7 years too late for Arsenal

Although Arsene Wenger led Arsenal to some impressive seasons, he has done almost nothing positive of note over the last decade.

Ordinarily, my column is about a particular match that occurred during the week and my thoughts on an aspect related to the match in question.

However, something happened in the world of football this week that was so unexpected, so mind-boggling, and so astonishing that, although it was not related to any match, I just had to write about it.

Of course, I am referring to the resignation of Arsenal head coach Arsene Wenger, who will step down at the end of the season after having been in charge of the Gunners for almost 22 years.

To put into perspective how long Wenger has been at the helm of Arsenal, consider the following:

When Wenger first took over at Arsenal:

The reigning FIFA World Player of the Year was George Weah.

The Czech Republic had just reached the final of the European Championship.

The Atlanta Olympics had been held just a few months earlier.

The #1 song on Billboard was “Macarena”.

The highest-grossing movie of the week was “The First Wives Club”.

Montenegro and Timor Leste were not yet independent nations.

In hindsight, although Wenger’s time at Arsenal was eventful as well as fruitful, at least in its early days, it is clear that Wenger will leave his position there about seven years late.

Over the seven-year span between 2006 and 2013, Arsenal were never in the top two in the Premier League and never reached the final of the FA Cup or Champions League.

In the early days of the Wenger era, Arsenal was a club that attracted star players such as Thierry Henry, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Marc Overmars, and Robin van Persie.

However, at this stage, Arsenal are more known for losing star players, with names such as Cesc Fabregas, Alexis Sanchez, Bacary Sagna, and van Persie having slipped through the club’s fingers since the turn of the decade.

This is unacceptable for a club that is not only among the world’s most famous, but is also a big-market team, as they play in London.

A sizeable amount of the blame for this has to be given to Wenger.

Time and again, especially since the mid-2000s, he failed to bring in the right players, either by refusing to adequately spend money or by spending the money on the wrong players.

He also insisted on playing a certain way, and this rigid adherence to the “Arsenal way” has been to the detriment of the team.

Since 2005, Arsenal have only won three FA Cups, have only finished in the top two of the Premier League once, and have not even been close to winning the Champions League.

For a club of Arsenal’s stature, reputation, and resources, this is certainly an underachievement.

Although Wenger led Arsenal to some extremely impressive seasons from the late 1990s until the mid-2000s, he has done almost nothing positive of note over the last decade.

So dire was the situation that the club endured a nine-year trophy drought from 2005 to 2014.

Here is a sample of some of the clubs from one of the four major leagues that won at least one domestic league or cup title over this timespan.

Espanyol. Lazio. Nürnberg. Portsmouth. Stuttgart. Wigan. Wolfsburg.

The fact that clubs such as these won at least one domestic honour in a period in which Arsenal could not speaks volumes.

A while ago, I wrote about who I consider the greatest coaches in football.

My “Mount Rushmore” of football head coaches includes the following: Jose Mourinho, Rinus Michels, Helenio Herrera, and Carlo Ancelotti.

Arsene Wenger would not even crack my top 25.

Although he achieved much in his first eight years at Arsenal, those eight years gave him a free pass for all the mistakes he would go on to make.

The results, or rather the lack of them, speak for themselves.

As Wenger leaves Arsenal, fans of the North Londoners everywhere should rightly honour all that the long-serving Frenchman has done for the club.

However, they should also look to the future with optimism, because in many ways, Wenger has contributed to the destruction of the club that he once laboured to turn into a powerhouse.

Eu Weijun works at FMT.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

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