Arsenal Commentary: What A New Contract For Arsene Wenger Means For the Gunners

on June 06 2013 12:39 PM
Arsenal Commentary: What A New Contract For Arsene Wenger Means For the Gunners

Arsenal are reportedly keen for longstanding manager Arsene Wenger to sign a new contract, according to Sky Sports. Keeping Wenger at the helm would reaffirm Arsenal's commitment to building through youth development and careful, modest spending.

Wenger's fiscal caution has prompted controversy and even anger among sections of Arsenal's support. The Frenchman's unwillingness to be held to ransom in the transfer market has applied more pressure on him to unearth hidden gems.

While that has always been a Wenger hallmark, it was certainly easier during his early years at Arsenal. At that time, Wenger had a virtual monopoly on the French and African markets.

He thrived because he was searching for players where nobody else was looking. Having the field to himself and a natural gift for spotting untapped potential, meant Wenger routinely produced stars for modest fees.

That formula helped him build two great teams. But as is often the case when a protagonist brings true innovation to a sport, rivals soon follow suit.

When opponents saw the success Wenger was having by expanding his scouting methods, they began to do the same. Scouting networks grew and suddenly Wenger no longer had the field to himself.

While the English Premier League was only contested by Arsenal and Manchester United, Wenger's recruitment method had been enough. His fortunes were brutally altered by the arrival of oil money in the game.

When Chelsea introduced mega riches to the EPL, the whole dynamic of competition changed. Since Manchester City have done the same, the uber-wealthy have a stranglehold on the EPL title.

United began to spend more and more, although the Red Devils were never shy about showing off their financial muscle to begin with. For a frugal talent developer like Wenger though, the arrival of the super-rich was like a death knell.

It is no coincidence that Arsenal have not won the league title since 2004. That began the period of Chelsea, United and eventually Manchester City dominance of the transfer market.

Fighting three tanks with a pea shooter requires Wenger to guess right with every prospect. He must turn every promising youth he acquires into a marquee talent.

Because for every two or three precocious youngsters Wenger lets develop in the first team, his rivals can afford the same number of big money, established stars.

What Wenger has continually called for while he is being outspent by his rivals, is faith. He asks Arsenal supporters for faith in the idea that top clubs can still win the major prizes via responsible spending and long-term team-building.

It is a vision for the game Wenger firmly believes in and one that has cost him as much as it has Arsenal. His reputation has been savaged while the Gunners have been outpaced in the annual trophy hunt.

Keeping Wenger in place beyond 2014, calls for more faith in his vision from Arsenal fans. When you are close to a decade since the last time you ruled your own league, that is a tough sell.

But to support Arsenal with Wenger in charge, requires ultimately backing his way of doing things. That is not to say that Gunners supporters do not have the right to question and criticize the manager when things go wrong.

But as long as Wenger sits in the dugout for Arsenal, the team's fans should at least know what to expect by now. They should know that this stubborn idealist will not abandon his principles in search of the quick fix.

They should know that he will continue to make decisions with a concern for the future. Even at the start of a summer that is supposed to herald a shift in spending patterns, Wenger is still pursuing the promise of youth.

Arsenal fans should know and in some sense admire, that Wenger will never let himself or the club, be forced into paying more than what he deems fair value for a player.

Even with a £70 million war-chest, Arsenal's manager will be selective with the funds. A new contract for Wenger implicitly asks frustrated fans to buy into these methods.

In the current financial climate in football, that might mean only rare opportunities to lift silverware. Those opportunities will depend on Wenger's continued ability to turn potential into dominant talent.

It is possible to defeat the wealthy elite in today's game, but it will always be a rarity. The likes of Borussia Dortmund and Montpellier cannot regularly manufacture winning squads from modest means.

Just as soon as they shine bright, these upstarts fade. They are soon beaten by those who can and will outspend them. Settling for rare moments in the limelight is something team-builders like Wenger have to ultimately accept, and so do the fans of the clubs they run.

Keeping Wenger in charge maintains an identity not all Arsenal fans have come to like. Nevertheless it is a distinctive way of doing things that sets Arsenal apart at the top levels of the modern game.