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What Will Wenger’s Arsenal Legacy Be?


/ by Biyi Akangbe
Arsène Wenger has been at the helm at Arsenal for twenty years. Regardless of anything else, keeping your job at a football club for two decades is a phenomenal achievement, particularly in one of the most competitive and some would say cut throat leagues in world football. Wenger is the longest serving manager in England currently plying his trade, and has by far held that position the longest at the North London club, including the time before they became a North London club.

With his contract coming to an end in the summer, it is no surprise that most of the talk has been about whether or not the Frenchman will go or stay, and if he does stay what role would that be in. Not that many weeks ago, it looked almost a certainty that he would be on his way, but if recent reports are to be believed it may not be that clear cut. Whatever happens come June, it is a good time to look back and see what he has achieved, and how he will be remembered when he finally hangs up his manager’s coat, busted zip and all.

In his 20 seasons, Wenger has won 15 trophies, more than twice that of any other Gunners' manager (George Graham and Herbert Chapman both won 7). Looking a little further into the stats though, you will see that those 15 are made up of 3 league titles, 6 FA Cups and 6 Charity/Community Shields. Admittedly you have to be in it to win it, but Community Shields are not that high on fans’, chairmen, or indeed manager’s wish lists.

Also, considering he has been in charge more than twice as long as anyone else, you would expect him to pick up more silverware along the way. A better statistic is perhaps games played per honour won. Wenger comes in a 77.27, compared to Graham’s 65.86 (Chapman 57.57).

One statistic that does put Wenger in a good light is his win percentage. Of the 1159 games he has been in charge, his sides have won 57.29% of the time. This is considerably higher than anyone else who has spent any meaningful amount of time as Arsenal manager. George Graham won 49.02 of his 461 games in charge. Of course there is the argument that Wenger inherited a team that was almost the finished title-winning article, certainly in defence, whereas Graham built the side almost from scratch.

There has been growing frustration, even resentment amongst the fans. Another humiliating defeat against Bayern saw their team once again crash out in the early stages of the Champions League. Once more their only interest in Europe’s biggest cup competition will be as punters looking at the odds for the remaining teams.

The atmosphere at The Emirates in recent weeks, while maybe not toxic, has certainly not been harmonious, and more and more people are wanting a change, all too aware that those clubs around them – particularly a certain team from not too far away - are progressing, while they appear to be stagnating at best. With it looking increasingly likely that Wenger’s Arsenal will fail to finish in the top four for the first time during his tenure, and that elusive title (they haven’t won the league for 13 years) looking further away than ever, it would be sad if such an impressive reign were to finish under a cloud.

Even the most vociferous anti-Wenger protester will still acknowledge the fine job that Arsène has done, but will point out that there is no room for sentimentality in football, especially at the highest level. Wenger’s stubborn refusal to spend big in the transfer market – despite funds being available, is one of the main causes of distress, and it could well be his downfall. It may have worked when he came to the club, but football has moved on. The teams he is competing with are not shy about getting their chequebooks out, so to make it a level playing field, Arsenal, and Wenger have to do likewise. The ironic this is, that much of the changes and improvements in the English game at club level can be credited in no small way to Wenger.  
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