Arsènal

It's a mineral...

Today marks Arsène Wenger’s 13th year at Arsenal, making him the longest serving manager the club has ever had and also the only Arsenal manager that I have ever known. To some folks this last fact is a criticism but I don’t see it that way: when you start following a club, you have to start with some manager and who better to get my addiction off to a really good start than the man whose name is synonymous with the club?

Wenger’s most obvious successes have been well documented: articles about the two doubles, the invincibles season, and the huge sums of money he’s generated in player sales dominate this morning’s journalistic landscape and obviously he deserves all that praise, those are his achievements.  In fact, as I like to point out, Arsene Wenger’s record is so impressive that under his stewardship he has won the same number of league titles as Chelsea has in their entire 104 year history.

But those are the easy stories to write about. What’s often left uncovered is how profoundly Arsène Wenger has changed Arsenal football club, English football, and perhaps even world football in general.

At the club, the change has been dramatic. Arsenal have been transformed from “boring boring Arsenal” who played a defensive brand of football in a 30,000 seat arena (magnificent as it was) to a fluid, attacking, “total” football team which entertains 60,000 people in person and thrills millions worldwide. Moreover, Wenger’s attention to detail and tireless work ethic created a world class youth academy that has produced countless footballing professionals. And those same personal qualities created the London Colney training ground, the envy of every club in the world and the basis from which springs our beautiful football. He even had input on the design of the Emirates Stadium. As Ken Friar points out in his interview on the dot com, Wenger’s fingerprints are all over the permanent parts of this club.

Across the EPL, his training and dietary regimens, scouting and youth academy, and brand of attacking football has inspired changes in the way the game is played, coached, and even the types of players that teams buy. If you want to be in the top four of the English Premier League then you need to have a top class training regimen, you need to have a world-wide scouting troupe, and you need to play (at least somewhat) an attacking brand of football. That’s down, in large part to teams looking at what Wenger is doing and wanting to imitate. I can’t count the number of times I’ve read a story about a club like Tottenham where a new manager comes in and comments on the lazy training, or where a team is lauded for playing “Arsenal-like.” Chelsea’s owner’s wet dream is that his club would be as big as Arsenal, would play the attacking style of football that Arsenal plays, and that the club would be as successful as just one man has been. That, for me, is one of the biggest compliments that Wenger could receive.

And now here he is pushing the boundaries of the whole league’s reserves system and has changed the League Cup from a burdensome tournament to a sparkling showcase for England’s finest youth prospects.  I could go on and on about the ways that he’s changed English football but it’s his world-wide impact that is probably most remarkable. In Scotland, you have Tony Mowbray trying to play like Arsenal, in America Sigi Schmid is saying that they want to play open, attacking football and that’s just two off the top of my head. It seems like every time I turn around I hear a pundit saying that such and such team plays “Arsenal like.”

The thing is, teams aren’t really playing Arsenal-like, Arsenal-like has been dozens of different things since 1886. No, across the globe, teams are playing Arsène-like. It’s just that in 13 years Arsène and Arsenal have become so synonymous that people can’t tell them apart.

So, the club might as well go ahead and add the grave accent over the “e” in Arsenal, because for a long time to come this team and Arsène Wenger will be synonymous.

For a long time to come we will be Arsènal, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

16 Comments on Arsènal

  1. And long may it last! Great article team. I always tell teammates in our 5 a side to play the Arsenal way. Everyone knows what it is like, and we are in S. America! Unfortunately, we can hold it for 10 minutes top, LOL, it requires LOTS of stamina. Anyway, Im ranting. TO ARSENE!

  2. The first ‘manager’ I knew was Tony Adams. Funny thing time. No internet then, only me and the news papers. None of my friends or family were Gooners.

    At no time did I relax back in my chair after being hunched over the paper spread out on the coffee table, playing out in my head the game that I had just read about and think, “my club is going to achieve the impossible”. Time, a funny thing.

  3. Tim, great tribute to THE MAN. From 1988 to 1996, I endured a period ranging from “boring, boring Arsenal” to “1 – 0 to the Arsenal”. Then Le Prefessor was announced as manager and almost everyone in the country went “Arsene Who?” Newspaper headlines screamed it. The electronic media scorned The Arsenal. In all honesty, even I joined the people who laughed at his very big spectacles, which made him cut a comical figure. But THE MAN grew on me. His influence was immediate. My Arsenal blossomed before my very eyes. I cried the very first day I saw my Arsenal play a very scintilating brand of football; we promptly dubbed it “Wengerball”. THE MAN graduated to become ‘Le Boss’; and thereafter, he emerged as ‘Le Professor’.

    Today, he beats George Allison’s 4,748 days as Arsenal Manager by 1 day (4,749 today). Allison was manager for 13 years, Arsene as of today, is manager for 13 years, 1 day. Incredible achievements has ensured that he will never be forgotten. I may even do as you suggested and add the grave key to Arsènal from now on. God bless you Arsène for giving me, and indeed so many Arsènal fans joy from watching their team play the Wengerball.

  4. Nice article Tim.

    I too have only known Arsenal with Arsene at the helm. It’s hard to think of the club without him, really a great man.

  5. Sorry 2 sour the deserved love in,but just a fine and suspended ban for our former striker. Anway,cheers for everything Arsene, see you Sunday!

  6. I remember the day he was announced, I was ten and everyone thought it was a joke when a guy with the name arsene from some japanese club took over. I was not sure what to make of it but just that i should support the team.

    Not long after we were lifting our first double under LE Boss – the joke was on other people and I was a very happy child singing we are the champions in my sleep

    Ah the memories

  7. Much as hate the “i’ve followed football longer so i’m a bigger fan than you” attitude, there is one thing that irks me about the people who’ve only known Arsenal under Wenger (although, tbf, not all of them hold this view, nor is it exclusive to them, just seems to be more prevalent), and that’s this idea that Arsenal = Arsene.

    He’s a great manager for sure, probably our greatest ever, and will be remembered as such, but he’s still just a guy and the club is far more, and will keep moving without him. Whether it’s in the Champions League or the Championship, all-out attacking or parking the bus, it’ll still be Arsenal out there playing, and i’ll still be screaming at the TV (assuming we get televised still…), but I don’t know how many of the Arsènal fans will still be around.

    And before i get flamed, i know that most/all of you will, anyone fanatic enough to write or comment on blogs is pretty sure to be in it for the long run.

    • @b, I don’t take any offense to your comments and totally understand that Arsenal are bigger than Arsene. Just that when people say that a team “plays the Arsenal way” now, what they really mean is “they play the Arsene way.”

      Because from what I can tell, Blackburn plays the “Arsenal way” for most of our history.

      • @Tim, Too right ‘tooth. It is certainly the Arsene way hence Wengerball. I have supported Arsenal since the late 70s as a child living in Islington. But I think unlike “b” I believe that has helped my to appreciate him more than those who have become somewhat spoilt by the success we have achieved in the Wenger era. I cannot take him and the football he has brought to this club for granted.

        Under our great leader George Graham, we were also quite successful for periods and I appreciate him for the success he brought to our club. However, Blackburn today plays better football than we did back then.

        • @arthur3sheds, Oh, please don’t take my comments to mean that i don’t appreciate his influence. It’s just that with the relative newcomers, you don’t know if they’re fans of Arsenal or Arsene, whether they’ll stick with the club if Fat Sam takes over after Wenger. Not that there’s anything wrong with it if they don’t, to the degree that i follow American sports i pretty much just like whoever’s fun at the moment, but you won’t see me introducing myself as a Caps fan to a Washingtonian either.
          I guess it’s also exacerbated by the sense i get that a lot of the squad pledge their allegiance more to Arsene than Arsenal, so that his eventual departure will inevitably be followed by an exodus of core players, leaving us with ANOTHER rebuilding period.
          So OK, let me revise my initial standpoint. I’m not annoyed at the fans who THINK that Arsenal = Arsene, I’m just annoyed in general that more and more, that statement seems to be becoming true. And positive as his influence may be, i don’t like the idea of one man being so important.

  8. Eduardo is injured (another strained whatnot), which is perhaps a good thing as Blackburn would kick him to bits and the following week we’ve go to Legbreakers’ Hall. Almunia still has a chest infection (sometimes described as a stomach bug) – what’s going on? I’m more and more convinced it’s a bad haircut and we’re waiting for it to grow out. Bendtner is fine and Walcott should come off the bench to be viewed by Capello – hard to know what to hope for there: if he plays well and gets selected for England he’ll break something and we won’t see him again for a couple of years. Can anyone with a long memory remind me when he last played for Arsenal?

  9. I share your positive view of Arsène’s contribution but must suggest that Arsenal is not alone or even supreme in its global influence on the beautiful game. If Ajax were there first but have dipped below the horizon, we cannot ignore Barcelona combining style with substance, more successfully in the recent past. It was no accident that that was the only other club Thierry Henry seriously considered going to.

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