In Depth

The pros and cons of Arsene Wenger as Arsenal boss

The veteran manager has agreed a new contract with the Gunners, but was it the right thing to do?

Arsene Wenger has signed a new two-year deal with Arsenal that is sure to generate a huge amount of debate among football fans of all stripes.

After the most turbulent reign of his 21-year career with the Gunners, Wenger has opted not to walk away after winning the FA Cup. Instead he will try to restore Arsenal to the English football elite.

The question is whether he's the right man to do it:

The case for Wenger

Arsenal are still a force to be reckoned with:

Fifth place in the Premier League is not ideal but Arsenal, and Wenger, are far from finished.

"Imagine that in the summer of 2013 Wenger had waved goodbye. Then imagine his successor mirrored Wenger's record of the past four years," urges Chas Newkey-Burden in The Guardian, reminding readers that in that time the club bought Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, finished runners-up in the league and won three FA Cups.

"Few, even among the peculiarly entitled Arsenal supporter base, would be calling for [a different manager's] head. Wenger should be judged on the same terms and should stay."

He can still motivate and innovate

It's important to "acknowledge how the recent upturn in results has demonstrated qualities in both Wenger and his players that looked lost", says Jeremy Wilson of the Daily Telegraph.

"Charges of tactical inflexibility have at least been partially answered by nine wins in ten games since switching to 3-4-2-1. Equally, anyone debating the supposed inability to show resilience in big games cannot now simply ignore how Arsenal stood toe-to-toe at Wembley with both Guardiola's Manchester City and Conte's Chelsea and prevailed."

The alternative is chaos

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation, Arsenal were unprepared for a new manager to take over this summer and that makes owner Stan Kroenke's decision to stick with Wenger understandable, adds Wilson of the Telegraph.

"Faced with effectively replacing the club and his investment with an untried new structure and manager, it is little wonder that Stan Kroenke ultimately kept faith in a manager who has delivered something very tangible – whether a top-four finish, a new stadium or an FA Cup – even in each of the supposedly lean years of his tenure." 

Wenger has a reputation

Arguably the fact that Arsenal have not qualified for the Champions League next season is a reason to persevere with Wenger. He's one of a handful of renowned coaches in the game that can attract players to a club.

Losing him and Champions League football would have made the business of recruitment even harder this summer. 

He can change

Such is Wenger's love of Arsenal and his desire for success that he will accept changes at the Emirates, says John Cross of the Daily Mirror.

"Wenger has been willing to compromise on appointments at the club – a new role will be created to help him delegate better. That's something that has always been a problem for him. He likes to micro-manage everything, have a say in issues, from the catering to the carnations for the club suit."

There will also be a shake-up of the backroom staff. This week's board meeting established that Wenger still has the support of the top brass but understands the need for change.

The case against Wenger

Arsenal are in decline

The BBC describes Wenger's time at Arsenal as a "reign of two halves".

Wenger won three Premier Leagues and four FA Cups in his first nine years at the club, but did not win another trophy until 2014, when the Gunners won the cup again. They have lifted the FA Cup twice more since then, but those trophies appear to mask a gradual decline.

"Arsenal have not won the Premier League in 13 years and in 11 of those seasons have finished ten or more points adrift of the champions," notes the BBC. This year they finished fifth and failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 20 years.

The stats indicate that the Gunners are on the slide and have been for some time.

He has fallen behind the times

Wenger was once seen as a great footballing innovator, but not anymore. He's in his late 60s, more than 20 years older than many of his rivals. 

Arguably the best decision he took last season was to switch to three at the back, a tactical change that worked well but came after the Gunners' league campaign was finished and was hardly the product of revolutionary thinking, given how many other teams have adopted the same formation.

He's an autocrat

Unless Wenger and the Arsenal board introduce changes behind the scenes and start planning for his succession they will find themselves in a similar situation in two years' time, with few options and time running out for their manager.

But Wenger's refusal to accept any limitations on his power at the Emirates is clear and the chances of meaningful change seem slim. That means limping on with the current set-up.

Delaying Wenger's departure is like delaying a visit to the dentist, say his critics. It doesn't make sense in the long term.

Bad blood runs deep

Calls for unity are all well and good but the battle lines have been drawn among the fans and it won't take much to reopen old wounds. Wenger, more than a new manager, must avoid any slip-ups.

"It has long been said Wenger is only ever one defeat from an Arsenal crisis. Why should it be any different next season? Those who have campaigned to oust him are unlikely to be ready to shrug off a defeat like, say, Watford at home," says David Hytner of The Guardian.

"The looming confirmation that Stan Kroenke, the club's majority shareholder, has decided to stick with the status quo does not feel as though it has the capacity to fire a surge of excitement."

Players want success not stability

Wenger may be staying on for two more years, but it seems inevitable that Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil won't be around to sign his leaving card. They're both expected to leave this summer or next in search of silverware.

"Arsenal have been trying to get their two biggest stars to sign new contracts for almost two years with no success," notes The Times. Why would Wenger's decision to stay change their minds?

"Wenger has insisted that Sanchez will not be sold but he was similarly defiant before sanctioning the sales of Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie, and the club may be forced to sell because of the player's behaviour."

Not only do Arsenal have a problem holding onto players, they will now have a problem attracting them. Wenger's days as a genius at recruiting young stars appear to be over.

"The squad needs overhauling but Arsenal have lost their clout in the transfer market," says Matt Barlow of the Daily Mail.


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