Arsene Wenger: The Legend- Sayak Mitra’s Blog (Techno India)

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“You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”         

The Van gog of EPL.

The Last of all the Elders.

He failed to sell himself.

Or was it a failure at all?

Sayak Mitra’s Blog: It was October 1996.Yes that 1996, which was the year of best/worst earworm Mission Impossible them, with kids being introduced to Duke Nukem 3D and Windows bringing their 4.0 version. 1996 was such a time when Jose Mourinho, Bobby Robson’s assistant at Barcelona, bossed Pep Guardiola around.

1996 was a lifetime ago, when an unassuming, fresh-faced Arsene Wenger found himself thrust into the spotlight of public consciousness, and he has since changed English football as we know it.

He had arrived at Highbury with a blaze of overwhelming mockery.

The press didn’t know him, the fans never heard of him and the players found him unknown.

Arsenal captain Tony Adams summed up the consensus:

“At first, I thought, what does this Frenchman know about football? He wears glasses and looks more like a schoolteacher. He is not going to be as good as George (Graham). Does he even speak English properly?

Though Adams was not the only skeptic here. Two days after the announcement of Wenger’s takeover, on September 24th, the Independent put their headlines as “Arsene Who?” then the number one trending question amongst the club supporters.

First Forward 20 years, still at the same job is an achievement. When this is a job of a manager at a football club in the modern-day era, it becomes all the more commendable. Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal Football Club has seen its share of highs, lows, trophies, disasters and pretty much everything else in between. When David Dein confirmed his appointment, Arsene Wenger was managing Nagoya Grampus Eight in Japan, and appeared as the antithesis of everything people expected in a manager of an English football club.

 

Unlike his predecessors, Wenger was given control over transfers, contracts and training sessions, and the Arsenal board chose not to meddle in team affairs.Wenger adopted a hands-on approach to training sessions which energized the squad.Arsene made huge changes in the food habits of the players. Based on a diet regime from Japan, he moved the canteen from jam roly-poly and curries to vegetables and vitamin supplements. The players’ careers were extended and the rest of British football followed suit. In England, the culture of drinking defined team building.Wenger didn’t ban the booze, he educated moderation.

Over inflated fees and UK, passports do not guarantee success.

Arsene scoured the world for players for the right position at the right price.

“At Arsenal we don’t sign superstars, we make them”

When questioned by Vieira on why Arsenal did not sign any world class players, Wenger explained it perfectly: ‘You weren’t world class when Arsenal signed you’!

Wenger made Arsenal signed Vieira on 1996 from AC Milan reserves just a few days before he arrived. Wenger was ahead of the curve and knew value when he saw it. He made a lot of “stars” at Highbury. Signing a French teenager in the name of Nicklas Anelka, turning him into a star who was later acquired by none other Real Madrid. Wenger raided his old club Monaco to acquire the services of  Emmanuel Petit.To address the shortcomings of playing expansive football, winger Marc Overmars was purchased from Ajax. Both of whom were turned into club legends. On 1999 he signed a young Thierry Henry who has had seven injury interrupted months in Juventus.

After some barren seasons. Wenger finally went on to lift the double in 2002 with being unbeaten on home all season. He added Kolo Toure, Gilberto Silve and Kolo Toure to an already superb side and made Patrice Vieira the club captain. What happened in the following few months changed the history of the club, and football in England forever

In 2004,Wenger led his side to league triumph without a single defeat – an accomplishment last achieved by Preston North End 115 years before in the Football League. “Somebody threw me a T-shirt after the trophy was presented which read ‘Comical Wenger says we can go the whole season unbeaten.’ I was just a season too early!,” he remarked during the club’s victory parade.

Arsenal’s run of 49 league games unbeaten came to an end with a 2–0 defeat at Manchester United on October 2004. The team under Wenger’s management enjoyed another relatively strong league campaign in 2005 , but finished second to Chelsea, Consolation again came in the FA Cup.The emergence of Cesc Fabregas another talent nurtured by him in the starting lineup prompted Wenger to sell Vieira.

The most successful overseas manager in England and Arsenal’s longest-serving, who won 7 trophies in his first 500 games in charge, has won only 2 more since (back-to-back FA Cups in 2014 and 2015), and faces more than his share of doubters. Questions about signings, about mental strength, about tactics and consistency.

He made mistakes, he still makes mistakes, but in our book, despite all our other frustrations about him, his achievement of keeping us in the top 4 in the league with the background of everything that has been going on, should be appreciated at the very least.

As he himself said it.

“The philosophical definition of happiness is a match between what you want and what you have. And what you want changes as soon as you’ve got it. Always more. Always better. Hence the difficulty to satisfy. An Arsenal fan, when you finish fourth, will say, “Hey, we’ve been in the top four for twenty years. We want to win the league!”. They don’t care that Manchester City or Chelsea have spent 300 or 400 million euros.”             

It begs the question – Are the club in a loop where the Holy Grail of their first league title since the Invincibles in 2004 will always be just out of reach?

‘What is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil.’

Many mock Wenger, claiming he is stubborn, selfish and arrogant. Yes, he has been, but everything Arsene has done has been done for love.

Love of football, love of a philosophy and most importantly, love for The Arsenal.

After all, he chose The Arsenal over his wife!

Wenger’s the last of the old guard and we don’t think we’ll see his ilk again. But for me, as well as so many others from my generation, his resignation is also the end of a personal era.

Arsene Wenger is the only Arsenal manager I’ve ever known in my tenure as a football watcher.

How are we supposed to get used to football without him? How are we supposed to reconcile the lack of someone who has shaped more than just our footballing philosophy, even if we know it’s absolutely the right time?

Arsene Wenger will go down in history as a visionary who revolutionized the game in England despite initial mistrust and resistance. We will miss him. We will miss the cheeky grin, the dry wit, the illuminating insights, the optimism, and generosity. I will also miss his monumental struggles with the zipper of a puffy coat, and his ability to remain graceful even when he’s kicking a water bottle in frustration. Most of all, We will miss being happy for him—so unconditionally happy—after an Arsenal win, after the little celebratory Arsene jig on the touchline and a smile showing his unwavering commitment to a club that’s forever changed because of him.

The one thing missing in his, well, Arsenal, is the success on the continent. The Champions League will remain an unfulfilled dream, but there’s still a chance for the lads to send him off with a European trophy, and we hope they do; we hope they fight for him and bring the trophy home. It’s the least he deserves.

Au revoir, Arsene. It was a privilege. 

VOTE :
By Sayak Mitra (Techno India)

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