All Guns Blazing: Can Arsenal ever win the Premier League again with Arsene Wenger?
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As Arsene Wenger’s contract extension was rubber stamped earlier this month, the reaction from the Arsenal fraternity was always going to be one of contrasting emotions – Jack Martin ponders whether the long-serving Frenchman can ever win the Premier League again...
Many responded with joyful contentment that the club’s greatest ever manager would be at the helm for another two years, while others shook their head at what they believe will be another 24 months of same old.
But, rather than squabble on who should be occupying the Emirates dugout next season, perhaps both sides should begin to appreciate that the Arsenal approach in football’s changing times is what makes the club a special and unique entity.
Amid a game becoming increasingly plagued with artificial money and the destruction of tradition, Arsenal’s complete backing for their manager is a rare showcase of respect and class in what is a ruthless world.
Modern day football has become so wrapped up in winning at all costs that the importance of identity and principles have been cast aside to the game’s detriment.
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Yes, some may win multiple trophies, however, they are using a blueprint which is unprincipled and blinded by quick success. Spending scandalous sums on transfer fees and wages, and drafting in a new manager whenever it goes wrong is their characterless plan.
Arsenal look at things through a different periscope and their focus is something to be proud of. The club are trying to conquer the game in a different way to everybody else, and with an identity that’s respected and appreciated across the world of football. The unwavering belief in Wenger is, undoubtedly, part of that.
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Admittedly, there have been mistakes. None more so than the decision to rely on an injury prone 32-year-old- Santi Cazorla – to be your imposing midfielder. Meanwhile, the issues in central midfield and up front have been longstanding and need serious looking at this summer, as do the tactics in big away games which are often questionable to say the least.
However, there’s no denying that Wenger has some leeway on his side. When he arrived, he revolutionised English football from setting the standard with nutrition to introducing a scintillating style of play. The feast came in the first decade of his reign as he won the double in 1998, a second double in 2002 followed by the unbelievable unbeaten season two years later and a Champions League final in 2006.
Then came the famine as the club went nine years without a trophy, with the expense of the stadium resulting in the club’s best players being sold and qualifying for the top four became the main target.
The more recent years have seen increased investment in the team, with the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Petr Cech coming in, while three FA Cup triumphs and a top two finish in the League for the first time in over a decade, has constituted into small steps of improvement again.
The biggest hurdle - winning the Premier League - is one which multiple Arsenal squads have found extremely difficult to master. But should it be such a surprise? The burden from 13 years of a title drought must surely be still weighing heavy on the players’ shoulders and cannot be removed, simply, by loosening the purse strings again or changing the manager, as rivals Liverpool have found out during the past 30 years.
Damaging relations further with some sections of the support is a risk which Wenger has decided to take. He clearly still holds visions of elevating Arsenal back to the summit of English football and he is not going to be deterred by the fear of failure.
If the Frenchman and the players can finally rid themselves of the hindering seeds of disappointment and win the title in the next two years, then Arsenal would not only be champions of England, but champions of style, loyalty and values. And that would be a rarity in modern sport.