herald

Thursday 17 August 2017

Wenger legacy is now under threat

Gunners boss is either a tortured genius or a high stakes spoofer

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger during training. Photo: Reuters
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger during training. Photo: Reuters

Spofer or tortured genius? Arsene Wenger's place in history as football's renaissance man and pin-up for the purist view of the game is on the line.

Short of a miracle against Bayern Munich tonight, the one remaining thread attaching Wenger to a trophy will once again be the FA Cup. It's not enough.

Arsenal fans afraid to complain about a manager who can't distinguish a good defender from an antelope have been cowed by those in the London media who want to intellectualise football and hold up Wenger as their totem.

Alex Ferguson was Scottish and uncouth. Wenger urbane and brainy.

The cold truth is that Arsenal is a club based on accountancy and one man's flawed view of the game. Wenger has been living on memories of events ten years old yet his fans, of which there are still many, are doggedly supportive.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, pictured here shaking hands with Alexis Sanchez before training yesterday, has denied rumours of a rift with the Chilean star. Photo: Reuters
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, pictured here shaking hands with Alexis Sanchez before training yesterday, has denied rumours of a rift with the Chilean star. Photo: Reuters

Evidence

They remain so even though the weight of evidence is stacking up faster than he can come up with excuses and his latest nonsense - dropping Alexis Sanchez his best player - simply crystallised his failure.

Sanchez is a winner by nature and in this or any Arsenal team of the last decade, there have been far too many moments of bitter disappointment, far too many abject surrenders. This cannot be an environment he enjoys.

The core character of Arsenal is brittle, collapses under pressure and cannot cope when an opposing manager decides that the beautiful game will not get him points but a double decker in the box might.

There have been many different and talented players through the Gunners' gates in this time but the team keeps failing in the same way and that can only be down to one man - Wenger.

Scroll down through the list of duff signings we've put together. It's just a sample of the many, many players who came and went without leaving even the barest footprint.

Or others who came and played even when it was obvious to everyone except Wenger that they didn't belong at the level he was trying to shoehorn them into.

Pascal Cygan may have been the worst centre-back to ever the grace the Premier League but he lasted four years and played 100 times for Wenger.

The man who got his shirt number when he left was Mikael Silvestre, a potent attacking full-back at Old Trafford under Ferguson who couldn't defend to save his life and was long past his best when Wenger signed him in 2008.

Generally, Wenger has an excellent eye for midfielders and strikers although he has form in that area too.

Francis Jeffers and Andrey Arshavin spring to mind. But his biggest weakness is laid bare when you look at the defenders he chose to fill in when Tony Adams, Steve Bould, Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon and Martin Keown began to creak, Wenger bought Igor Stepanovs, a Latvian who would run Cygan close for his worst signing ever.

Wenger couldn't pick a decent defender to save his life. He is pretty poor on goalkeepers too. All this leads to only one conclusion. Wenger was the luckiest man on earth to land at Highbury just after George Graham.

He was gifted one of the greatest defences every seen in English football and grafted on lads like Vieira, Pires and Henry to make a team that was phenomenal. He gets all the credit for that but when he tried to repeat it with a new team, five or six new teams, his flaw was mercilessly exposed.

Is there any difference between Wenger and Claudio Ranieri other than longevity and scale?

Influence

Ranieiri inherited a squad good to go from Nigel Pearson and left well enough alone.

This season, the moment he started trying to manage Leicester, the moment Pearson's influence dissipated, chaos erupted.

Over a longer period of time and at a much bigger club, Wenger has shown a singular inability to grasp the basics of defence and the best anyway can say of him at the moment is that he qualified for the Champions League a lot.

Nobody is suggesting that he is as hapless as the Tinkerman and yet, Ranieri won the title last season and Wenger finished second.

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