Wenger Does It Again
Despite the difficulties of the first half of the season and all the questioning of squad depth, player quality, and managerial prowess, Arsene Wenger has indeed done it again. Arsenal have made it into the Champions League once more with a 1-0 win over Newcastle in their last game of the season. We’ve made the list of european elite once more for the 16th year running, and the boss has shown that even with what many consider to be a sub-standard squad he can drive them forward to compete at the highest level of the English and european games.
Many have questioned whether or not this kind of success is good enough for Arsenal. Some figure that our team is the one team that should exhibit real quality and class, setting it above all others in the league. While this is a noble thought (I agree with the latter point in particular), people have to realize that no club is going to win the league every single year and, for that matter, no club is entitled to do so (I would argue this is the basis of good competition). We all know the hit the club took when constructing the new stadium and the challenges that meant financially and how that inevitably affected us competitively. Rather than viewing 16 years of Champions League play has a great accomplishment, many will ignore this and suggest we should have won the league, or at least challenged strongly for it by finishing a close second. This kind of attitude will only lead to disappointment most seasons. Instead, I prefer to support my team no matter what position we finish in and view successes on a season by season basis by considering the current squad, the relative strength of other teams, etc.
I think that Wenger has pulled off something incredible this year. If we believe that the current Arsenal team is sub-par for a top four Premier League club, then even finishing top four amid all the heated competition for that space is a success in and of itself. To press this particular group of players, an odd mixture of experience and youth, to finish 4th and not some obscure mid-table position is something to be proud of, and I in no way think that means we’re settling for 4th. Sure, we’ve got some real proven quality in players like Santi Cazorla, Bacary Sagna, Jack Wilshere, and Laurent Koscielny, but look at the others? Mikel Arteta has experience and a calm nature about him, which I think adds maturity to the squad; this may be the case, but he’s still not a player for his national team and will likely not be fans first choice for his position when all europe is taken into account. Ramsey has been both frustrating and fascinating this season; his recovery from injury a couple years ago is starting to show, but he can’t be relied upon every game as he still makes mistakes and some poor decisions. Giroud has had a meteoric rise from lower league football all the way to winning the top tier of French competition, but he’s yet to find the same success in the BPL (Wenger will be fond of suggesting that it’s his first season in the English game and that requires quite a bit of adjustment). Walcott, held by many to be the future star of the club, alongside Wilshere of course, has had his best season to date and has finally broken the 20 goal mark. He’s shown improvement in the last couple of seasons, but it’s still hard to say that he’s one of the top players in all europe. Gervinho has had a mixed season at best, showing great ability moving forward on the pitch, but almost always losing possession or finishing poorly. I don’t mean to suggest the team is crap, but it’s certainly not the best group of players a supporter can hope for. This is, however, a reality of supporting a football club. The point is that even with this being the case, Wenger, as he has for the last eight years, has show that he can get an incredible amount of performance out of players like those Arsenal has available to them this season.
Three things are most important to me as I look at where my club has finished the 2012-13 competition:
1. We’ve qualified again for the Champions League. We all know there’s significant funds that come from this, not to mention the prestiege and the chance of winning europe’s biggest tournament.
2. We’ve finished above Spurs again. As a supporter of the red and white, there’s no way this can’t be considered a priority for the club. Forever in our shadow.
3. Wenger remains manager for now. I’ve seen my respect for the man grow over the plast couple of seasons for reasons similar to those mentioned above. His ability to find talent, motivate players, develop youth, find levels of success in a variety of competitions, and doing all this with his frugal nature is something quite remarkable.
I’m not ready to see the manager move on yet. I want to see him win another trophy or two with Arsenal before he retires or moves on to another club. I think he’s still got what it takes to make this happen.