Arsene Wenger: What’s Next for the Man Who Changed English Football Forever?
Published on April 20, 2018
. The decision has been coming for some time now. We all knew it was happening; some wanted it badly. And still, the news seems shocking.
To put things into perspective, I’m 32 and have been supporting the Arsenal since I was a kid. I barely remember the club before Arsene Wenger. There are people who actually never saw a game of the Gunners without the Professor at the helm.
For every sane supporter of the club, this is one of the saddest days in Arsenal’s history. Arguably the most successful manager will be gone for good. But what does he leave behind? And what comes next for the club and for Arsene himself?
We all know the “Arsene Who?” jokes and how shocked many were when Wenger was appointed in 1996. Few are aware that a certain Dutchman named Johan Cruyff was one of the favorites for the job. But David Dein had other ideas after meeting Arsene Wenger a couple of years ago.
Dein believed that Wenger was a true visionary that could change the course of Arsenal’s history. I don’t think even Dein expected what followed next. Arsene won a double in his first season at the helm. He repeated the feat later on and achieved the unthinkable in 2004.
Arsenal won the English Premier League, and . This was only the second time that a club managed to go a whole season unbeaten in the domestic league after Preston did it… in the 19th century.
The likes of Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira, Ljungberg, Pires, and many more were the reason behind Arsenal’s success. Wenger was capable of prolonging the careers of a lot of players, finding hidden gems, and building one of the most beautiful styles of football England has ever seen.
The boring, boring Arsenal was gone.
Instead, the brand of football played at the Highbury attracted millions of new supporters from all over the globe. The world belonged to Arsene Wenger, and everybody knew this was a special manager.
The Professor could’ve left it as it is and probably gotten a couple more trophies under his belt. However, he had other ideas. If Arsenal was going to compete with Europe’s best, the club needed a step-up.
This is how the idea of the Emirates was born. Wenger believed he could guide the club to success, even if he has limited financial means. As a result, Arsenal invested heavily in the Emirates and moved there in 2006.
Many would argue that was a mistake, as Arsenal didn’t win a trophy in the next years. But a closer look shows how painfully close the Gunners and Arsene were to success, especially in the early years.
Although going a man down after Jens Lehmann was sent off, the team went ahead and played a remarkable game. Unfortunately, a couple of misses by the talismanic Thierry Henry and a controversial goal for the Catalans put end to the hopes of the club.
The next big disappointment was in the 2007-2008 season. A young Arsenal team led the league through most of the year. The likes of Fabregas, Rosicky, Hleb, and many more were flying. However, the horrific injury of Eduardo, a couple of bad decisions, and the lack of experience cost Arsenal the title.
Things looked great in the Champions League, too, but Arsenal was beaten by Liverpool thanks to a non-existing penalty right at the death in the quarterfinal stage.
One would argue that Arsenal and Arsene were due some bad karma because of the Invincibles. Who knows what would’ve happened if the club managed to win a major trophy in the first couple of years after moving to the Emirates?
It all went bad after that, as many players left the club and the big money investments in Chelsea and Man City made the EPL ultracompetitive.
This lead to the past couple of years, when the club finally managed to pay most of the stadium and start generating a lot of cash. As a result, Arsene was able to sign the likes of Mesut Ozil, Petr Cech, Alexis Sanchez, Alexandre Lacazette, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Despite that and 3 FA Cups, Wenger had already lost the support of many fans. His departure seemed inevitable, and this is how we got here. The most successful Arsenal manager is leaving after 22 years, 3 EPL titles, and 7 FA Cups.
Arsene Wenger certainly will be fondly remembered by any Arsenal supporter who has a heart. He changed the club for good, but his most important contribution is probably related to the state of English football in general.
Just take a look at the number of pundits, managers, players, and all kinds of football people that are praising the man. They all know how he raised the level of the competition in England in just a couple of years.
Probably the greatest tribute comes from some Manchester United legendary players and himself.
For a start, he was the first to introduce special dieting and exercise. No one else took such care of his players as Arsene Wenger. Just ask the likes of Tony Adams and Paul Merson. The Arsenal legends were on the brink of alcoholism but managed to play for years under the Frenchman instead.
He also introduced stretching and nutrition that helped each player reach his physical peak. The other teams had to catch up and started developing their own programs. There’s a famous anecdote about Sir Alex Ferguson after the first double won by Arsenal.
The Manchester United captain at the time, Roy Keane, didn’t like onions, and the chef knew that. However, one day Keane was given a meal with onions. He confronted the cook about it. It turned out that Ferguson had given him a direct order to use the vegetable in all meals from now on. The reason? The Frenchie was feeding it to his players.
There are other aspects of the game of football that were never the same after Wenger’s arrival. For example, his connections and knowledge of French football were the reason Arsenal signed the likes of Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira for peanuts. As a result, the scouting networks of many English clubs were a direct result of Wenger’s success.
The way people looked at foreign managers and players also changed. Before Arsene, most people believed that only Brits could make it in the English Premier League.
The end result is the exciting competition we know today. Without Wenger, it wouldn’t have been possible. He was a pioneer and a man way ahead of his time, no matter what you think about the last couple of years.
I will probably raise a few eyebrows with I’m about to say next. Despite his football legacy, I respect and love Arsenal Wenger for his personality outside the football world. From the people I don’t personally know, he’s the one who had the greatest impact on me as a human being.
Arsene is an exceptional character. He is graceful, intelligent, kind-hearted, and has an exquisite sense of humor. At the same time, he has a will not many can match. He’s always fighting for what he believes in.
A simple look at many of his interviews would show you a highly-intelligent person with unquestionable moral values. I will stop right there and just tell you two stories that British journalist Henry Winter posted on Twitter after hearing the news that Wenger is leaving Arsenal.
Early in his time in England, Arsene Wenger visited the Hornby’s school for kids with autism. He insisted that society has to appreciate them and their unique mindset.
Another story is related to Arsenal’s connection to a community affected by Chernobyl. A Ukrainian girl affected by the disaster asked to be buried with an Arsenal kit sent to her by Wenger and the club because “they were the only one who cared.”
There are many similar stories about Arsene Wenger, and most people don’t know about them. The man was never about publicity, but he always tried to protect the weak and use his influence to make the world a better place.
Before Arsene is gone, there are a couple of more games to be played. The Arsenal team, the supporters, and everyone related to the club must show their love to one of the greatest managers to ever grace the English game.
A day ago, Arsenal was the underdog in the Europa League semifinal against Atletico Madrid. While the Spaniards seem to be the better team on paper, today’s news makes the situation extraordinary. The fan base of Arsenal will be united for the first time in years. The players will have the chance to make history and win a European trophy for Arsene Wenger.
As for the longer term, let’s take a look at the potential successors of Arsene Wenger. Of course, the man himself and the club have not shared anything official yet. There a couple of options if we believe the rumors and the bookies.
For a start, there’s Patrick Vieira. He has some experience as a manager, is an Arsenal legend, and Wenger himself said that he probably should manage the Gunners one day. At odds of +800, it’s not the worst idea to give it a shot.
Thomas Tuchel is another option. According to the rumors, he was after the Bayern job, but Niko Kovac was appointed. It will be interesting to see if Arsenal will go after the German, and the odds of +700 are not bad at all.
Other possible names include Joachim Low, Carlo Ancelotti, and Luis Enrique. They might have the experience, but I don’t think Arsenal will appoint any of them.
As an Arsenal supporter, I have my own favorite. The young Eddie Howe might not be a glamorous name, but he’s young, and he’s done a great job at Bournemouth. Sure, Arsenal is on a completely different level, but it won’t be the first time the club shocks the world. Just remember what happened in 1996.
Here’s a full list of the main candidates for the job and their current odds at the time of writing:
Many managers, including Guardiola, Klopp, and Jose Mourinho, already shared that they would prefer to see Arsene Wenger stay in the world of football. He is 68, but probably has a lot to give. It’s still early days, and the Frenchman has a job to finish, but the question is interesting.
To be fair, I don’t want to see him manage another club ever again. However, he might receive offers that are too good to refuse.
The bookies have already released the odds on Wenger’s next club. PSG is the favorite, priced at +250. The odds are the same for any Chinese club, and you can find +300 for any team in the MLS. However, I think Arsene will stay in Europe.
My intuition is that the French national team will be without a coach after the World Cup this summer. The most natural appointment would be Arsene Wenger. You can find odds of +400 for that to happen, and I will place a little wager.
I’m not sure what to say at the end. To all my fellow Arsenal supporters, I would like to say that now is the time to show our respect and appreciation to one of the most important people in the club’s history.
The Professor will be here for only a couple more games. Let’s make them count, because there’s only one Arsene Wenger.