I have very little interest in celebrating milestones.
General ones like the New Year are particularly unworthy of celebrating in my opinion. It is just another day. I call my birthdays my own New Year and while I take stock of happenings in the last calendar year, I do nothing else about it unless there are loved ones around who want to celebrate with me. Being a scrooge is bad enough but being a party pooper at your own party is unthinkable. Very uncharacteristically, however, I am in a very celebratory mood for the upcoming 1000thgame of Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal reign.
The cause of my mood may come across as bizarre to many but I am comfortable posting this weird tribute here because I believe that if you are a regular on this site you will understand. I am so eager to celebrate Arsène Wenger’s 1000th game because he has not won any trophy in nearly a decade.
Weird right? Well, you can’t say I didn’t warn you!
There are many reasons why I am in such a great appreciative mood about this new Wenger milestone but rather than bore you with poorly written gibberish, please go to Arsenal.com or click on this link for the Club and Opta’s report on his 999 games in charge. I beg you to please read the analysis. I promise that it will be a great use of your time. It is totally worth it.
Here is a gem for example: “The Gunners have won 30 of the 45 games so far in 2013/14 – for a 66.7 per cent win rate –better than each of the previous 109 seasons since Arsenal became a league side in 1893.” Seriously, I wouldn’t believe this if anyone had told me before I saw it with my own eyes!
I am celebrating this great man because of his lack of trophy success in the last 9 years, as I said earlier. I am doing this partly in reaction to but mainly in defiance of the qualifier which none of the tributes to him from the traditional media will ever fail to include in order to diminish the great man’s record, even if they don’t openly infer such.
I was really interested, as I looked through the stats rich analysis on Arsenal.com, in how Arsene has fared in the last 60% of his reign which coincide with the trophyless years, in comparison with the preceding 40% that include the trophy winning years.
The most shocking bit for me is that the number of games won (on average) in the latter is actually slightly more than those in the former. For example, in the 1st and 3rd centuries of games, Arsenal won 53 games each. Those were the lowest wins in all of the 10 centuries but trophies were won in each of the seasons included in those lowest points. In other word, we’ve been winning consistently the same number of games (or a few more) but we are just not winning the trophies to show for it. (Reason for this shortly).
So much has been said about Arsène and, by implication, Arsenal’s lack of ambition. Going by this assertion, I was expecting to see a big drop in the charts on our results in the last 600 games but I was delightfully wrong. Our win percentages have been pretty consistent all through Arsène’s reign.
Now, how come we won trophies in 4 centuries of games when we won only 53 games on 2 occasions but then failed to win any trophy in 6 centuries when the lowest was 54 and only once? What is(are) the cause(s) of the trophylessness? Well, I’m glad you ask and here is your answer:
- Financial doping of our nouveau riche rivals:- It is interesting that we have not won anything since Chelsea’s ascendancy, despite winning as many games as we used to before they got their sugar daddy. The arrival of Man City’s sheiks has not helped our cause either. A lot has been said on here about financial doping so I’m not going to waste your time but the millennium game piece on Arsenal.com gives visual resonance to the point. The high end games (finals and semi-finals of cups and top 4 meetings in the league) are where Arsenal have suffered from being unable to match our free spending rivals. They could also beat more of the lower teams (this is where man United excelled).
- Ill luck:- I know that many do not like to see that word but unless anyone can explain to me how a team that we had beaten 3-0 twice, both home and away, could beat us 2-1 on a neutral ground from an error from one of our best defenders, that is what I am going with. Also (and on a flip side), have another look at 2005 FA cup final and tell me luck is irrelevant.
I would normally put The Emirates Stadium as point 3 but not on this occasion. That stadium is Arsène Wenger’s greatest achievement for Arsenal so I am not going to attribute our lack of trophies to it. I don’t want to diminish it. Besides, the stats on our win ratios shows that we have remained consistent even in the post Emirates era; so if we are winning about the same number of games as in the past, why aren’t we winning trophies too? It is more for the 2 points above than anything else.
So to summarise my points, Arsène’s remarkable tenure has our manager has been pretty consistent in terms of style and results. We have missed out trophies dues to bad luck and being financially out-muscled by our rivals. But at the same, and more importantly, we have grown and expanded as a club and as global brand. We are a more robust organisation financially thanks to Arsène and the board’s prudence and progressive thinking.
Small clubs, which thanks in great part to Arsène we are not, seldom win trophies. Big clubs always win trophies; as long as we are a big club, we WILL win trophies. It is only a matter of time.
I referred to myself as an atheist to a Gooner friend during a recent conversation and he objected. “You can’t be an atheist”, he said. “You are an Arsenal fan!” I gave him a puzzled look and he said with a smile: “Are you denying that Dennis Bergkamp is God or are you telling me that you don’t believe in him?”
Now, I have got to tell you, that caught me unawares. Of course, I believe that Dennis is God and this not a faith based acknowledgement. I may not believe in the theological God but I saw with my own eyes how Dennis disobeyed the laws of physics with impunity.
I have seen him make grown men shed tears of joy. I have seen him make opposing fans shed tears of sorrow. I am among the many faithfuls looking forward to his return to the hallowed grounds called the Emirates stadium. Just like in many religions, his statue now adorns our ‘Cathedral’ and we faithfuls will look at it and say: “may your return be hastened, o dear Dennis” or other religious stuff like that.
Is Arsène Wenger God too? I’ll say maybe but I have never seen him nutmeg opponents before. I have also never seen him rewrite the laws of physics. Only God can do that! That is why Bergkamp is God! Arsène is something more realistic though. He is a father. He is a mentor. He is a role model. He is a philosopher. He is an artist. He is an economist. He is a non-sanctimonious moralist. He is a visionary. (Please help me add to the list)
Why do I love Arsène Wenger so much? Because, and this is my ultimate reason, he is a good human being. Arsène Wenger, whatever you might think about him as a manager, is a phenomenally good person. In my professional life, I have worked under many managers (with various titles, they are not always called managers).
What has always stayed with me about each of them is seldom how they treated me professionally but how they react to issues as human beings. Many are calculating, devious and will not hesitate to sacrifice their underlings to further their own careers. Some just want to avoid trouble for themselves and as long as you are doing your job properly, there will be no problem. They will not stick up for you at bad times but they will not add to your problems either.
Finally, there are those very few who I am grateful that I had opportunity to meet and work with. They are mentors and father figures. With them, you learn something new everyday. You want to do whatever it takes for the team they lead to succeed. You know that if you make mistakes, rather than scapegoat you, they’d help you to overcome them. They trust you with responsibilities and they give you room to grow by using your own initiatives. When you have non-work related issues, they support you as you try to sort them out.
This is how every player who has ever worked with Arsène Wenger feels about the man. When I listen to the guys wax lyrical about their boss who I may never meet, I know what they are talking about because I have worked under people like that. When you work with bosses who are good people, they enrich your life in more ways than just the professional. They make you believe in yourself more than your own meagre ability. How many of our players have left for greener pastures only to become irrelevant in the football world because their new manager is notArsène Wenger?
This is my tribute to Arsene Wenger, one of my role models, on the milestone of managing my darling club for a thousand games. Please raise a glass of whatever you are drinking to good health, long life and good luck for our esteemed and beloved Arsène Wenger!