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Arsene Wenger is a genius. There, I’ve said it.
Before you ask, I’m not an Arsenal fan either. Some geographical misfortune on the day this writer came into the world has kept the footballing loyalties firmly imprisoned in Scotland, so there’s no bias or vested interest. Wenger has not only survived the baron wasteland that is the Premier League for the past 20 years, but has thrived in it too. Like a big, French cactus.
When Wenger took charge of Arsenal, Peter Andre was in the prime of his career. This, above anything else, should paint a picture of how different the world was back in 1996. He arrived in England as a relative unknown – a man pipped to become the Technical Director of the FA but somewhat inexperienced in top level management. Even before saying a word, the calls for him to leave had began to echo from Highbury’s decaying rafters.
Despite his many successes with the club, that echo has reverberated through time, rearing its ugly head whenever Wenger fails to meet the high expectations set by the Arsenal faithful; who are all too aware of their club’s illustrious history. It might just be the hardest job in football, and he has been doing it across 3 decades.
— Telegraph Football (@TeleFootball) September 14, 2016
Arsene’s genius lies in his ability to block out those echoes. He has an impregnable, patient belief in his method: one that will often defy the wishes of the supporters, but one that – more often than not – proves to be the right approach.
Tuesday night’s Champions League clash with PSG offered the perfect illustration of this ongoing battle between the Gunners’ fan base and Arsene’s footballing mind. When the team sheet was released, Twitter erupted at Petr Cech’s absence and David Ospina’s inclusion.
“Just unbelievable”, hissed Piers Morgan. Whilst it shouldn’t be in any way implied that Morgan is now the elected spokesman for all Arsenal fans, it’s safe to say that he wasn’t the only one airing his complaints. Inevitably, Ospina was the difference between a humiliating defeat and a valuable point away from home.
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) September 13, 2016
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) September 13, 2016
The whole affair came as a reminder of the 2005/6 season, in which Wenger was criticised to the hilt for fielding an inexperienced back four in Arsenal’s Champions League campaign. They swept aside Real Madrid, Juventus and Villarreal, didn’t concede a single goal in the knock-out stages and lost only to Barcelona in the final. Arsene is a genius.
There is an unwillingness – amongst all football fans, but particularly, it appears, among Arsenal fans – to acknowledge that your manager might just know a little bit more about your team than you. As bitter a pill as it may be to swallow, there is a reason Arsene Wenger is paid money to make these decisions.
Of course, managers don’t always get it right, but in a profit-making, money-driven industry, the Premier League makes no allowances for consistently poor decision making.
Wenger is a shrewd, unfaltering decision-maker. He has built a football club, not a football team, and in doing so he has given Arsenal a philosophy and an identity. This is a man who, prior to managing Arsenal, earned his living by analysing football teams and the type of tactics they employ. He is a true master of the game – wise, thoughtful, ruthless. There aren’t many of those left anymore.
Exclusive | Arsène Wenger's Champions League deal with David Ospina kept the Colombian at the club this summer https://t.co/ot5o4P0aPf
— Get French Football (@GFFN) September 14, 2016
Arsenal fans, like all football fans, will always enjoy the peaks and suffer the troughs of their team’s fortunes. That is the nature of football. That is the beauty of football.
Calling for Arsene’s head is nothing new, but the supporters need to grasp something that everyone associated with the club has understood for the past 20 years: Arsene Wenger is a genius, and he’s the only man capable of returning the Gunners to their former glory.
The above report has firstly appeared on 90min.com