The clamour for Wenger’s resignation grew louder as the 2017/18 season ran out of steam and Arsenal lurched from one bad result to another. There were stories floating around that training methods of Wenger hadn’t changed and had become stale, that players were assuming control and that dissatisfaction in the dressing room was growing.
Wenger never appeared to doubt himself but secretly he was now powerless to prevent the next sequence of events. The board held an urgent meeting after Gazidis and Invisible Stan Kroenke, held phone talks on Arsenal’s next move.
Patrick Vieira makes his Arsenal debut,replacing Ray Parlour after 28 mins as the Gunners ease to a 4-1 victory. pic.twitter.com/6xccTGs4NP
— Bernie Briffa (@goonerbeau) September 16, 2019
It was decided that Wenger must leave, with Kroenke extremely keen to offload all responsibility for the on field mishaps. Wenger was told at a brief session with the board that he would have to go but that his contract would be respected in financial terms and that they would wrap it up in a “by mutual agreement” statement, preserving what little self respect he had left.
Gazidis had managed to oust the Frenchman, with a view to assume control but was unaware that he too was surplus to requirements. The friction between the pair had become unbearable and although Wenger maintained a dignified silence he had no time for a man who knew little about football and seemed to care for it even less.
Wenger’s inflexible stance had made it impossible to keep him in post and the board that once seemed to hang on his every word and let him have free reign within the club, unceremoniously pulled the rug out from under him.
Few were surprised regarding the outcome but the timing of it was curious with the season incomplete, yet the truth was that Wenger had dug his own grave by refusing to change and relinquish control. He had pandered to certain players causing a massive rift and was beginning to be more caretaker, minder and social worker than manager.
Had Arsenal had the balls, they could have reshaped the club around him by ensuring that the burden of running of 90% of club matters was taken from him. Had Raul Sanllehi been onboard earlier, Wenger may have survived.
Sanllehi was an out and out football man, unlike Gazidis, and someone that could have eased the pressure by assisting the Frenchman in the way David Dein had some years earlier. There was another even more crucial appointment that would have been beneficial, Sven Mislintat.
Both the appointments of Sanllehi and Mislintat arrived at Arsenal too late to save Wenger but rewind the clock to 2015 and he may have stood a chance.
Arsene Wenger is set to be named FIFA’s technical director. He will have a broad remit within football’s governing body, suggesting improvements to coaching standards and offering advice on ‘on other areas that directly influence how the game is played’. [New York Times] #afc pic.twitter.com/g91RHoLRsL
— DailyAFC™ (@DailyAFC) September 11, 2019
Gazidis himself was ignorant to what was required and lacked the respect to enforce change of any relevance, in fact, apart from Kroenke himself, Gazidis was equally loathed by Arsenal fans and his departure was far more satisfying.
If only, is a term that frequently comes to mind and the Arsenal board are guilty of a lack of clarity and strength. Wenger should have been made to relinquish some power, not least the first nod on recruitment. His focus should have been on performance. Wenger over complicated his life because he was allowed too many fingers in too many pies, from the academy to the first team.
So if it were possible to rewind the clock to 2015. Arsenal with hindsight, should have initiated a bold plan to restructure and relieve the pressure. In 2015, Wenger was still in a position of strength, still blessed with the genuine faith and belief of the Arsenal hierarchy.
The Fans discontent was beginning to increase and the anti Wenger rumblings were not just whispers, once loyal fans were starting to question if Wenger was the right man.
Even though Ivan Gazidis was a constant thorn in his side, the Frenchman was able to continue as he saw fit and in his darkest hour, it was the acquisitions of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez that kept his head above the water.
A forward thinking Arsenal back then could have shown their ambition by appointing a certain Sven Mislintat, who’s reputation was heading in the opposite direction to Wenger’s own.
Remember when Wenger questioned the refereeing level in England & the FA responded by handing him a touchline ban?
Within 2 years, no English officials went to the World Cup, VAR was implemented & Arsène is now about to take up a role at FIFA which looks at rule changes. Unreal.
— Patrick Timmons (@PatrickTimmons1) September 13, 2019
The ‘Lone Wolf’ or ‘Diamond eye’ as he is often referred to had built up a complex, global scouting network, which even today, is said to be the best in the world.
Wenger didn’t know it but he needed someone like Mislintat as the foundations he built began to crumble beneath his feet.
Had Arsenal football club acted earlier, been more insistent and shown far more courage by installing Sven Mislintat, perhaps things may have been very different.
In the modern game, clubs are investing heavily to find new talent, Mislintat had the experience and know how to find him exactly what he needed. If proof were needed, look at the signings prior to the Germans departure. Bernd Leno, Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi for the equivalent of loose change by today’s standards.
Guendouzi costing a paltry £7million is now worth between £31m/40m which is staggering. Compare that to Mo Elneny who arrived in 2015/16 for around £11m and is now worth £7m and you can see how wayward Wenger’s latter purchases were.
Wenger wasn’t exactly someone who liked to relinquish power and there may have been problems but Mislintat and Wenger could have developed an understanding that would have accommodated the other, although differences of opinion would have been inevitable.
The fact that Mislintat is so highly regarded in football, has led to the German preserving his reputation at all costs. He is less likely to work under instruction and more likely to work to his own secretive brief until contracts are exchanged, which Wenger would have found as frustrating as Arsenal did.
However, the benefits of his talent spotting and value added by his acquisitions is undeniable. His top signings include Mats Hummels, Robert Lewandowski, Ilkay Gundogan, Ousmane Dembele, Raphael Guerreiro and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, millions and millions of pounds worth of world class talent which is reminiscent of Wenger’s initial revolution from 1996.
Replacing Wenger was going to be no easy feat but we’ve seen no real improvement under Emery. The players don’t seem organised, the tactics are reactive and the football is bland. Patience is wearing very thin.
— Not a football account (@1886_blog) September 15, 2019
Regardless of this idea, Wenger had probably gone as far as he could with the gunners but perhaps, if this scenario had played out, he may have added to his trophy collection of three Premier Leagues, seven FA cups and seven Community Shields.