Wenger owes no one an apology

66-year-old faced criticism in match against Norwich on Saturday


Taimoor Siddiqui May 02, 2016
PHOTO: AFP

The curse of short-termism, which has plagued modern football, struck once again when hundreds of angry Arsenal supporters held up placards in the match against Norwich City, which the Gunners won 1-0, asking for the removal of manager Arsene Wenger, who is in his 20th year in charge of the North London club.

‘Time for change. Arsenal is stale, fresh approach needed’ was the message that some of the fans wanted to relay and while the discontent of the thousands of Arsenal supporters over not winning the Premier League title in 12 years is understandable, the actions of this disgruntled minority does not make sense.

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It’s not as if Arsenal are dangling in the bottom three, fighting for their place in the Premier League. It’s not as if the club has gone bankrupt and has to sell off their best players in order to make ends meet. It’s not all doom and gloom that these supporters are trying to project.

In fact, Arsenal have never been this good, in terms of finances and stability, than in the last two decades — they are solid financially; have managed to keep their key players over the past few years and are once again most likely to make it to Champions League — a task not as easy as it may sound.

While some may argue that Wenger’s lack of transfer market activity is the reason for their inability to successfully challenge for major honours — and to a certain extent they are right — the fact is that Wenger has single-handedly built a brand, a philosophy; and that cannot be measured tangibly.

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His contribution to the world of football and to Arsenal, in particular, is unfathomable.

The Frenchman was forced to apologise to the fans for Arsenal’s poor run this season, but should he be the one apologising? Or should the players take some blame as well?

Time and again this season Arsenal’s players have failed to rise to the occasion. Time and again they have failed to click in crucial moments and time and again they have let their manager down rather than the other way around.

Supporters say that Arsenal needed an in-form goalscorer this season; a 20-plus goal man. Yes, Arsenal certainly needed that. But Wenger was trying to show some faith in French forward Olivier Giroud. And if a manager wants to trust a player, you cannot hold that against him.

Yes Wenger made an error when he did not spend big in the transfer market, but were there any proven strikers available last summer?

Wenger tried to sign French forward Karim Benzema but that deal never worked out because Real Madrid would have never let go of their star forward, especially with no other strikers as back-up.

Wenger’s biggest criticism, as former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho points out in every opportunity he has gotten, is that he gets to keep his job despite not winning any major trophy — a luxury not many managers enjoy.

But he isn’t afforded this luxury without reason.

Wenger oversaw one of the most difficult periods in Arsenal’s history and still managed to keep the club in the Champions League despite the exodus of key players — Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Thierry Henry, who either were searching for a higher payday or more trophies.

When such important players leave, it becomes highly impossible to find suitable replacement, especially when those players were almost about to either reach their prime or were in the best form of their lives.

What Wenger has achieved during his reign is exemplary. What Wenger has managed during his time is unique. And what Wenger is trying to do is get Arsenal back in the hunt for major trophies.

He will succeed, as he has shown in previous years, but for that he needs time. And while thousands voice their support for the Frenchman when the mutinous minority try to disrespect him, patience must certainly be running thin at the Emirates.

Wenger needs to get more out of his players, yes. He needs to do it soon, yes. But he surely doesn’t need to apologise to anyone.

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