Friday, 10 August 2012

Wenger keeps faith despite trophy drought

Fabregas, Samir Nasri and
now Robin van Persie — for
the third time in a year,
Arsene Wenger has been
forced to engage in a
transfer struggle that
threatens to wreck the
Arsenal manager’s plans for
the new campaign and
deliver another blow to his
managerial philosophy.
Fabregas and Nasri delivered
damning verdicts on the
decline of Wenger’s Arsenal
when they engineered
moves to Barcelona and
Manchester City last year
despite the Frenchman’s
public insistence that both
would remain at the Emirates
Fast forward 12 months and
Wenger is once again
battling to persuade his
team’s star player — this
time Dutch forward van
Persie — that Arsenal can still
compete for major trophies
without resorting to the kind
of big-spending that has
brought the Premier League
title to both Manchester City
and Chelsea since the
Gunners were last crowned
English champions in 2004.
While even Wenger’s
staunchest critic knows it is
impossible for Arsenal to
match the resources of
bilionaire-backed Chelsea
and City, he still has cash
invest and, until this summer,
chosen to spend most of it
on potential rather than
proven talent.
Even Manchester United
manager Sir Alex Ferguson is
unable to compete with
Chelsea and City in the
transfer market, but he has
still been able to build teams
capable of winning both the
Premier League and
Champions League during
the same period that Arsenal
have failed to land a single
So it is hardly surprising that
van Persie — the scorer of
37 goals for Arsenal last
season — should have his
head turned when United,
City and Juventus, all
champions within the last
two years, come calling.
After all, van Persie’s reward
for his heroics last season
was two Footballer of the
Year awards and nothing
more. Praise rather than
prizes is the currency of
Wenger’s crumbling empire.
Although van Persie is still an
Arsenal player at present, his
announcement last month
that he wouldn’t be signing a
new contract — his current
deal expires at the end of
this season — left Wenger
with no option but to
consider offers from his
Yet, even after such a
turbulent close-season,
Wenger remains blinkered to
the possibility of changing
his philosophy.
Signing Germany forward
Lukas Podolski from Cologne
and French striker Olivier
Giroud from Montpellier will
add depth to his squad,
while Spanish winger Santi
Carzola is an exciting
But it is hard to imagine,
even if those three can
adequately replace van
Persie’s contribution, that
Arsenal will do any better
than finish in the top four
For a club that won the
Premier League three times
in Wenger’s first seven
seasons that is a shocking
Wenger appears sanguine
about his club’s position on
the fringes of the title race,
saying: “I find the situation
very exciting.
“I was very, very worried last
year for a long part of the
season and very anxious for
a long time because we
faced such a tough
“Now I am excited because
we have learned from last
year, we have a new start
and a new opportunity.
“Hopefully we can be the
surprise of the season
because we have stability
and stability is important.”
Wenger pays lip service to
the fans’ desire for
silverware, but the reality is
he knows securing a place in
the lucrative Champions
League keeps the board
happy and allows him to
attract enough good players
to at least keep Arsenal
And that appears to be
Wenger’s only aim now.
Trophies seem a bonus
rather than a priority.
“We are now 15 years on the
trot in the Champions League
and I believe that shows that
our (business) model
works,” Wenger said.
“On the other hand we are
very ambitious, we want as
well to win trophies.
“It’s not enough just to be in
the Champions League and
we are focused on that of
“I am confident that we have
to be faithful to what we
believe is right in football
and in the game – the way
we play football.”

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