Happy Anniversary Arsène
It was thirteen years ago today,
Arsène Wenger taught the team to play
They've been going in and out of style
But they're guaranteed to raise a smile
Among a number of achievements setting a record as Arsenals longest serving manager shouldn`t be uppermost in people`s minds when looking back on the Wenger era but in a game that demands instant and continuous success it isn`t an unremarkable feat.
Other managers have won more trophies and appear more successful as a consequence. If achievement is only measured on that basis then Wengers success has to be qualified by that measure. But if you take a broader measure of achievement, the extent to which a manager has entirely changed the view and status of the club on a global scale, then there a few that have accomplished as much.
Without neglecting George Grahams contribution to raising the club from its long slumber of mediocrity Arsène Wengers impact in turning a middle ranking club into one of the top 5 in the world, both financially and competitively, doesn`t have too many parallels. Herbert Chapman left a similarly indelible impression on the club not just because of the trophies won but in setting the style of the club from its iconic kit through to the clubs very own Underground station. Wengers contribution has to be regarded in that context.
The first nine years brought trophies, doubles and much acclamation culminating in winning the title in an unbeaten season, a feat that hadn`t been matched other than in the very early days of the game. A number of records have been set including the league`s longest unbeaten sequence and all while transforming boring, dour Arsenal into one of the world`s most exciting attacking flair sides. Many would claim we have gone backwards since then though the flair is still evident. Certainly the trophies have dried up but in its own way what has been achieved since our FA cup win in 2005 has been even more remarkable. With a budget constrained by the finances needed to complete the move into the new stadium we have still managed to compete - and in style. Two losing finals and some semi-final appearances seem meagre fare in comparison to earlier achievements but the value of continuous qualification for the CL is an important part of the clubs ability to sustain a challenge for trophies now and in the future. Indeed few clubs, even those with greater resources than we have been able to garner over the last 5 or 6 years, have matched the 12 years continuous participation in the competition.
The move to the new stadium was a necessary part of the step change in the clubs status. The list of clubs that have suffered under the yoke of much smaller development projects is there for all to see. The achievement in being able to compete, even if qualified by the lack of trophies, while doing so will be seen in time as one the pivotal points in the clubs history.
Within all the changes that have taken place the professorial air of Arsène hasn`t been able to disguise a sharp wit and his infamous one liners from observations about pretty wives at home to the capacity for success to make stupid people more stupid will be recounted for as long as the game survives. Just as 'I didn`t see it` has now become part of footballs catalogue of clichés. One that Wenger could even mock himself when asked to comment on an incident in a recent game by claiming that his hearing wasn`t too good either.
The Wenger era isn`t over yet, there are still many achievements to be had as a club, but the legacy has already been rooted deeply. In some ways this legacy may prove to be a burden for those that came to the club only in the time that Wenger has been with Arsenal. Those of us that followed the club with just as much affection, but much less reward before Wenger came along, know that these are the good times. Some others have yet to realise it.
Happy Anniversary Arsène !
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