The ‘Wenger-Out’ clarion call reverberates around the Emirates once again.
Heralded in by the realisation by the Gunners faithful that their team will, yet again, fail to compete for major honours this year, they attempt to pile pressure on Arsene Wenger to leave. However, the chants that reverberate down from the stands is different this year. It is not grossly outnumbered by a majority that want Wenger to stay. It’s barely even tampered by a vocal minority that see value in Wenger remaining. Arsenal supporters, unlike their team, are acting in unison.
The travails on the club have been described and dissected ad nauseum. No Premier League title since 2004 and they are now set to be knocked out of the Champions League at the last 16 stage for seven consecutive years. Each year the same failings remain. Each year they tempt their fans with titles before spectacularly swiping hopes of success away. Each year Wenger is re-instated. Indeed, so regular have Arsenal’s capitulations become, the fact that night follows day looks almost spontaneous by comparison.
Wenger is often held up as the protagonist in this farce. But he is merely the court jester, the harlequin hired to humour the club hierarchy. And it is towards said hierarchy that Arsenal supporters should direct their fury.
It is hard to conceive of a club where the supporters’ hopes differ so much from those of the owner. Arsenal supporters dream of competing at the summit of European football, winning regular Premier Leagues and mixing it with the very best in the latter stages of the Champions League. Stan Kroenke, Arsenal’s majority shareholder, appears to crave a consistent monetary return on his investment. And no more.
The fans measure success by silverware, Kroenke merely by silver. And in Wenger he has found his perfect asset manager.
Wenger deserves much derision for his faults, but no one can pour scorn on the remarkable consistency of Arsenal under his tutelage. They have competed in the Champions League every single season since his appointment, a truly seismic achievement. Such exploits have sated the desires of Arsenal fans somewhat, but most importantly they have provided Kroenke with a consistent, healthy revenue stream. And all this achieved with minimal transfer spending, at least compared to his Premier League rivals.
Wenger has been more vocal than most in castigating clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester City, who have made ample use of their new-found financial muscle. There may indeed be some truth behind terms such as ‘financial doping’, but in crafting such critiques, Wenger misses the wider point. While it is true that these clubs have owners willing to spend big, that willingness is bourne out of a desire to win big.
Roman Abramovich, for example, attends Chelsea games on a regular basis, and not merely as a vaguely interested billionaire. He clearly cares about the team’s on-field fortunes and has long-term dreams for the club. Chelsea’s profundity for firing managers has been somewhat ridiculous at times, but such hasty reactions at least point to one positive; Abramovich cares. When Chelsea eventually did win the Champions League in 2012 against Bayern Munich, the joy on their owner’s face was palpable, his euphoria unmistakable.
Kroenke is also euphoric at the moment, but for different reasons. Last week saw him expand his business empire by a further $11.3 million. Nero fiddling while Rome burns springs to mind.
Wenger’s management has been inept in recent years, but he’s not the prime villain of the piece. Even following the recent capitulation of their title challenge, Kroenke deemed it appropriate to offer him another two-year contract.
Stan Kroenke is the man truly responsible for Arsenal’s staid recent history, and it is towards him that Arsenal fans’ caustic contempt should be directed.