Is time on the Wenger regime calling?
By Rick Henry
Ahead of tonight's crucial Arsenal v Bayern Munich game some serious questions have to be answered about Wenger's position at Arsenal. Yes, it's lovely to watch but for every good thing they have, there seems to be something bad. For example, going forward they're excellent but defensively they're shaky at best. There seems to be solidarity in the camp but rumours won't go away about a feud between Bould and Wenger. All of this stacks up to a regime that might be coming to an end.
Wenger first arrived at Arsenal in 1996. He was instantly a pioneer in a football management sense. His scouting network far exceeded that of peer and rival clubs leaving them in his wake. His eye to spot a player had turned up some real gems - Ljunberg for example. This gave him a competitive advantage which worked well for a number of years. 3 Premier League titles in 8 years is impressive by any ones standards. However, like any walk of life, as soon as you have something your rivals don't, they catch up and imitate.
Wenger cast the net wide for talent and implemented a youth system an English side had never seen before. He was allowed to take control of parts of the club that other managers could only dream of. This was one of his greatest accomplishments. Churning out talent year after year and having a scouting network that went further than anyone else put Arsenal in a unique position.
This was to be short lived. Other clubs quickly realised that whilst they had good youth systems and scouting networks, they weren't a patch on Arsenal's. From the ground up Arsenal were gaining momentum every year of the Wenger era. However, the top clubs of Europe began to do the same. This didn't allow Arsenal to cherry pick the players they wanted anymore - even within England. Recently, we've heard of stories that Arsenal were in for Joe Hart and Gareth Bale. What a difference a world class left winger and goalkeeper would make to the Arsenal side that runs out tonight.
Naturally, Arsenal have lost their competitive advantage revealing a side of Wenger the press have compounded. His stubbornness to diversify and find a successful new way has put him behind clubs who were only recently trailing Arsenal. Examples of this are not hard to see. Ferguson at Manchester United is a classic example. Constantly revolutionising his playing style to match the footballing climate to secure points. Another top manager, Mourinho, is another good example. When he moved to Real Madrid, his squad was full of players you knew he wouldn't fancy. However, he adapted to suit them. It's only now that cracks are beginning to emerge at the Berneabeu.
Wenger, for me is a great coach and manager. His vision he carried out was superb and at the time ground breaking. In recent years, he has comeback seemingly from the brink to go on great runs of form. However, that can't continue and with every year that passes, the strain is going to weigh heavier. We saw a small glimpse of that at the recent press conference.
In short, if Wenger is to survive, he needs to revolutionise to gain his and Arsenal's competitive advantage.