3 wins in 12 games. 17 points dropped in 2016, the most by any top 4 team. 8 points off Leicester at the top, and also below Tottenham.
So how can I write a piece defending the man at the helm of all of this?
I’m not necessarily defending him. I’m simply posing a question: Why don’t Arsenal fans give Arsene Wenger the Özil treatment?
For those asking what the Özil treatment is, it is the Arsenal fans’ tendency to feel bad for the guy whenever his genius goes begging and strikers fail to finish his created chances. It’s this mentality that “Özil deserves better, why is he wasting his time here when any top team would take him, where his life would deservedly get easier with players at his level?” Well, this is what I felt like after Arsenal’s home tie against Barcelona… but in regards to Wenger instead of Özil.
Is it not true that Arsène Wenger, on the night, undoubtedly matched Barcelona tactically for 80% of the match with a far inferior side, both in terms of chances created as chances nullified at the other end? Was it not Aaron Ramsey’s lapse of concentration and his lack of willingness to track back that left Coquelin alone and Messi isolated, totally letting down Arsène Wenger’s otherwise well-working plan?
Or how about last week, when Coquelin, despite being warned by Wenger to keep his head, flies into a challenge, gets sent off and overturns another tactically well-thought out Wenger plan that had many fans feeling robbed of a win?
The infuriating thing is not just these results, but that Wenger has been let down so, so many times in similar ways by his players.
We say Özil deserves better, to play with players on his level. What about Wenger? Do you think if Wenger took up PSG, Real Madrid or Bayern on any one of their several offers – the most recent of which came last year – he would have to deal with players prone to these lapses in concentration? No, because they attract the best players, and the best players are capable of following orders down to a tee. They let neither the emotions nor the occasion get the best of them.
But we don’t place Wenger in Özil’s shoes. Why? Because while we’re anxious over Özil’s future, over the thought him jumping ship (because it is still very much possible), we don’t deal with anxiety regarding Arsène Wenger because we know he would never do that. We don’t have to bother ourselves with the mere thought of Wenger leaving to Real Madrid because we know for a fact he will continually reject them.
Not having to even think about this leads us to take his stay for granted, in the most literal sense possible; it’s granted, it’s guaranteed that he will only manage Arsenal until he retires. So I’ve established we take his stay for granted, which rids us of anxiety over his future, which in turn gives us the opportunity to blame him without dealing with any repercussions – and over time, that practice has a tendency to turn into resentment which makes us forget his qualities as a world class manager, which he is.
Forgetting the fact that owners of some of the biggest and richest clubs in the world would still take Arsène Wenger, several elite ex-footballers and footballing brains have come out over the years singing nothing but the highest praises for the Frenchman we take for granted. And excuse me for not taking an average fan behind a computer screen seriously when respected footballing figures around the world are in Wenger’s court. They know things we don’t. It is best to accept our ignorance and their judgment sometimes.
You might say that it is Arsene Wenger’s tendency to over-trust his players that qualifies him to fall on his sword. Maybe so. Wenger’s the type of man and manager who develops you and then leaves it up to you take your chance. But when your team has proper men, like Arsenal’s earlier sides, they take the opportunity to build confidence and repay the faith tenfold, which is why I think he’d be a massive success with clubs richer and bigger than Arsenal like Bayern and Real.
Our players lack the courage and, frankly, the balls to stand up and assume responsibility. During an interview with BBC Radio Five Live, Charlie Adam was asked about who he can hear when playing against Arsenal. He simply said “Nobody.”
Finally, you might say that Arsène Wenger chooses who he works with, unlike Özil, for example, with strikers. With our recent failures in the goalscoring department (I refuse to consider the 0-0 draws against Hull and Southampton as an example of this because those were goalkeeping freak performances – don’t let your taking-of-Wenger-for-granted fool you), you might say “We’ve been telling Wenger to sign a striker!”
Well… who? It’s a tired argument, but just because you’re tired of hearing it doesn’t make it less true. This is not FIFA, and as far as I’m concerned, if Manchester United could not get a veteran world class striker that Arsenal fans have been craving for with their Real Madrid-esque finances, then I’m sorry but that striker was just not available, despite how much you want to blame Wenger.
So, world class strikers are not available, but we have one of the best from the tier below in Olivier Giroud.
We’ve seen time and time again respected footballing figures coming out with their admiration for Wenger, the admiration that Arsenal fans have forgotten. This is fueled by us taking his loyalty for granted, an aspect of his I’m actively trying to appreciate again and it’s left me feeling about Wenger the same way people feel about Özil after disappointing performances.
Wenger can go anywhere he wants, why is he sticking around with this group of players only to tarnish his reputation that makes the foolish majority of football fans turn against him, while the elite minds who see him for the world class manager and consummate gentleman he is, turn into the silent minority?