Simon Kuper, my favourite sports journalist argues that the greatest predictor of a teams position is their wage bill. In the Emirates era, Arsenal have had the 4th highest wage bill. In a couple of those seasons, they have been in the title chase in April. This means they have overperformed in the instances where they have come 3rd or stayed at par. Doing what is expected of you is no reason to lose ones job.
I’m smart enough to understand the reasons why people want Wenger out. His desire to keep his team small and intimate means the impact of injuries hit harder than most. There’s also the sense that people are tedious of eating the same meal. Seasons tailing off or starting horribly have made fans weary. What’s the point of change for the sake of change? I’m not sure that a new manager would take Arsenal higher than 3rd. People can point to Liverpool’s progress this season but that is an outlier. Liverpool have generally underperformed for most of the last decade. The last teams to make that jump from 6th and 7th to 1st were Everton in 1985 and Arsenal in 1989. The rarity of such achievements are exactly why they should be disregarded. + Anyone with a brain can tell that Liverpool not being in Europe and exiting the cup competitions early has given them an advantage. Their players are fresher and less susceptible to injury. Not playing during the week means they can prepare for opponents in a manner in which their rivals don’t enjoy. Sorry to go off point.
Every time, I take over a team on Football Manager I run a mini clear out by transfer listing the players not to my taste. This summer would be the last phase of the Arsenal clear out of the last three years. The likes of Emmanuel Eboue, Johan Djourou, Andre Santos, Denilson and Andrey Arshavin have been sold off. Nicklas Bendtner’s contract expires in the summer. Is there any point in carrying out a systematic cull only to press reset on that all over? This would in all likeliness, involve a Liverpool style clear out with transfer fees written off and a spell of inconsistency and not playing on weekdays. No thank you. We have come too far to take steps back.
For all his flaws, Wenger is a great developmental manager. With only one top flight season behind him before arriving in North London, Laurent Koscielny has become one of the finest defenders in the country. Aaron Ramsey, the best box to box midfielder not named Yaya Toure. Wojciech Szczesny, Per Mertesacker, Olivier Giroud and Kieran Gibbs have also been on upward arcs over the past 12 months. It’s why I’m keen on seeing the progress Yaya Sanogo makes. Wenger is great at creating a conducive environment for footballers to develop and when you consider how he was able to coach the rough edges out of Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor and aid their progression to two of the most prolific Premier League strikers of our time, there must be an interest in seeing how this rough diamond is cut and mould. A new manager would most likely not be as invested in some of these players in a way Wenger is and this would involve some upheaval. Moreover, Wenger still has the clout to draw great players. At the top level, it’s the little margins. Manchester United are a top club in every sense of the word, but that didn’t stop Thiago Alcantara from turning them down to play under Pep Guardiola again. Roberto Martinez, a Catalan is more popular in England than in Barcelona. Do you think say, Marco Reus was seeking a big move and Arsenal were up against PSG and Monaco for his signature and the financial terms were at par, he would dismiss the opportunity to play for Wenger and at Arsenal as flippantly as he would were it say, Martinez at the helm?
Wenger has led Arsenal through a spell of austerity and in 2014, the year where new, improved commercial deals take flight if anyone deserves a shot at taking them forward, it is him. The funny thing is that he might end up disagreeing with me by not signing a new contract
Going forward, I believe a rolling one year contract or the two years on offer would be the right thing to do. This allows Wenger to finetune and balance a team of experienced players and others able to aid upward mobility. This would be the perfect time for a manager like Martinez (whom I have written about and would in all likelihood write about again pretty soon) to come in and stake his claim to be the next dynastic manager in the mould of Wenger and Ferguson. One year into his Everton job is too early for him to make the move of his career.