Head to Head: The future of Arsène Wenger

Arsenal’s recent poor performances have reignited the debate concerning Arsène Wenger’s future as the club’s manager. Karl Frey and Sam Pace, two Arsenal supporters, argue for ‘Wenger Out' and 'Wenger In' respectively.

Photo: flickr

Karl Frey for ‘Wenger out’

Some of the things Arsène Wenger has achieved with Arsenal Football Club are extraordinary. Nevertheless, I believe Arsène Wenger has had his time to be a hero and should resign as the manager of Arsenal Football Club.

Wenger is stubborn and football is constantly changing. The Premier League has introduced a plethora of international players over the last decade and the style of play has evolved. Teams have made transitions in personnel, formation and tactics, while Wenger is stuck in his 4-2-3-1, trying to find a way to accommodate the players that he should not have purchased.

We have to give Wenger credit for some of the great players he has signed in the last few years: Mesut Özil, Alexis Sánchez and Shkordan Mustafi have mostly been fantastic. Nevertheless, his transfer policy is criticised by a lot of football fanatics around the world. Wenger sells his best players and doesn’t replace them adequately. Van Persie, Adebayor, Nasri, Fabregas, Cole, and Alex Song were all sold by the Frenchman.

In return he has signed players of the likes of Gervinho, Chamakh, Yaya Sanogo, Flamini, Debuchy and Bramell. Over the years, Wenger has put blind faith in some players without any reason. For many years, he relied on Per Mertesacker as the first choice centre-back, despite him simply being too slow to face some of the fastest strikers in the game. Similar things have happened with the likes of Olivier Giroud, who, considering the playmaking quality he has behind him, isn’t prolific enough. In the 2016 summer transfer window, Wenger promised to sign a world class striker. After unsuccessful talks with Benzema and Lacazette, Arsenal ended up signing Lucas Perez, from Deportivo la Coruña, who is simply not good enough to start for Arsenal and doesn’t even play as an all-out striker.

Teams all over the world adapt their style of play to face particular rivals; Wenger seems to have the world’s worst team management. Following last week’s home defeat to Watford, a furious fan stated on Arsenal TV: “Walcott scores a hat-trick (against Southampton) and gets left on the bench. Welbeck scores two and gets taken out of the squad completely. Our first choice Right-Back [Bellerin] is fit and he is benched for f***ing Bambi [Gabriel]!”

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Wenger has had a tough time with injured players every season, but I think he must be given much of the blame for this. Players such as Diaby, Wilshere, Welbeck, Mertesacker, Ramsey and Debuchy have all suffered from several long term injuries. No one can say for sure, but in my opinion Wenger over-strains players during training and doesn’t focus enough of their fitness. I also believe that the medical staff management must be poor. I find it illogical that a team could suffer from injuries so severely every season—there surely is an underlying problem.

Don’t get me wrong. Arsène Wenger has achieved incredible things with Arsenal Football Club. If he wants to be remembered as a legend amongst fans and in the world of football, he should resign from management before he gets sacked. There are simply better options out there for Arsenal. As a fan myself, I would love to see a manager with strong character signing this summer. Massimiliano Allegri, Diego Simeone, Carlo Anchelotti, I’m ready to embrace you with open arms.

Sam Pace for ‘Wenger In’

Arsène Wenger has managed Arsenal since 1996, and has taken the club from indifference to being the most consistent team in the Premier League during his time in charge. In the 16 years that he has been at the helm, Arsenal have won three Premier League titles (1997-1998, 2001-2002 and 2003-2004), and six FA Cups, two of which have come very recently, in 2014 and 2015. Additionally, Wenger has won six Community Shields.

His win percentage at Arsenal is one of the best from the Premier League era (57.4 per cent), and consistently, year on year, for 16 consecutive seasons, Wenger’s Arsenal has finished in the top four, guaranteeing annual performance in the Champions League, Europe’s elite competition. He has also navigated Arsenal successfully from the League’s group stages every single year to date, finishing above the French champions, PSG, this year.

Accolades aside, Wenger has been attributed as the defining factor in the development of some of the best players of the 21st century. Great players, like Bergkamp, Viera, Henry, Fabregas, Van Persie, Pires and Ljunberg all became world-class players in large part thanks to Arsene’s stewardship.

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Thierry Henry said that he left Arsenal because he “did not know if Arsène would be staying”. A similar sentiment has been echoed by the current Arsenal crop of talent, with Sánchez and Özil demonstrating caution about signing a new contract. Özil has sited the uncertainty surrounding Wenger’s future as the cause for his hesitance in committing his future to Arsenal.

A look at the Premier League table tells another story. Arsenal sit in fourth place, just three points behind Spurs and two behind Manchester City, but above both United and Liverpool in the standings.

After every Arsenal defeat, the ‘Wenger Out’ brigade start brandishing their garish., Wenger-hating posters, but such displays of animosity and anger are not applicable to Spurs, City, Liverpool or United fans, who all sit similarly out of reach of Chelsea, thanks to the Blues’ stunning run of form since Arsenal’s 3-0 thrashing of them earlier in the season.

A look at Wenger’s current nurturing of the Arsenal youth reveals hope for fans. Alex Iwobi has been in scintillating form this season, with three goals and four assists in the Premier League, taking him to Nigerian Player of the Year, over talents like Iheanacho.

This rapid rise would not have been possible without Wenger’s management. Another glance can be taken at Héctor Bellerin, arguably the best offensive right back in the Premier League, and his rapid rise to form, after a disastrous debut against Dortmund, is directly related the confidence Arsène has instilled in him. Bellerin has in fact rebuffed any claims of moving back to Barcelona, stating Wenger’s loyalty to him as a key factor in this.

Wenger should not leave Arsenal, not just yet. He has created a legacy, and has helped in producing some of the greatest talents to have ever plied their trade in European football. Any ‘Wenger Out’ cries from supporters of Arsenal should be accompanied by ‘Mourinho, Klopp, Guardiola and Pocchetino Out’ calls from every other club in the top six.