3 league titles, 4 F.A Cups, UEFA cup and champions league runners-up and the reinvention of one of the games true giants culminating in going an entire season unbeaten, which led to the longest unbeaten run in English football history of 49 games.
Sounds impressive doesn't it? Monsieur Wengers early Arsenal record is untouchable, especially when you take into account the magnificent stadium his success basically made possible and the reinvention of an old tired clubs image, style and standing in world football (how many under 20s remember 'boring, boring arsenal?') as well as forcing the whole of the premier league to re-invent itself at the same time. I still believe it was the invigorating battle Sir Alex found with his now old nemesis that led to the the arrivals of Jaap Staam, Jesper blomqvuist and Dwight Yorke at old Trafford prior to the most historic of seasons in 1999, not that arsenal fans would be pleased with the suggestion they helped out united.
The problem for arsene and a lot of arsenal fans have been these last 7 years, where the cupboards have remained bare, every player has a price no matter his importance to the current squad which has made a mockery of the youth policy at the club, because when ever anyone has reached there potential another club will undoubtedly make those come to bed eyes, in the guise of a massive cheque, with the hierarchy at the emirates and there off! A la Fabregas, Henry, Viera, Nasri, Song, Clichey, Adebayoer, Kolo Toure and now RVP (to united of all teams!) Need the list go on? Well actually the question should be, where does the list begin? And another, more relevant question, should be being asked, is it Arsene who has changed? Or is it the league around him that's different?
Well let's start with the first one shall we, we're does the list begin? Well it begins with a transfer saga that still haunts arsene wenger to this day and one that will set in place his policy on transfers for the rest of his time at arsenal, it begins with Nicolas Anelka or 'le sulk' as he is remembered by gooners all over the land. Bought for a scandalous £500,000 from Paris-St-Germain in 1997 he went about becoming one of the best players on the planet in just 2 and half years at highbury. So highly rated that the young volatile Frenchman attracted the interest of Real Madrid, the one club seemingly allowed to court the services of any player they want, whenever they want, more often than not in a very public manner. From that point on Anelka performed like a spoilt two year old, spitting his dummy out, stamping his feet and destroying any hope wenger had of ever keeping him at the club.
But rather than playing the annoyed parent to Anelkas child, Wenger played the jilted cheated husband. The pain of Anelkas betrayal was too much for the man to handle, a man who has never broken a contract in his life, a man of unscrupulous morals had been treated, in his eyes, like an animal by Anelka.
So off to Madrid he went but at a cost, an amazing 4460% profit or 22.3 million pounds, also to the cost of Wengers future relationships with players. Never would he allow him self to feel like a fan of the club and believe the players felt the same way about his Arsenal as he did, sure he has gotten close to this with Thiery Henry and Cesc Fabregas, but when both of these players felt the need to move to barcelona he requested they change there mind, never demanded it. Lets not forget the former was bought to the club with the Anelka funds for less than half the price his infantile countryman was sold, also Fabregas, snared from barcas youth system for a pittance of what he was sold back for. Wenger would simply continue the process of what had helped him create a new arsenal, a process the board and the fans adored him for, and one that also bought major honors to the club.
Which brings me to the next question, is it Arsene who has changed? Or is it the league around him? Or as the wonderful Ollie Holt put it on twitter, is Wenger flawed? Or is the league broken? All valid questions when you consider the trophies dried up so quickly. Well my answer to Ollies wonderful question is this. Neither is flawed nor broken, but the league has changed. Changed beyond all recognition, it is in my mind, of no coincidence whatsoever that since the invincibles only one F.A Cup has been added whilst Roman Abromhavic's Chelsea have won the lot. No coincidence that that since Man city's billions were added to the mix the very best Arsenal can hope for is champions league football. No coincidence that Man Utd now have 'exceptions' to there wage structure, something Wenger and his board believe to be detrimental to there club as a whole. Nobody can tell me Wenger would not of loved to be able to of signed a whole host of the stars who have joined the Premier league in recent years. For David Silva see Robert Pires for Vincent Kompany see Sol Campbell for Sergio Aguero see Sylvain Wiltord and for Ramieres see Patrick Vierra. All these players these days are out of Arsenals reach either in transfer fees or wages, mainly tho, its both. Which is the problem for Arsenal, this is why the trophies dried up so quickly. Because these new kids on the block spent so much, so damn quickly. It was impossible for Arsenal to keep up.
Ollie Holt also posted another tweet earlier this week stating the fact Wenger seemed to be frustrated the rest was not playing by his rules. Its a statement that is hard to disagree with, maybe its frustration at the inability of some to see what has changed in football and that success for Arsenal these days is a top 4 finish. Maybe if Arsenal fans stopped looking inwardly for scapegoats and reasons for failure (as some see it) and instead started looking outwardly at what is happening in world football, then maybe, just maybe the little boys and girls inside these famous fans would start to scream for Wenger again.
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