It was a bolt from the blue. While I hoped there would be ‘regime change’ this summer, previous experience of Arsène’s reign led me to believe it come at the end of his contract. That Le Boss chose to end his tenure yesterday caught me on the hop.
It caught Ivan on the hop as well if his mawkish press conference was anything to go by. Suffice to say, he didn’t inspire confidence that he will get finding a replacement right although it can’t be ruled out.
But to talk about others is to deflect from the manager and that shouldn’t be the case. For once, Arsène should remain the centre of attention.
105 words are all it took to bring his time at the club to an end. Unless, of course, Enos decides to give a middle finger to supporters and appoint Wenger CEO or executive chairman. Your uneasy shuffle in your seat suggests that like me, you won’t rule it out.
I suspect not. Arsène wasn’t ready to give up the managerial reigns last summer and made it clear that he would go on elsewhere. PSG for a couple of years? Les Bleus? I’m sure he has options if he genuinely doesn’t want to retire.
Twice he declined to walk away a hero after a cup win; third time lucky? I hope so. If Arsène wins, so too do Arsenal and while in some minds that distinction doesn’t exist, it most surely does. This one, in his native France, has the fairy tale ending most wouldn’t deny him. Some would let’s not forget to acknowledge that. Frothing at the mouth, leaving at this season’s final whistle wasn’t soon enough.
As Jimbo said, people are strange.
You Say Goodbye
I genuinely don’t recall too much about his actual arrival at the club, the day of the announcement itself. George Graham’s anecdote about the only thing missing off a manager’s contract was the date he will be fired seemed apposite. “Arsène who?” the tabloids screamed in an accurate reflection of the players initial reactions.
My vague recollection was a reaction that he wouldn’t last long.
That he stood on the steps shortly afterwards and faced the press down about scurrilous accusations speaks volumes about his strength of character. It would support him through hard times, particularly in recent years.
Everyone has their own memories of the first decade, culminating in Paris. We’ve each got our own memories of the Invincibles, the two doubles previous to that, cup wins and a dynamic brand of football not previously seen on these shores.
While those tangibles will be totted up when he is remembered, in a wider footballing sense he will always play second fiddle to Sir Alex. Wenger’s influence, his thinking on diet and other aspects of players health, were stepping stones to the modern game. Yes, the Invincibles will be there for a while but the absence of a European trophy on his CV will always be thrown out there in a debate about his standing in football.
Does it matter? A football manager belongs to a club or nation. Name a manager and one club will instantly spring to mind. Arsène will always belong to Arsenal no matter what he achieves elsewhere.
Thanks to him, we saw some great time. It’s healthy, I think, to allow yourself some reverie for the moments brought on by a rejuvenated squad at the start of his reign and the memories of the great players we’ve seen in the past 22 years.
I Say Hello
Acknowledging that he was the right man to guide us to the new stadium and through those years is no sin. The bankers demanded his steadying hand on the tiller; the club needed it but in doing so, surrendered too much power to the Frenchman.
David Dein’s departure was a missed opportunity. Irrespective of whether Wenger agreed with it, a director of football was needed. The roots of his departure were set in those moments.
Project Youth, the socialist wage structure; fine notions but handed us white elephants. Players remained on the books too long as the paternalist instinct developed into sentimentality. Someone else needed to take those decisions which were unpalatable to Arsène.
And we’ve lived through the past half-a-dozen years so don’t need reminding of them. Suffice to say, Hull was the moment many of us believe was the perfect time for a send-off, but it didn’t happen.
If you’ve got this far, you may be wondering why there are no tears being shed here. I didn’t know Arsène Wenger. He’s not a close personal friend and he is the sixth permanent manager of Arsenal Football Club in my lifetime. The 11th if you count Messrs Burtenshaw, Houston (twice), and Rice; he’s not the only man at the helm that I’ve ever known.
To be honest, I think it’s also something to do with my age. George Graham’s departure hit me harder; it was more sudden, more surprising given its’ nature. Yet like the Scot, I will remember Wenger fondly for the good times and eventually suppress the bad. And that, to me, is how it should be.
Thanks for everything and best of luck in the future.