I am writing this fully in the knowledge that he was going to resign or be fired after his win at a very exciting FA Cup final last weekend. Now I hear there is a two-year extension on the cards and the #WengerOut campaign spiralling into oblivion.
So what has made Stan Kroenke invest a further two years in a manger that hasn’t really brought the trophies home, and has an active campaign for him to go brutally and with no thanks it would seem. Wenger has had a rough ride recently in the lack of silverware, but he changed that last weekend bringing home the FA Cup in a riveting final and being the first manager to win it 7 times.
In his first 10 years at Arsenal, Wenger had amassed three league titles and four FA Cups.
Ignoring this season, Arsenal had finished in the top four in every one of Wenger’s 20 seasons in charge, and during this period Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United have had a combined 42 managers.
Wenger famously said “the first trophy is to finish in the top four”. That Champions League qualification has brought in valuable revenue, put Arsenal on the world stage, attracted some of the best players in Europe. unfortunately qualifying for the competition didn’t reap great success. The closest they got was in 2006 against Barcelona and 14 minutes away from the trophy with 10 men. Unfortunately the 10-2 aggregate defeat by Bayern Munich this season, which was their 7th consecutive last 16 exit, seemed to place a magnifying glass over the whole European affair.
He built a reputation for financial prudence in the transfer market. Wenger only spent more than £60m in a season twice, whilst Chelsea, Liverpool, Man Utd and Man City have done so 34 times between them during his tenure.
He has invested time, training and care to his players and loyalty is a by-product. In other clubs players like Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain would have left seasons ago to get game time elsewhere, but he has a knack of keeping his squad together and rotates. Wenger has 50 players with more than 100 appearances for him, more than any of his rivals. From this he has only used 162, far less than any of his rivals. So his unquestionable loyalty to his players could be the stumbling block to his future progression.
But it worked in 1998 and his double winning team, something he hasn’t been able to recreate since.
So could his reason for failure, be his undying love affair with his players. Ozil has spoken out about his future dependant on whether Wenger remains at the club or not. Yet his performances haven’t always been what Arsenal fans have always expected from him, and yet he gets picked time and time again, with other players sidelined to the bench.
Holding onto players like Sanchez is a must if doubtful, but if he does lose key players, he needs to show he has the metal to replace like for like. Attracting high calibre players such as Antoine Greizmann is going to be a problem with no Champions League football next season and this he will have to overcome to appease fans.
If Wenger accepts his new extended 2 year contract, he will have to show that a Europa League trophy is the minimum they should obtain next season with a minimal top 4 finish in the Premier League. To do this he’s going to also show he is willing to spend to refresh the squad – and spend big.