Comment: “In Arsene we trust” – Why Wenger knows best

Will Spencer 28 February 2013

The constant detractors of Arsene Wenger’s leadership of Arsenal seemingly base their criticism upon a fallacy. Their delusion consists of a belief that football management is overwhelmingly, if not entirely, comprised of short-term success. Largely, of course, this appears to be the case. For most clubs, managers are hired and sacked on the basis of on-field results, which determine the perceived success of an individual campaign.

However, this is not a universal view, at least not one held by Wenger and the Arsenal board. For the Frenchman, unlike so many of his peers, stability is the foundation of his ideology.

Firstly, this consists of financial viability, theoretically the bedrock of a successful club. Wenger has built up his reputation through shrewd spending on players, previously balancing the club’s budget and ensuring sustained achievement. Measuring this achievement based on results seems to suggest that this success is on the decline, as has been for some time. The oft-quoted fact is that Arsenal has not won a trophy since 2005.

This is primarily a reflection of the increasing financial instability of the footballing world, in which immediate success is valued at the expense of monetary sense.

The long promised Financial Fair Play rules were supposed to be introduced last season. However, the powers-that-be have significantly slackened their stance by showing unwillingness to impose transfer embargos, amongst other proposals, upon clubs saddled with debt.

Obviously, Wenger’s apparent refusal to cave to the financial whims of modern football could be viewed as stubbornness, complacency and, at worst, complicity with the board to ensure continued prosperity at the expense of on-pitch progress. The harsh fact is that football reflects reality even less than it used to. His penchant for winning trophies with financial sustainability is no longer there.

Defining success through winning trophies is unhelpful and further highlights football as a reckless search for glory. While he cannot shift the parameters by which football is perceived, Wenger’s broader business acumen is greater than that of many owners, and he should secure further success in the long-term.

Nonetheless, Arsenal’s place amongst the top English clubs is still considerable, although Wenger may find the future more strenuous if they fail to secure a place in the Champions League next season given all the additional revenue.

Without debt, with a regularly filled stadium and, perhaps a posse of young English players, their footballing decline may be reversed in the coming years. This looks unlikely, but whatever happens, one can be sure that they will not collapse economically.

Given that the clampdown on other clubs’ debt is unlikely to be implemented, this sadly looks unlikely to resurrect former glories.

Will Spencer