Why It Was The Right Decision for Arsène Wenger to Leave7 min read
It was quite clear that this was not Arsène Wenger’s personal decision to leave the club he has adored for the past 22 years. It might have been a decision he was privy to in terms of when to announce when he was going, but, if he had it his way, he would have seen out his contract and leave on his own terms.
That being said, the decision made, most probably by chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, was the right one, and should have been made several years ago. Yes, Arsenal have won three of the last four FA Cups, but their fall from the grace of English, and European, football has been something that the fans have had enough with.
There should be immensely fond memories of Wenger’s time at Arsenal, although there will be some new-age fans who just remember the chaos and divided opinions of the Frenchman. When the former Monaco boss first came into North London, he set alight a revolution across English football. No longer was it about heavy drinking after games in a social manner or a relaxed diet, Wenger made sure that nutrition was at the heart of everything he did.
And for that reason, Tony Adams said himself that he played the best football of his life after Wenger came in and changed the tune of the dressing room. In the mid-90s there was a huge drinking culture up and down the country, but Wenger’s courage and determination started to change what players thought about their own careers. They started to see the benefits and wanted more. As if it was their new ‘fix’.
While the mid-to-late 90s and early 2000s were hugely successful for Wenger, winning multiple titles and even going unbeaten in the 2003/04 season, things started to unravel when the club decided to pack up shop and move from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium in 2007. Even the year before, Arsenal had dropped from second place down into fourth, which kickstarted a familiar feeling for those Gunners, unbeknownst to them at the time.
The feud between Sir Alex Ferguson and Wenger was well documented through the 2000s, with the two coming to blows on several occasions at Highbury as well as at Old Trafford. If it was fair to say the two had a genuine dislike of each other at the time. But something changed towards the final years of the 2000s, especially when Manchester United rose through Europe and started to challenge on a continental front.
At one League Managers Association fundraiser in 2008 the pair shared a sofa which chaired a very friendly Q&A session. At times gone by, the two found it difficult to look at each other, let alone have a friendly discussion and catch up. At that moment, the fate of Wenger was sewn in Ferguson’s mind, and Wenger was no longer a threat to the greatest British manager of all time. The Frenchman had lost his dazzle.
Throughout the next 10 years, Wenger would finish inside the top four on most occasions, but it was a similar feeling. A feeling of Groundhog Day. Arsenal would start the season well from August until November, and then slowly burn out and catastrophically plummet between December and February, which their European and Premier League season would abruptly end and the only thing they would have to fight for is the FA Cup.
And, so, no matter how hard it will be to see a man who is synonymous with Arsenal leave the club at the end of the season, it was the right decision. The Gunners need a fresh start, which will be accompanied by a new direction in their technical staff.
There is talk of Luis Enrique, Julian Nagelsmann, Mikel Arteta, Patrick Vieira, Ralf Rangnick and Brendan Rodgers’s representatives supposedly holding meetings with the club over the next few weeks. Of course, most fans will want Atlético Madrid’s Diego Simeone, but that is a step too far in what the Gunners can attract at this moment in time.
It will be intriguing to see the eventuality of Arsenal’s managerial pursuit; whether they go with formula of Real Madrid and Barcelona in appointing one of their own, Arteta or Vieira; whether they go for someone with more experience in Rangnick, Rodgers and Enrique; or whether they think Nagelsmann, at 30, has what it takes to guide the Gunners back to previous heights.
There should be no doubt it anyone’s minds that Wenger changed English football for the better. He was a trailblazer when he first came in. 1,229 games later, the Frenchman is still in the Arsenal dugout, feeling fit and healthy. Wenger is, and will be, the last manager to create a dynasty at a club for many, many years. His place in history should not be glossed over.
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