Time to respect 'Le Professeur'

Arsenal's struggles should remind fans and critics how much Arsene Wenger has done in 15 years at the club.

    Gunners' bulwark: Wenger has always put himself in the firing line to defend his players [GALLO/GETTY]

    A lot has been written about Arsenal over the last couple of months.

    Their dramatic collapse in the 2010/2011 season and manager Arsene Wenger's reluctance to sign new faces has been met by criticism from previously faithful Gunners fans.

    Arsenal fans are a complex bunch. They are often as obnoxious, opinionated and arrogant as they are passionate, intelligent and competitive.

    However, Wenger has managed to keep these difficult children content for many years, which is no mean feat by the Frenchman.

    Arsenal fans have been loyal to Wenger because in the late 90s he created a team that for years have punched above their weight.

    Wenger introduced a revolutionary dietary plan, players such as Thierry Henry and Robert Pires to the Premier League and built the 'Invincibles' – a team who throughout the 2003-2004 season remained unbeaten for 49 games.

    The true Arsenal fan will never forget all that has been done for their team by Wenger. Nor should they. 

    This is why the recent backlash towards their manager and the board spells trouble for the club.

    Despite the poor results, injuries, suspensions, departure of Cesc Fabregas and very soon Samir Nasri, the club refuses to spend money on new players.

    This has made fans angry. Because these difficult children know Arsenal has been storing dollars away like a hamster stores sesame seeds away for hibernation.

    Why does the club still refuse to spend?

    On the surface it seems to boil down to Arsenal being outmuscled in the transfer market by big spenders such as Manchester City and Chelsea.

    However, Wenger is also to blame for their lack of summer signings.

    Long term plans

    Is it hardly surprising that Le Professeur, who is known for taking time to build teams for long-term success, isn't eager to plaster over cracks with multi-million pound signings. 

    In fact, for many honourable reasons, Wenger doesn't want to offer inflated prices for cash-motivated primadonnas when the board has been working tirelessly to put the club in a strong financial situation.

    Nasri is heading to City [GALLO/GETTY] 

    The Emirates Stadium has been gold dust for the club and their season ticket waiting list runs into thousands, despite costing thousands.

    While Arsenal are not winning on the pitch as much as fans would like, they are crucially in good financial knick for the foreseeable future.   

    In a strange way (and in a way more visible to a neutral, than a Gooner), Arsenal have a lot to be happy about at the moment.

    They have a great stadium, good finances, an experienced manager who is willing to face the media and carry the pressure for the team and all-in-all a pretty sensible board. 

    They have some great young players and many more to come through the ranks.

    It seems that most of their recent problems stem from a lack of confidence.

    For whatever reason, their League Cup final defeat to Birmingham last season knocked the stuffing out of Arsenal.

    The defeat came on the back of some great performances but seemed to remind the players that they could be beaten by smaller clubs. And so they were, time and time again.

    After exiting the European Champions League, the next hurdle was to qualify for next season's European competition above Manchester City.

    This mattered so much to everyone connected to the club that the players simply imploded under the pressure.

    However, while Arsenal's players haven't been able to handle pressure particularly well, Wenger has been surviving on it.

    He has made it his duty to face pressure from the media, the fans, the board and anyone else who fancies a pop.

    On the touchline against Liverpool on Saturday, the world watched a sopping-wet Wenger look dejectedly on at his withering Arsenal team.

    He was the picture of desolation and frustration. For weeks he has looked miserable but he is no quitter.

    Life's work

    For Wenger, Arsenal has become more than a job – it is his life – and this is something Arsenal fans should be very proud of, regardless of how much money he spends on new players.

    The current problems Arsenal face, which seem monumental to devoted fans, could be rectified with a couple of new signings and a string of good results.

    But if that is to happen, Arsenal must qualify for the Champions League.

    Arsenal must beat Udinese on Wednesday night to show the world, and the world's best players, they are still one of England's biggest clubs.

    It is not about the money the club will receive from the competition – although that will help to bring in new signings – it is about getting their confidence back.

    And relieving the pressure on the poor sodden Wenger we see moping about the touchline.  

    Joanna Tilley is a journalist freelancing with Al Jazeera on the Sport website. She has worked at Sky News, Sky Sports News, LBC Radio, Sportasylum.com, TNT Down Under and Wanderlust magazine. Follow her on Twitter (@joannatilley) or her website, sportjostyleeee.blogspot.com.

    Al Jazeera is not responsible for the content of external websites.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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