Recent speculation that Arsene Wenger may be heading to Real Madrid would no doubt have caused concern for the legions of Arsenal fans who are loyal to the professor. However, you do get the feeling that, after another trophyless season, some Gunners fans are beginning to lose patience with the Frenchman. Wenger has since confirmed that, for the moment, he is going nowhere, but the question is, should that be good news or bad for Arsenal?
Because while Wenger’s legacy to English football is enormous, he pretty much revolutionised the way manager’s work in this country, there is no doubt that cracks are appearing in his carefully crafted side. It’s not just a lack of trophies either. This season has seen him fail to put together an adequate squad, refusing to spend money in the seemingly false belief that his hand reared plays could do the job. He’s also seen William Gallas, his first choice as captain this season, go a bit AWOL and criticise the squad, and faces growing fears that Arsenal may in fact be becoming a selling club, after Alexander Hleb and Mathieu Flamini left after enhancing their reputations and with Adebayor possibly about to do the same.
Personally though, I think Wenger should stay at Arsenal, and that those fans who are suggesting that he should leave the club are a little short sighted. I recognise their frustrations in that they haven’t won a trophy for a long time now, given their high standards, and I agree with them that Wenger should hav bought more experience during the past two transfer windows.
However, I think that the important thing is that Wenger now, finally, realises his mistakes. His reputation for devolping quality young players is second to none, and that is for a reason. But it seems he may have gotten a bit too carried away with his own genius this past season and oversetimated just how much of an effect his kids could have in the harsh world of the Premier League.
And that’s understandable. Because now we are beginning to see the first crop of players come through that have been with Arsenal since Wenger took over. Now we begin to see the emrgence of those players who Arsene has watched for the best part of a decade, nurturing them through. There’s no doubt that he will have become attached to them, and he doubtless believes very strongly in their potential. He’s not the first manager to get attached to his kids either, I’m sure few Leeds fans will ever forget David O’Leary’s “babies”.
But this season has exposed the soft underbelly of Arsenal’s youthful team. When injuries hit in certain positions, and to key players, the players who step in cannot quite cut it week in week out in the Premier League. They certainly will be able to, given a few more years learning their trade, but playing week in and week out is something that remains just beyond many of them. But we’ve seen at times this season, and most recently on Saturday when they nearly ruined United’s coronation, that Arsenal at full strength can match any side in Europe.
And Wenger knows this. But he also seems to have accepted that he needs to give his kids a little more time, and hopefully for Arsenal fans, will be putting in the hours over summer to scout out some additions to his carefully balanced squad, to bolster them in key areas, especially the centre of defence and holding midfield. If he can get in some older players, with more experience, then I see no reason why Arsenal won’t challenge seriously for honours again next season, and that should appease Arsenal’s fans.
What they need though, is a touch of patience. Because, as I mentioned before, Arsenal are soon to see those players emerge that are 100% the product of Wenger’s time at the club, and there’s no doubt that he has high hopes for them. The likes of Jack Wilshere and Carlos Vela have already caused ripples, but given a few years, a whole new Arsenal team will step up from the ranks and step into the first team.
When that happens, Arsenal really will be a force to be reckoned with. It is not just that they will be exceedingly talented, though of course they will be. What is such a mouth watering thought is that they have been brought through together, and they have been brought through to play the Wenger way.
We’ve seen Wenger’s magic worked on the likes of Henry and Vieira, who he turned into world class players after bringing them in once they were already established. But the kids that he’s had from the age of 10, just imagine how he has groomed them to play with his vision, to play the Arsenal football. It will be as natural to them as breathing and that’s a brilliant prospect for Arsenal fans, and a fearsome one for their rivals.
So no, I don’t think Arsene Wenger will be going to Real Madrid. I think that he has been criticsed this season, and rightfully so, because he was a little naive in his assumptions and is confodence in his squad. But he’s a man not used to criticism, and it will have hurt him and perhaps maybe tempted him to walk out. But I think instead, he will learn from it, take it on the chin and redouble his efforts.
He needs to bridge the gap between now and when his crop of youngsters are truly ready to be unleashed upon the world, and so I think he will invest in some experience. But if there’s one thing I’m sure of, Wenger doesn’t want to miss out on the chance to lead his hand raised young charges into battle, because they are sure to make a splash when they are finally ready, and will almost certainly cement Wenger’s legacy as one of the greatest developers of talent that the game has ever seen.