After a well-deserved break, it looks like Arsène Wenger is set for a sensational return to football. The Frenchman left Arsenal in May 2018 after 22 years at the helm which saw him win three Premier League titles, seven FA Cups and come desperately close to winning finals in both of the major European competitions.
Thousands of fans tweeted their thanks and endorsements when he left … even though many of those same ‘fans’ were the ones who piled the pressure on at the tail end of his reign via the ‘Wenger Out’ campaign, thereby bringing about his departure.
Football is a fickle game, eh?
However, it looks like the 69-year-old is ready to move on after recent reports suggested he is considering four offers to come back to the beautiful game. Given how his tenure at Arsenal came to an end, Big Weng would have been forgiven if he had decided to just ride off into the sunset with memories of better times, but seemingly he is eager to get back to the daily grind of management.
And we reckon Le Professeur still has some valuable life lessons to impart on whatever lucky outfit ends up acquiring his services — here are five things we expect Wenger to bring to his next role.
1. A keen eye for the latest tactical trend
When “Arsène who?” was confirmed as Arsenal manager in 1996, he travelled to Germany to watch the Gunners face Borussia Monchengladback in the second-leg of a UEFA Cup tie – nine days before he was officially due to start in his new role. However, he immediately found himself answering: “Arsène, why?” when he attempted to tactically instruct caretaker boss Pat Rice at half-time when the score was 1-1.
Despite offering seemingly sound advice, Arsenal ended up losing 3-2 and were eliminated from the competition. Solid start, Arsène.
His interference immediately p*ssed off club captain Tony Adams and put the two on a collision course. The fact Wenger then nuked the drinking culture at the club and changed his players’ dietary requirements probably didn’t help ingratiate him to his new squad either.
But these little changes proved to be part of a greater revolutionising of the game in England and led to Arsenal winning three Premier League titles and four FA Cups in nine seasons while playing an exciting brand of fast-paced, attacking football.
What followed was a transition to a Spanish-styled form of possession football, initially built around the talents of an emerging Cesc Fàbregas, which yielded plenty of plaudits but fewer trophies. Arsenal would win just a further three FA Cups between 2006 and 2018. While there was a fair bit of penny-pinching involved due to the construction of the Emirates Stadium, there was also a sense that the rest of football had evolved with Wenger, and beyond him, since 1996.
That said, there were hints during Wenger’s last season in charge that he had finally cottoned on to the next step in the game’s tactical evolution, so we reckon he brings an exciting brand of high-pressing direct football to his next destination.
2. Good with money
He may have become a bit reckless towards the end of his reign — Aubameyang at £56 million in the January 2018 transfer window ended up being an early and rather lavish going away present — but Wenger was always renowned for being prudent when it came to Arsenal’s finances. This, of course, was most relevant during the club’s transitional period from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium where money was tight but the need to remain competitive, particularly in the race for those coveted Champions League spots, was paramount.
We’re in an age in the sport where revenue and spending has never been higher thanks to ludicrously lucrative television deals, so having somebody a bit sensible around is always a benefit. Wenger never demonstrated this pragmatism better than the time he bid £40,000,001 for Liverpool frontman Luis Suarez in 2013.
The £1 may have seemed cheeky, but we believe the Frenchman when he tells us the additional quid was entirely necessary to activate a clause in the striker’s contract which transpired didn’t actually exist. No point spending more than you have to which is why we always recommend shopping around for the best deal…lest you end up with Mesut Ozil.
3. 19/20 vision
Throughout his career, Wenger rarely missed a trick. As well as using those beady eyes to seek out and quash cultural deficiencies like binge-drinking and out-dated tactics, Wenger would scour Europe and lure young, unappreciated talents to the Arsenal Academy, of which Fàbregas is perhaps the most famous graduate.
Wenger’s impeccable eyesight was a source of contention for some given the amount of young players he was able to attract, and this even led to an incredibly jealous Karl-Heinz Rummenigge – chairman of Bayern Munich – likening this approach to “child trafficking” in 2009.
Yet it was José Mourinho, then at Chelsea, who recognised just how far-reaching Wenger’s gaze was, even going so far as to refer to the Frenchman as a “voyeur” on one occasion. We reckon, though, that this was also just a spot of jealousy from the man who once dubbed Wenger “a specialist in failure.”
A little bit of Wenger’s doubtless vision and Mourinho may very well still be in a job instead of watching a man who failed at Cardiff City replace him at Manchester United and embark on an 11-game unbeaten run. Besides, it’s not like Wenger ever did a Marco Bielsa and sent a secret agent to spy on his opposition – not that there’s anything wrong with that anyway. Wenger sees everything through his own eyes and nobody else’s.
If one of Wenger’s players does something dodgy during a game, though, don’t expect him to answer with anything other than: “I didn’t see it”. He’s only protecting his players, you see, which is another commendable characteristic that he’ll bring to his next role.
4. A newfound love for the role of ‘Director of Football’
Given that one of the roles Wenger has been linked with is a Director of Football gig at French big-spenders Paris Saint-Germain, it only stands to reason that Wenger is now also massively fond of working with Directors of Football, making him suitable for any and all positions which may come up given the widespread popularity of the position these days.
While he may have previously outlined his inability to comprehend what it is a Director of Football actually does, should Wenger end up in the role at PSG we’re confident that he’s smart enough and experienced enough to figure it out as he goes — after a managerial career spanning 34 years, we can at least assume that he possesses the ability to direct players either left or right, if and when required.
5. Unwavering loyalty to the bitter end
Lastly, like all great warriors, Big Weng has never known when to quit. He was at Arsenal for 22 years, but if the ruthless Gunners fans had their way, he’d have been out the door well before May. They didn’t respect the fact that Wenger, as a man of integrity, has a genuine passion for seeing out his contract. It doesn’t matter that he left Arsenal when he had a year left to run on his last deal, that wasn’t his decision and was the fault of the damn ‘Wenger Out’ brigade.
In order to honour his Arsenal contract in previous years, the man turned down the likes of PSG and Real Madrid when he was at the absolute zenith of his career (and we’re not talking about the time he went to to Russia to sign Arse-shavin’ either). These aren’t teams an ordinary being turns away when they come knocking.
His refusal to call time on his Arsenal career sooner might have been stubbornness. Others might have called it ego and an unwillingness to relinquish control. Others still might say, “Had the stupid b*llocks left years ago, we could have had [insert long list of top class managers here].”
But we call it loyalty, which is a dying trait in the modern game.
You can bet Unai Emery’s non-existent transfer budget that wherever Wenger ends up next, he will bring with him his customary level of commitment – and he’ll redeem himself to the footballing world. #WengerIn