When Arsene Wenger took the reins at Arsenal 22 years ago, he brought along the philosophy of free-flowing football to England. He instilled fearlessness in his players. Such was his impact on the team that it soon threw down the gauntlet to Manchester United, which had been ruling the Premier League.
The tall, lanky Frenchman Wenger started making waves. He shepherded them to league title and FA Cup double in 1998. Four years later, they captured another English Premier League (EPL) crown.
The greatest achievement of Wenger’s era was the league title in 2003-04 in which Arsenal remained unbeaten throughout the season.
Their fluid game set the benchmark for other teams in England. But, that was the last time they lifted a major trophy. For the next 12 years, they only managed to finish in the top four, as other contenders jumped in and flexed their muscles for top honours.
While the other clubs splashed out to strengthen their squads in a bid to make their mark in Europe, Wenger decided against spending too much money on the hotshots.
His tactics in the later part of his career have been widely criticised. Those shortcomings enabled the rival teams to lure Arsenal’s star players away from the club, which drew the ire of their fans. Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie and Alexis Sanchez looked to other clubs due to Arsenal’s inability to challenge for major trophies. However, during Wenger’s tenure, Arsenal did land the FA Cup a record-breaking 13 times.
Going back to how remarkably he started his career and seeing where he stands right now tells the story of a king who once ruled a kingdom where he was deeply loved and respected. He gave his people glories and prosperity.
Then came a time when he failed in fulfilling the wishes and demands of his people, and lost their support and trust, but he remained adamant on staying in charge. And when he realised that it was time to depart and pass on the baton to a successor, it was too late, as the kingdom had started falling apart.
Arsene Wenger has announced that he will step down as the manager of Arsenal at the end of the season. With the side certain to finish outside the top four and miss out on the Champions League for the second year running, his departure was inevitable.
The atmosphere at the Emirates Stadium had been unwelcoming for the past two years. The fans had turned against him and started displaying the “Wenger Out” banners during the matches.
Arsene Wenger has contributed a lot to football. His services can never be forgotten. Had he walked away before it would have been with his head held much higher than it will be now.
When he came to England, people had not heard his name. But he took little time in working his magic, and the ones who were questioning his appointment became his biggest fans. The Frenchman gifted the country the football of top quality, which had never been witnessed before.
The synergy between his players on the field and their fast-paced and refined game were jaw-dropping. He was the first who brought to attention the importance of diet and physical training in English football.
Wenger gave English football its own identity and transformed it at a time when the local teams were struggling to challenge the elite clubs of Europe. He can take huge pride in all that he has achieved.