Football has gone through spells of nostalgia and worship which have resulted in adored players or managers being honoured as statues or with stands, that bare their names. Arsenal are no strangers to the commissioning statues, with Adams, Henry and Bergkamp all gracing the concourse of the Emirates stadium in their various iconic poses and now, it appears Arsene Wenger is the latest recipient to receive his reward for his glittering Arsenal career.
Yes, it’s about his achievements over 22 years but more importantly, it serves as a reminder of how his arrival in 1996 changed the face of English football forever. Forget the training methods and diets, forget the supplements and data, Arsene Wenger delivered fantasy football to England and to a club that were steeped in history but lacking international pedigree.
Arsene Wenger brought style and pizazz and embraced a type of football that at its finest, made fans fall in love with the sport all over again. Fast-paced, slick attacking football that was reminiscent of Brazil’s finest teams, yes, it was that good.
Wenger wanted athletes who were intelligent footballers, blessed with skill, poise, and finesse. It was all about freedom of expression, movement, and goals.
When Tony Adams said that Wenger wasn’t a coach, he offended a great many fans but Adams overlooked the fact that Wenger did much more, he instilled a philosophy in his players or found it in them to play football in a way that showcased everything good about the game.
He sought purity and excellence. He demanded that every available player gave their very best in every single game. He achieved that, no doubt about it and during the ’90s, fans including myself, saw the best football in an Arsenal shirt in living memory.
If this statue reflects anything, it’s Wenger’s ideals and the unending search for perfection. The perfect performance, the perfect season, the perfect goal, a search which he continued every season.
He gave us star performers, many of them now considered to be Arsenal legends and that left a lasting impression with the fans. The Frenchman created ‘Wengerball’, which gave the club its unique image and identity on a global stage. Arsenal played attacking, stylish football that everyone wanted to see and would willingly pay to do so.
Apart from celebrating the man and the achievements, the statue also represents the club and an unparalleled period of success in its history. It’s a reminder of what the club was, is and wants to be again.
Arsene Wenger will be associated with Arsenal as much as Arsenal are associated with Wenger. They formed a partnership by sharing a vision and challenged every club in the country to deliver a different level of football.
A stand, a stadium, and a statue are all worthy tributes to his philosophy and his style of play. He deserves no less.