By Jonathan Blaustein Chief Goodbye Letter Writer
Dear Arsene Wenger,
Before I say anything else, anything at all, I must first say thank you.
Thank you for ensnaring me in your web of Arsenalness. Thank you for the innumerable hours you put into this team, the city of London, the global fanbase.
Thank you for all of it.
The failures. (Your speciality, according to a troll up in Manchester.)
Seriously, though, thank you. If I hadn’t read your Wikipedia page back in the Fall of 2011, I might never have gotten addicted to English Football, and to Arsenal. (What else might I have done with those 5000 hours?)
Arsenal’s stylish passing and cool haircuts got my attention, back when I didn’t know one team from another. (Robin Van Persie was in fine form.) But I was watching all the games, those first few weeks, so it could have been any team, really.
I kept hearing the announcers talks about this guy, AHR-sen VEN-gah, and it was different than how they talked about everyone else. He sounded debonair. Intellectual.
So I read up on him, and how could this not be for me? All the American hipsters were for Arsenal, supposedly, because they were the creative, global team. Arsene was basically some Hollywood hack’s version of a French philosophy professor come to life.
I accepted my fate as a Gooner by week 3, and haven’t looked back since. Had I chosen Chelsea, I’d have seen a Champions League title, (that year,) the Europa League trophy, and 2 EPL titles. (Including this year, presumably.)
Manchester United have one one title so far, and an FA Cup. City have 2 titles, and I couldn’t be bothered to check how many little trophies they’ve won.
Even fucking Leicester City have won the league since I started watching.
But not Arsenal.
The two FA Cup victories were really sweet, and thanks for that too. I felt rewarded, like it made it all worthwhile, and it was great to hear the “no trophies since” people shut up. But then they just switched to “no titles since” the next day, because life isn’t fair.
Arsene, thank you for enticing me to support your football club. Because you really do seem to be a decent guy. So smart. Loyal. You’re a genuine Renaissance man, as you helped design and then fill a new stadium. You did all sorts of good things before I even knew you existed. (The Invincibles?)
Honestly, you’re probably way smarter than I am, and, like, I’m pretty smart. You’ve had an amazing career, and can go on to coach elsewhere, once you leave Arsenal. (Which you suggested just this morning.) It has to happen eventually, the leaving, but given that you were an FA Cup loss away from quitting once before, the writing is on the wall this time.
Chances are, you’ll walk away.
We both know it.
Either way, I wanted you to know I’m glad I ended up an Arsenal fan. The life-long Londoners might find the idea of choosing a club from scratch to be ridiculous, but there it is.
I guess I could have thrown darts, or played pin the tail on the donkey to decide. Instead, it was Arsene’s charm. Remember that grin he had, when he knew he’d just bought Ozil? That was awesome, Arsene.
I was so optimistic then. I believed you’d have a final act. Which you kind of did, with the back-to-back FA Cups. Do you think you have it in you to win it one more time? Because that would be brilliant, if you could conjure that out of what appears to be a genuinely broken season.
But speaking of the end, Arsene, there is a comparable story from over here in America that I think you’ll find interesting.
I’ve rooted for the New York Giants since I first watched American football on TV as a kid with my Dad. We lived in New Jersey, where the Giants play, so they were our local team.
My Dad’s team.
I’ve seen the Giants win 4 Superbowls in my life, and it’s been amazing each time. Only one team wins the Superbowl each year, and everyone else are losers. There are no cup competitions.
4 Superbowl victories, and I even got to see Superbowl XXI in person, as Phil Simms eviscerated the Denver Broncos back in ’87. But Arsene, the relevant bit is that the Giants had a coach, Tom Coughlin, who won 2 of those 4 Superbowls. And he coached the only 2 teams to beat Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in the big game.
Tom Coughlin is a Giants legend. But he had 3 losing seasons in a row, and his last year, (2015–16) his team lost the lead in the last 2 minutes of game 6 times. He had a 12 year run, which is insanely rare in today’s NFL, but because his late-era teams lacked mental strength, and were no longer capable of handling pressure, his reign came to an end before he was ready to leave.
The Giants shoved off Tom Coughlin, invested anew in their roster, hired a young coach, went 11–5 this year, and made the playoffs for the first time in 4 years. The new guy, Ben McAdoo, had been Coughlin’s offensive coordinator.
His protégée, for two years.
The usurper improved the team almost immediately. It’s a sports story as much as a Shakespearean tragedy, Arsene, but maybe you should call Tom Coughlin and chat him up. He’ll likely have some thoughts about your situation.
Because Ivan Gazidis said, a while back, that the fans decide if you stay or go. And I’m pretty sure you know what they want, Arsene. It was written on your face the other day after the Bayern catastrophe.
But we’re getting off topic, Arsene.
Let’s focus on the positive here.
You did it! You transformed the team into a global mega-brand famed for style and panache. But as we’ve seen with the rapid rise of Chelsea, Manchester City and PSG, winning builds brands.
It’s winning that brings in the mad cash.
So let someone else worry about that for once, Arsene.
Now, it’s time to retire, or at least to set yourself a new challenge.
Why not play beach football in Nice when the weather is nice? Maybe hit the Mayan Riviera in Winter, rather than Stoke City?
Write a novel.
Take up painting. (Like George W. Bush.)
Become a pundit.
Start a blog.
Go coach Barcelona, for all I care, but please try to make this last phase as graceful as possible.
If you need to announce now that you’ll sign a one year contract, and have a good-bye tour, sure, I can live with that. But I don’t think you’ve got another year in you.
Not like this.
How about you tell everyone it’s your last go around, and get the boys to go all in for the FA Cup? Tell people you’re taking a seat on the board, or becoming Director of Football Operations, or any official role that lets you work when you want. (After that fat vacation.)
Or just step away.
But since the knives are coming out, and the fans are likely to turn on you until May, I wanted to go the opposite way.
I wanted to say thanks, Arsene Wenger.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter @jblauphoto