arsenal are stuck with the talent that they have until at least January, and true that if things don't turn around to some degree before the next window then it could result in Arsenal's most underwhelming finish in a decade and a half, it's still hardly indicative of what the man is capable of.
Thankfully, the club knows this fully well, even if some of the supporters have overlooked it.
In that same interview, Gazidis explained just why Wenger is so meaningful to the Gunners after all this time:
"When we go around the world, which we did this year, and speak to fans around the world, the amount of admiration that there is for Arsenal - the way we play the game, the technical dexterity of it, the joy of it - is extraordinary. That vision, that wasn't Arsenal twenty years ago. That's something Arsene brought to the club."
It would be dishonest to suggest that the concerns expressed by some of Arsenal's supporters aren't well-intentioned or are somehow based in fiction. There's plenty of reason to think that Arsenal is going to have a long and difficult season ahead of them in the coming months. But that's one potential short-term outlook of Arsenal's future, not an indication of what to expect from the outfit in the next few years.
Even if those worst fears become a reality, and Arsenal falls out of the top four, faces the inherent resulting difficulty in obtaining top-flight talent without promises of Champions League and ultimately enters a "dark period" of disappointment and underwhelming results, they eventually have to turn that around to a rebuilding period focused on recapturing the magic of success.
And there's nobody better to lead the way than Arsene Wenger.
The tossed-around comparisons to Leeds United and calls to fire the man who built Arsenal end now. Things aren't as bleak as the most pessimistic voices will tell you. And even if they are, Arsene Wenger is the man that Arsenal will want in charge of getting everything back on track.
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