As Harvey Dent famously said ‘you either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain’.
Of course, it was Harvey himself who became a notable Batman villain: Harvey Two-Face. Wenger juggles a similar fate.
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The sheer amount of criticism aimed at Arsene Wenger over the last two seasons has been staggering, driven largely by the press turncoats. These journalists only heap praise at a moment’s notice in recognising his capabilities in winning three of the last four FA Cups.
There’s been more than enough reason to question a manager who’s led out a side for over two decades. However, he’s showing he isn’t resting on his laurels following the closure of an extremely controversial transfer window.
Standing as the manager of a club for so long, especially at a big club like Arsenal brings its’ own problems. Expectations grow as football does as a sport and a business, and they have sky-rocketed in the last decade.
Primarily, it’s been the sales of the family silver while replacing them with brass farthings which frustrate. Cole, Adebayor, Kolo Toure, Nasri, Clichy, van Persie and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain went to direct league opponents. Some of those deals caused great disgruntlement but after the initial frustration, it’s only Cole and van Persie which grate.
The long-lasting frustrations after those deals completed came as our performance levels dropped. While calming a disgruntled squad, failure to mount a title challenge remains a problem.
Integrity over Profit
Alexis Sanchez was the next player to force a move to a rivalling side. It’s best described as a divisive move. Some fans were angered by his attitude and frustrated by his loss of possession. Others lamented the loss of a talented player, the best in the squad.
Wenger took an objective view. Rather than approaching this in a disgruntled manner, he handled it with an ounce of clarity, always reiterating that no player is bigger than the club.
Whether we got the better of the deal which brought Henrikh Mkhitaryan the other way remains to be seen.
Borussia Dortmund star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang signed alongside the Armenian. The pair previously worked so well together at Dortmund. It felt like we’d originally bought a Lamborghini without an engine with Mkhitaryan. Buying Aubameyang later turned the first acquisition far more appetising than it first looked.
Key to the success in the January window is Wenger’s philosophy. He has an immense level of integrity which he’s carried throughout his reign at the Emirates. Many managers, even the most old-fashioned and wise, gave in to the high fees and wages batted around the Premier League. The sixty-eight-year-old Frenchman opted to remain faithful to his beliefs. Instead, he puts the reputation of the club before anything else.
It’s something that might not always guarantee all the world’s silverware and every possible accolade. But the respect and admiration it brings are surely worth its weight in gold?