The final Premier League table does not make for happy reading for most Gooners. Sixth place on 63 points, with a goal difference of only 23 (51 goals shipped!!) was more than enough league futility to make most happy to (finally) see Wenger’s backside. Now we’ve got a new man, Unai Emery, spearheading a new form of management.
As the summer transfer season gets underway and the various press outlets start up with their, er, interpretations of Emery’s halting English and the dribs and drabs of transfer tittle and other spittle–or bits of names (“Links! Give us the links!!” ) that might drop from the mouths of football people in the know–Gooners’ hopes for the season ahead start to run riot. “We’ll finally have the defense (or defence–“da-fence?”–or a wall of defenders) who’ll stifle ’em all.” “Sokaratis interecepts, passes to Mikhitaryan who moves it onto Aubamayang (or Osmane Dembele) and Dortmund, er, Arsenal, score again (and again, and again, and again)…” Sven-Jolly times are here!!!!
Indeed, as the Sun (and the Mail and the Express, etc., etc., etc.) reaches for its highest spot in the Northern skies, so too do the dreams of Gooners. Icarus, get your wings on, we’re gonna fly…
Back here on earth, however, it’s all a good deal more real and there’s a reason that Arsene Wenger was at the helm for 22 years, keeping Arsenal competitive while building a modern (read: moneymaking) stadium that allowed our club to compete within its means. Or maybe it should be said, deliver profits to its shareholders (led by one Stan Kroenke) while not slipping that much in the table.
Frankly, I thought it–the Wenger reign–would end at 21 years (at the end of his previous contract) but, I guess, CEO Ivan Gazidis hadn’t quite mustered up his management team (or his cajones?) to pull the plug. Instead, Wenger got an extra (half) contract and Arsenal merely a(nother) trophy for the cabinet, his third FA cup in four seasons.
At what price, however? 2017-18, we hope, represents a nadir. No trophies (though a cup final going after the most minnow-y of the prizes, the league cup, and a run to the semis of the 2nd tier of Euro-comps) and that 6th place finish with the woeful GD.
That’s all history. What does the future hold?
Even without improvements, I believe, Arsenal will benefit–in terms of results next season–simply because the great divide has been bridged. Wenger IS out. No more banners need be flown, no more placards held, no more seats need be empty in protest, no more vitriol must be spewed on the internet wishing the great professor of economics (and football management) dead. And, in my mind at least, this is a good thing, though, of course, he will always be a hero to me.
It’s a wait and see situation, but my belief is that the fan-base cannot help but feel more unified and be more willing to give what they can to get behind the new manager–or management structure–and the players and the team. Emery will be the welcomed figurehead but it could just as easily have been Mikel Arteta or any other managerial candidate. New players in will likely get the biggest welcomes while the shortest ropes might go to those guys most associated with the former object of vitriol. Oops, I meant “manager.”
So, onto my question. How much is it worth?
I think plenty. My bet is somewhere between 12 to 20 points in the table, thrusting Arsenal–without any other moves beyond Wenger out–right back into the top 4 hunt, maybe even a hair higher. What do you think?
On the other hand, it could be argued that Wenger was so good that he might be missed–at least in certain areas. The area, I think, where a few players will miss him–and miss him sorely–is his faith in them, and protecting his boys from criticism. When they could not believe in themselves (and, in some cases, when the fans had turned against them) Wenger could prop them up. This feeds into the myth that Wenger was in charge of everything at Arsenal. He picked the players he wanted, and, if he got them in without the usual dithering, he (oftentimes) got the best out of their (limited?) talents. Maybe?
As such, since SIR Kroenke (Sven, Ivan, Raul and the moneyman, Stan–or maybe his son Josh) can’t replace the entire squad, there could be some Wenger holdovers who are lost without their mentor, their protector, their father-figure. Who might those guys be? Who will suffer under Unai Emery? (And, who will be gone before a ball is kicked in anger?) I’ve got some ideas but I don’t want to poison the well(beck) or show any signs of bad will(shere). Who do you think might not quite make it in the new scheme?
So, there’s your assignment. Name some names (if that’s your thing) or keep it to the numbers (points over or under our paltry 63; add in your goals for, goals against for extra credit).
Many folks believe in the new manager effect. Do you? Is it about players needing to give more for the new guy or simply about more of the forces (especially the support) all pulling in the same direction? Or does it really not matter and it’s all about the (actual) management decisions that get made?
Getting back to the math(s)… Will the subtraction (of Wenger) lead to addition? Have we bridged the divide? (Or merely multiplied our managers and thus our troubles?) So many folks wanted Wenger Out. What’s it worth to you? Don’t be shy, tell us…
Go on then…