Stuck in the middle with you? Wenger the scapegoat
Following on from my last post, the other big story Arsenal this week concerns the fallout following Wenger’s heated question and answer meeting with shareholders which is said to have upset Wenger greatly. Wenger was faced with angered questions from disgruntled supporters and was forced to defend the value of his team.
Responding to a question from a shareholder who was applauded for suggesting Adebayor be sold, Wenger responded :
“Adebayor is a great player and has done fantastically well for the club, He was the most sought-after player last year – all the big clubs wanted him and it will be the same again.
When we bought him nobody knew him and he became a great player. Players are quickly singled out and you realise how good a player is when they have gone.
At this level, when players don’t do well it’s because they’ve lost their confidence. The only way to help a guy who has lost confidence is to help him again and again. But by slaughtering him you don’t help him.”
Wenger seemed rankled by the attitude of the fans during the season :
“It is the easiest thing to sit in the stands and say they are not good enough, that they do not fight, It is always that negative way of thinking, that the players do not care. We are playing in the best league in the world and you do not go 21 games unbeaten if you do not stand up and fight.
What these players have done this year in a negative environment shows they can stand up for their own responsibilities.
At the moment what this team needs is the support of the fans. I must say there is a massive difference between the away fans, who are absolutely fantastic, and the home fans.
And responded passionately to criticism of his young players :
“If tomorrow we say we have to sell the players do you want to know how many clubs would want to sign them?
They have a huge value and if they go somewhere else, in two or three years you will say to me ‘why did you let them go?’
They are great players and they will show you that they are great players.
We are going in the right track and everyone at the club is convinced we are doing the right thing.
If we do not get there next year or the year after then you can say this was not the right way.”
And some of his older players (responding to a fan who labelled Mikael Silvestre geriatric) :
“I cannot accept that you speak about the players of your club like that, You are attacking the players and that is much worse [than attacking me].”
And he once more called for the fan’s patience and support :
“If we do not deliver in one or two years I will be responsible, It is the most important moment in the life of this club and we have to be strong now and support this team.”
There are reports that Wenger was left shocked and offended by the questions he recieved from the fans at the shareholder conference and lack of support from the fans and this was followed by reports that Wenger may be considering leaving Arsenal.
Wenger was reportedly vague in his intentions when questioned on French television and is said to have refused to rule out a switch to Real Madrid, calling the Spanish club an interesting prospect.
Peter Hill-Wood has since defended Wenger, saying :
“There you have the most successful manager in our history and two or three of the shareholders made the most negative and somewhat hostile and sarcastic comments, which I think were completely out of order. I was very upset by the questions, I have to say.
Arsene was very diplomatic and honest in his answers and deserves great credit for that but I wouldn’t have been anything like as polite if they had asked me.”
While suggesting that he thought Wenger would stay with Arsenal, at least until the end of his contract, which goes up to 2011 :
“Arsene is here and under contract and I am sure that is how it is going to remain. I think he is a big enough man to accept that a few people are not prepared to be reasonable.
I think we all have to accept criticism but you expect it to be reasonably constructive, rather than destructive.”
There is perhaps another level to this story that remains to unfold. Many fans seem to think that Wenger is guilty of arrogantly sticking with a youth experiment that they believe isn’t working, rather than spend money on proven and experienced players.
This has been backed up by quotes from members of the board frequently saying in recent seasons that Wenger has money available to spend if he wishes, while there are suggestions that the transfer kitty available to him is not as big as they would have you believe.
Case in point – it was reported that Wenger would have upwards of £30million to spend in the summer and yesterday it was reported that this had been cut to £13million.
It seems clear that there is more to the situation than meets the eye, and that Wenger has been operating on a slender budget since the move to the Emirates.
In this time Arsenal have not managed to get their hands on a trophy but contrary to what the doom-mongers say, we have not been that far away. There were some disappointing performances this season but the Gunners should still be playing Champions League football next season and reached 2 semi-finals.
This leaves Wenger in a position of not wanting to contradict the board whilst building a competitive team on the cheap, with the frustrated fans baying for his blood at times. Arsenal fans have been spoiled in the last decade, Arsenal weren’t always competing at the very top.
The squad of players Arsenal have are perhaps 2 experienced players and a little growth from existing players away from the being very best, again all on a fraction of the money spent by their contemporaries.
There is no denying that Wenger has been one of the best things to happen to the club in its history, and the club would surely be poorer without him.