"Arsène Who?" The Professor Under the Microscope

Asser GhozlanCorrespondent IJanuary 25, 2009

Sept. 16, 1996, an important date in Arsenal FC’s glorious history, Not only because I was celebrating my 10th birthday (indeed I do not claim for one moment that my existence adds to Arsenal’s rich past and hopefully bright tomorrow!), but it was the day Arsène Wenger’s appointment as the Club’s new manager was confirmed.

“Arsène Who?” One of the most famous derogatory headlines ever to be published in British sports history, is now indeed a quotation of mockery and irony, as the man nicknamed “The Professor” has become a pivotal part of English football for the best part of two decades, a true cornerstone of footballing philosophy.

Thirteen years is a long time in football management, and with speculation ripe that Wenger may indeed pack up and head to pastures new once 2008-2009 draws to a close (namely, Florentino Perez’s “galacticos” era take 2), I look at the man’s strengths and weaknesses, and how he has so intrinsically become an immovable part of Arsenal’s furniture.

Indeed, a lot has changed since the elegantly-dressed, bespectacled 46-year-old Wenger took to the bench at Blackburn Rovers on Sept. 30, 1996.

However, a lot of what the man is made of has remained to this day, despite the critics encircling him from every corner over the past few seasons, with me no less guilty than the next person.

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Shrewd in the transfer market, and committed to a brand of free-flowing, exhilarating brand of football based on pace, power and athleticism, Wenger has revolutionised the perceptions of how English football should be played,.

He has contributed, and arguably, led the way in demolishing the cynical “push-and-run” type of football and the 3-5-2 tactics that have for so long been the principles of English football.

Wenger’s ability to discover young raw talent has never deserted him since his Monaco days as a young up-and-coming manager.

From the likes of George Weah (at Monaco), to the inspirational Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry, to the mercurial talent that is Cesc Fabregas, Wenger’s production line of talents has never ceased to exist, and it is that tremendous ability to discover a raw, rough-round-the-edges diamond for an unmentionably low price, before polishing it and nurturing it to its final gleaming product, is what must stand out as Wenger’s greatest quality.

It is a quality that has given Arsenal a haul of seven major trophies in 12 full seasons, whilst spending a staggering less than 30 percent of rivals Manchester United, Liverpool, and most recently of course, Chelsea!

As well as his meticulous approach in preparation for football matches, with revolutionary training techniques and rehabilitation methods, Wenger’s charm and charisma has given Arsenal FC a new name in Europe, where many clubs and football academies have used the Club as a model for their development.

Perhaps Wenger’s shrewdness in the transfer market is down to his Economics degree from Strasbourg as a young man. However, it is his strength in creating superstars out of nothing that has also been his biggest weakness over the past few seasons.

Wenger has become an enemy of his own success, where fan expectations and media pressure have seen Wenger’s stock fall dramatically over the past few years.

Indeed, with the Club’s last trophy coming all the way back in 2005, and with Wenger seemingly stubborn in reinforcing the squad with established players to augment the young talent available, Arsenal’s fortunes have slumped, and we now face a real struggle to maintain our “top four” status, possibly for the first time since Wenger’s arrival on these shores.

Admittedly, I have been one of Wenger’s greatest critics this season. And, whilst I maintain that the likes of Flamini and Gilberto Silva have not been replaced, a massive factor in our decline, as well as the presence of many players who, despite being given ample opportunities, can not cut it in the famous “red and white,” that does not belittle Wenger as a true footballing great, and as a person.

But, for the “Arsène knows” mantra to return to its full swing, many weaknesses need to be addressed. It may indeed be out of Le Boss’ hands, as money is presumably tight, nevertheless, glaring frailties that any layman can point his finger to should surely be apparent in Wenger’s eyes!

And, with Real Madrid apparently eyeing to capture Arsenal’s most important signing ever, I can only wish that Perez reads my humble blog, as I have a few words of advice for him: sign all you wish with your millions of Euros, but you cannot prise away the Professor from his true home.

A man of honour, who will only walk once he has achieved what he feels Arsenal and himself are capable of: true greatness at the summit of European football.


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