Arsenal Football: 15 Years of Tenure with Arsene Wenger
Football, it has been said, is a funny old game.
Modern day football is an arena that holds a deadlier battle than the Roman gladiatorial fights. The Premier League may be the most intense of all, and for good reason. Russian oligarchs, stingy American owners, oil-rich Sheiks and English traditionalists all want one thing for the club they own.
Success, however, is not always good enough.Jose Mourinho at Chelsea can teach us that lesson. If there is one thing we can learn from the Premier League, it is that it is a league that is always changing.
One glance at the current list of managers in the premiership and we can see that only three men have survived for more than ten years at one club. Fourteen managers have been at their job for two years or less, and the turnaround at clubs like Chelsea, Liverpool or even Fulham over the past few years has been extreme.
Throughout all the turbulence that the Premier League has to offer, two men have been anomalies to a rule that was seen by many as natural law: Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. Out of those two names, one can be crossed off because of his dealings with the devil for club success. The man we are left with, then, is Arsene Wenger.
Fifteen years ago, when Arsenal Football Club made the announcement that the manager of Nagoya Grampus Eight would replace Bruce Rioch, fans, journalists, and even players were skeptical and unsure.
"Arsene Who" was the popular headline that has remained with fans ever since.
Four FA Cups, 3 Premier League titles, 3 Manager of the Year awards and the declared World Coach of the Decade and when we think of Arsenal Football Club, "Arsene Who" has become "Who Else but Arsene."
Supporters, neutrals and rivals alike cannot question the man's contribution to Arsenal Football Club. He has revolutionized the club in all areas. It is easy to see the large changes, like a new stadium built under his guidance, or a playing style under his tutelage that is envied throughout the world.
What often goes unnoticed, however, is the little things that Wenger has done that has revolutionized football and has had managers from all over the world come and learn from "The Professor."
When Wenger took the reins of Arsenal Football Club, one of the first things he did was change the diet of the team. Boiled fish, grilled chicken, steamed vegetables, and the like was to be served to professional players, not fried beans, bacon, and sugary snacks. Lukewarm water was served at meals for better digestion, and players were held accountable to a strict dietary regimen.
Wenger changed the mentality at the club, and explained why everything was done for a certain reason. When Wenger designed the new training centre at Hertfordshire, he made sure that the weight room and fitness centers overlooked an outdoor garden in order to help the players relax and focus.
The so called "Professor" is a constant student, and he always wants to understand why and how things work. Whether it is why a metatarsal breaks and how it heals, or why a player loses focus after 90 minutes in any training session, Arsene is never satisfied until he understands what is going on, in order to approach any situation with at least a working knowledge of what he is talking about.
A player like Tony Adams is a perfect example of the effect Wenger can have on a player. Adams, a reformed alcoholic, has not only credited Wenger with saving his life, but also with allowing him to play well into his 30s at a high level.
With Wenger's revolutionary tactics and ideas, he has been able to bring out the best in players, and even those who have been declared incapable of reaching peak perform again.
With Wenger came a shift in playing style at the club. Instead of the old kick-and-hope game that had plagued the Arsenal for years before Wenger came, a new, fluid and attacking style was implemented with the team, where quick and crisp passing was key.
Wenger tinkered with the traditional English 4-4-2 in his first few years in charge and tried to put as many attacking players as possible in the lineup in order to create a fluid, dangerous, attacking game.
Clubs all around the world have modeled their game after the Arsenal style of play, and fans and neutrals alike have all labeled it as the true beautiful game.
With a new style of play also came Wenger's knack of success at the transfer market. Of course, it hasn't been always successful, and he has had his fair share of buys-gone-wrong, but all in all Wenger has been masterful for the club with player purchases.
When you look at some of the players he brought in, we can see Wenger's magic at work again, whether it was turning a relative unknown into a superstar, or helping a down-and-out player reach his peak form again. He has also shifted the focus of the club into developing younger players, creating an excellent youth program at the club.
Thierry Henry was a known winger during his time with Juventus, but he was underachieving and a rather unfortunate buy for Juve. Purchased for a little more than 10 million pounds, Henry was transformed by Wenger into a more central striker and he became undoubtedly one of the greatest strikers the Premier League has ever seen.
In more current times, Cesc Fabregas was plucked from Barcelona for nothing and was a mainstay in the Arsenal midfield for years. Kolo Toure was bought for around 500,000 pounds and became a solid Arsenal defender, leaving the club for more than 26 million pounds.
Bacary Sagna, a relatively unknown outside defender, has become one of the best right-backs in the league under Wenger, and there are many more examples to look at, whether it be the likes of Jack Wilshere or Robin VanPersie, or perhaps in a few years Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Ryo Miyachi.
Wenger has brought about incredible changes to the club, and his effect on the club cannot be in question. The man is known for his philosophical outlook on football and life has brought about a change in thinking at the club, and he has cemented his place among Herbert Chapman as the greatest manager Arsenal Football Club has ever had.
During his time, he has had success mixed with hardship. The greatest triumph of Wenger's ideology and practices came in 2003-2004 when the Arsenal team went 49 league games unbeaten, including an entire league season.
Here was Wenger's work coming to true fruition, and it came to a man who was most deserving of it.
Currently, it isn't easy for most Arsenal supporters or writers alike to write a piece on Wenger's magical quality. Certainly, "Wenger's magic hat" seems to have gone missing, and the team hasn't won any silverware since the 2005 FA Cup.
While I support the manager, there are those who want the man gone this instant. It has grown harder for Wenger during this trophy drought, and for a Wenger-supporter like myself, it has been extremely hard to see the man who I admire the most come under such intense scrutiny—though sometimes deservedly so.
What we must all come to realize is that no matter what happens to Arsene Wenger after this season, he is the reason why we have such high estimations for our beloved club. If Wenger is able to succeed with Arsenal again, then it goes to a man who deserves all the credit in the world.
If things do not work out, then all Arsenal supporters must don their caps to a legend who has put us on the world map, and brought us innumerable success. Love him or hate him, the man has commanded our respect for 15 years. If it was up to me, I hope that our trophy drought ends and he continues for another 15 more!
I'll leave you with a quote from the man himself.
"The biggest things in life have been achieved by people who, at the start, we would have judged crazy. And yet if they had not had these crazy ideas the world would have been more stupid."
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