Arsene Wenger's Gambles: What Lies Ahead for Arsenal?

Naveed TariqCorrespondent IAugust 4, 2009

19 Mar 2002:  Arsenal Wenger, manager of Arsenal at a press conference ahead of their Champions League match against Juventus at Delle Alpi Stadium, Turin. DIGITAL IMAGE.  Mandatory Credit: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

As an Arsenal fan I think that Arsene Wenger should quit football.

Yes, he never belonged to the sport for the simple reason that he has far too good a poker-face. He's a natural born gambler. It is impossible to know what the Frenchman is thinking, as he plays his cards far too close to his chest.

This is perhaps one of the underlying frustrations of being a Gooner: We have no idea what the manager is going to do next, let alone the team. However, it is a tactic which has served Wenger well, as it has constantly enabled him to be labelled an underdog and silence his critics when he does something we all know he can do anyway.

So how do we go about trying to understand what Wenger's going to do next? Simple, we play his game.

Lesson One: "You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em."

You hold onto your winning hand, and you always lose the liabilities, and in football there's no such thing as bluffs. This summer Wenger offloaded Adebayor and Toure to Man City for tidy £41 million profit, while holding onto Van Persie, Fabregas, Gallas and Clichy.

Adebayor never cemented himself with the Arsenal faithful, or unfaithful for that matter. He became far too lazy, far too wasteful, far too arrogant in his last season to appease the fans or the manager. Few have lost sleep over his departure.

Toure is slightly different, his departure has re-opened the problem at centre-back remedied by Thomas Vermaelan. His place as the last invincible has also glossed over his error-proneness and schism with Gallas.

Whoever said that Arsenal have lost their best players needs to buy a pair of glasses, or even better, a brain.

Most importantly though, Wenger has held onto his winning hand, especially in the form of Van Persie and Fabregas as well as single-handedly making himself a substantial transfer fund.

Lesson Two: "Make the best of what you have"

As any football manager knows, sometimes spending is the last resort. Hiddink didn't have to spend any money in revitalising Chelsea into FA Cup winners, Ferguson has urged his entire team to step up to replace Ronaldo. Similarly, Wenger seems to have changed tactics, in pre-season to 4-3-3.

Perhaps this is to give Arsenal a greater versatility or perhaps it is a more long-term adoption of Barca's all-conquering formation, no-one but the Frenchman knows this. What we have be sure of however, is that it's another trick up his sleeve, the joker in his pack.

It is a system which can make the best of Arsenal's attacking style of play, catering for Arshavin, Van Persie, Rosicky, Eduardo and Fabregas simultaneously, much more than the traditional 4-4-2 or 4-5-1.

However, although it gives a new dynamic and balance to the team, there are still positions Wenger feels he needs to either fill or re-enforce, which moves us onto...

Lesson Three: "Be patient"

There has been no suggestion that Wenger has been unwilling to add to his squad this summer, especially with offers for Filipe Melo, Marouane Chamakh and the possible return of Patrick Vieira.

The case is clear that Wenger is willing to spend money, however it is more clear that Wenger is not willing to pay over the price of these players.

Melo may have been the one that got away, but with Chamakh already deeply unsettled at Bordeaux, angered at the manager and promising to leave on a free after seeing out his final year. It is very likely that Wenger will get the man he wants at a price he wants.

Remember the protracted but ultimately successful and thrifty deal he made for Arshavin?

Lesson Four: "Keep your Pokerface"

Wenger has been criticised for his obstinacy and while his stubbornness maybe interpreted as unnecessary or frustrating, his commitment to the club cannot be doubted. One simple truth is that he has never failed the club. He knows what he has to deal with and he knows what he can achieve with it.

You may not agree with this, but with the financial resources he has at his disposal it is a miracle that Arsenal have remained a top four club for the past few season. And the fact that it has remains credit to Wengers ability as a manager.

The blind faith of "Wenger knows best" may have started to lose all meaning but in the sober light of reason, can you honestly name anyone that knows better?

The Frenchman has always said that his squad can win trophies and that's all anyone needs to know. To say how or who with is simply to disclose too much information.

Ultimately it comes down to the same thing. Wenger always remains unfazed, poker-faced, grumpy, stubborn, whatever word you choose, because he's the only one that knows what cards he's been dealt and how to play them.


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