September 13, 2012
I mean, maybe it’s not big news that that’s something the board want to do. They’ve been nothing if not consistent in their backing and praise for the manager over the years even during his toughest times and I was never in any doubt that they’d want to extend. But the fact that they’ve decided to come out and start talking about it suggests that they must be pretty confident this is something that Le Boss himself wants to do and that an agreement will be reached. Gazidis said:
It’s not a sense of sentimentalism, not a reward for services, it’s a belief that we have an incredible manager who loves this club and is the best man to lead us forward.
We’re really confident about the direction that the club is heading. I feel he can keep going for a long time. He’s in fantastic shape and he’s as driven as he’s ever been and excited as ever.
I’d be surprised if Wenger didn’t want to extend. For a start he’s just completely rebuilt his entire squad over the last couple of years. He’s rebalanced the age of the squad, there appears to be an improvement in the mental attitude of the players that we’ve targeted and he’s got exciting young players coming through with the likes of Wilshere, Oxlade, Coquelin et al. You’d expect him to be anxious to at least see that project through.
Secondly, as Gazidis also talks about in his interview, in two years time we get to renegotiate the big shirt sponsorship deals that have held us back since we signed them to push through the stadium financing. Ivan says:
In terms of the financial impact, it will be as significant a step forward as the stadium was in 2005. It does kick us into the top five clubs in the world with separation from the rest. The overall journey that the club embarked on was to make it one of the leading clubs in the world and to do it in a way that would be sustainable.
I suppose you could argue that comparing the financial impact to what happened with the stadium move might not be the most encouraging to fans who remember what it was like when we weren’t burdened with huge debts and forced to rely overly on young players coming through but I get what he means. 2014 has long been held as the promised land in terms of our finances and Gazidis knows what an impact those extra tens of millions a year could have. Arsene Wenger must be desperate to finally reap the rewards of all of his financial conservatism and at last properly compete with the big boys.
Or at least that’s what you’d think. I suppose it’s entirely possible that he genuinely is a bit scared of spending £30 million on a single player. And if you thought he gets a lot of stick for his transfer policy now, imagine how frenzied the criticism would become if we were actually making huge profits every year.
Some fans might be questioning the wisdom of being so up front in our admiration and determination to re-sign a manager who they would argue still has a lot to prove at the moment. Or as The Mirror’s clumsy headline this morning put it: ‘It’s Arsene wonga! Seven seasons + zero trophies = new deal for Arsenal boss’
Why are we rewarding failure? Why aren’t we motivating the man to work for his contract? To earn it?
To those fans I would say you clearly haven’t paid that much attention to Arsene Wenger over the years. This is not a man who’s happy to take home his (admittedly very chunky) pay cheque each week and leave what’s on the field behind him. As far as I can see, whether you agree with all of his decisions or not (and I don’t) this is still a man who’s desperately driven to succeed for Arsenal Football Club. This is a man who still thinks of nothing else but his team and his squad and winning football matches. Ask the fourth officials that he berates every game. Ask the opposition managers that he’s too aggro to have a drink with. Ask the UEFA disciplinary commission. Or just ask one of his touchline water bottles. Arsene Wenger is nothing if not driven and the fact that he’s being offered a new contract is not going to change that.
Gazidis talked a bit about succession plans for when Arsene does retire and it’s only when you think about what a tough task that would be that you realise quite what an impact he’s had on the club:
He is written into our DNA, he’s incredibly fit, has played in some staff games recently.
I’ve watched him on the sidelines in his brogues and he doesn’t look too good, but when you put him out on the football field, he is still fit, quick and a good footballer.
At the same time, as a club, we have to make sure that all of the things that Arsene has brought to the club are enshrined in our DNA to make sure that when the day comes when Arsene decides it’s time to hang up his boots – I don’t know what the expression is as a manager – that we are in a position to take his ideas and work forward.
It’s a brilliant if unintentional riposte to the ‘Cesc has Barca DNA’ type crap that was peddled two years ago which provided Wenger with one of his most trying times as Arsenal boss. Arsene doesn’t have Arsenal DNA. It’s the other way around. Arsenal have Arsene DNA.
And as Gazidis points out he still looks strong and healthy. I’ve not been able to play my regular five-a-side for about three months because of a thigh strain I can’t seem to shift. I’m in my thirties. Arsene Wenger is 62. And could probably run rings around me even in his brogues.
I’m not going to deny that the man faces a testing time. His achievements in allowing us to keep competing at the top level despite the stadium move and financial doping elsewhere shouldn’t be overlooked. But this club’s fanbase rightly demands more and with two years still to run on his current deal Arsene Wenger still has plenty to do reassure us that despite certain recent high profile outgoings we’re still on the right track.
But I’ve no doubt that he’ll give everything to the cause and I still can’t think of anyone else in world football that I’d rather have kicking water bottles in our name.
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