I am not an Arsenal supporter. Let me just get that out of the way. So I do not have any rooting interest in whether Arsene Wenger stays on as Arsenal’s manager or not. This is not another article debating if Wenger should be brought back next season. Moreover, this is an article about how our society perceives results in today’s sports. With all of the hype surrounding Wenger’s employment status, I have noticed a common pattern emerging or in other words, a “what have you done for me lately?” attitude. I find it interesting that the media and fans are so quick to dismiss Wenger’s previous accomplishment. This occurs not only in football, but with many of the North American sports also. We have become a reactionary culture in society.
Over the last decade, it is common to hear from fans or media proclaiming that a manager should be fired or a player should retire. One reason for this could be due in part because of the Internet age, blogging, and tweeting. Information is allowed to reach people so much quicker without any type of filter. Another reason is that as fans, we have become much more invested emotionally as well as financially with all of our sports franchises. In other words, fans are forced to fork over so much money for things like tickets and memorabilia that we expect so much more in return. Not only should our teams win, but they should be creative and dominate as well. When our teams fail to reach our lofty expectations, as fans, we want an emotional refund in some way.
This happens not only with managers and teams, but with players as well. In most sports, fans are now allowed to follow players, thanks to the Internet, from a young age. Because of this, fans create expectations that are so often unreachable that there is usually scorn when a player simply becomes good instead of great. I have witnessed a player’s jersey being burned by a bitter fan. This is also the case when a player comes to the end of his career. Fans are quick to announce when a player is supposed to retire. I remember when Michael Jordan came back to basketball to play for the Washington Wizards. Many fans and media commented that he should stay retired because his return would surely ruin his legacy. My thoughts then and now are the same: If a fan’s first memories of someone like Michael Jordan are of him playing with the Wizards, then that is a “you” problem. To bring this back to Arsenal, many people are concerned that with the results that the Gunners have produced the last few years, Wenger’s reputation will be diminished in some regard. But even if Wenger’s side wouldn’t win another trophy under his stewardship, what would his legacy be? Would it be tarnished even with all that Wenger’s teams have accomplished in the past?
Most Gunners supporters would agree that this season has not ended or lived up to their expectations. They have dropped points to teams where most would expect Arsenal to pick up points. They have also faded against the top tier teams like Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City. Even with that said, Arsenal will finish in the top four in the Premier League and qualify for the Champions League again next season. Many Arsenal supporters look at this as a lost or failed season because there is no hardware at the end of it. In many supporter’s minds it has become an expectation that Arsenal should win some sort of trophy every season. But I think that mid-table teams like Sunderland and Fulham would rejoice with the results that Arsenal have produced in recent seasons. That is not the case, however, because Wenger’s previous success is now a burden on his future. Anything less than what his side did earlier in the decade will be considered a failure in most people’s eyes.
Will Wenger stay on as Arsenal’s manager next season? That is the million dollar question for most fans. To become a successful athlete or manager, a person needs the right mix of ego and stubbornness. I am sure Wenger encompasses both of those qualities. But what will determine Wenger’s future is if he is able to adjust and alter his football philosophy to take Arsenal back to level that he is accustomed to. If Wenger is unable to fine-tune his tactics, will supporters begin to alter their expectations? Gunners supporters are hoping that their expectations remain great no matter who is in charge of the club.