Is Arsene Wenger Really a Great Manager?

If you were to ask a football fan “who are the two best managers in the English Premier League?” they will most likely answer Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. The two managers are currently the longest tenured managers in England, with a much storied history between the two of them.

In the mid 2000’s the Arsenal-Manchester United fixture became the most anticipated fixture on the Premier League calendar. The two sides faced each other in fierce battle after battle. Both teams hated each other, and there were often dirty tackles on the field, and confrontations off the field. To make it even better, these two clubs had combined to win every Premier League title between 1995 and 2005. It seemed that whenever one club was on the cusp of accomplishing greatness, they were stopped by the other club.

This rivalry between the two clubs was quickly turned into a rivalry between the two managers, as people quickly began calling them the two greatest managers in England. But perhaps people failed to see this for what it really was. Perhaps Wenger was just getting the better of Sir Alex Ferguson? Perhaps Arsene Wenger is not really as great of a manager as we all thought?

When Arsene Wenger took over Arsenal, Manchester United was the most dominant club in England. They had won every Premier League title except for one, in 1994, when they lost it to Blackburn on the final day of the season. There was no doubt to how great of a manager Sir Alex Ferguson was.

In his first full season at Arsenal, Wenger pulled off what seemed to be the impossible, winning the league with Arsenal. But Wenger wasn’t done there. In his first seven seasons with Arsenal, Wenger would win the Premier League two more times, including the incredible “unbeatables” in 2004 — when Arsenal did not lose a game all season. Wenger would also win the FA Cup four times, for a total of seven trophies. Over that same timeframe, United won the league four times, as well as the FA Cup for a total of six trophies. Suddenly there was a battle for who was the top team in England, with many of the signs pointing towards the club from North London especially after Arsenal defeated United in the 2005 FA Cup final.

But unfortunately for Arsenal, that 2005 FA Cup was the last time Arsene Wenger has won a trophy at the club. Since 2005 United have won the league four times, two League Cups, the Champions League, and the FIFA Club World Cup. In head-to-head matches, Wenger had defeated Ferguson 14 times in their first 27 matches. Since then, Sir Alex has gotten the better of Wenger’s men with United now winning 20 times, compared to Arsenal’s 16, in 45 head-to-head matches.

Wenger has come under fire recently as many fans are growing tired of the lack of trophies, as well as Wenger’s trust in his youth policy at Arsenal, a policy that is clearly not working. Wenger has been given plenty of leeway though, mostly because of his reputation and what he has done in the past.

However what Wenger did in the past has nothing to do with what he is doing now. When Wenger came to Arsenal he inherited a team with stars such as Dennis Bergkamp, Tony Adams, Nicolas Anelka, and Patrick Vieira. Over his first few years, Wenger developed world class players such as Thierry Henry, Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell and Jose Antonio Reyes. When these players reached their peak, they were sold to other clubs where they continued to succeed. Arsenal then pocketed the money and built a new stadium rather than investing the money back into their team.

While Wenger has continued to rebuild his team with young players, he has no results to show for it. Meanwhile in the same time period, Sir Alex Ferguson has managed to rebuild his team not once, but arguably twice. The first time as United won three straight Premier League titles. And the second coming this season after losing Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez two seasons ago.

What makes matters worse is that even though Wenger is no longer winning, he is still running his mouth and complaining about everything going on in the league. One of my good friends who is an Arsenal fan recently said to me, “I just wish that when Wenger spoke, he didn’t sound like an idiot. I mean every time he speaks to the media he just sounds like a moron.” There really isn’t a better way to say it.

This season, with Arsenal still very much in the thick of the title race, Wenger said it would be an accomplishment if Arsenal finished second (hey it turns out he was right about that, second place would have been much better then fourth). Later, after a home draw with Liverpool that saw Arsenal blow a lead that they had taken with less then a minute to play, Wenger criticized Liverpool for trying to defend the entire game. The irony of that was that just days earlier Arsenal had become the first team to fail to take even one shot in a Champions League match as Wenger tried to defend a 2-1 lead over Barcelona for the full 90 minutes. After a couple of third and fourth place finishes, Wenger complained that United and Chelsea had an advantage because they got to play all of their rivals at home during the second half of the season. This season, during the second half of the season Arsenal played home games again Chelsea, Liverpool, United, and Manchester City. Meanwhile United traveled to Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool. United won the title by nine points, and finished 12 points above Arsenal who finished fourth.

For Arsene Wenger, it is becoming very obvious that the team he inherited was far better then the team he has developed. Instead of focusing on football, Wenger seems to be focusing on talking to the media and coming up with one excuse after another for Arsenal’s shortcomings. You must give credit where credit is due though, Wenger has done a phenomenal job at using his inherited team, and his early battles with Manchester United, to convince the rest of us that he was, and still is one of the best managers in the Premier League. Unfortunately though, that is just not true.

14 thoughts on “Is Arsene Wenger Really a Great Manager?”

  1. This is a very poor article, the language is flat, I didn’t finish it coz I was appalled by factual errors in it. Wenger inherited Anelka? (check again). Antonio was a world class player? The cry babe was at arsenal briefly it missed home and it returned to Spain where it flopped at madrid.

  2. You were right only on one occasion about Wenger.He did inherit a good squad but who were finishing seventh , thirteenth and second for three seasons.He got the best out of Adams,Dixon and showed an attacking side to their game which they never got to show under previous managers.
    Only Bergkamp was probably the star he had at his disposal.Rest he had to develop the players to play his way.
    You also fail to mention that Wenger built a second team who went on to be the invinvibles. None of Grahams back four were involved in that team.It was all Wenger signings.
    Good on you for stating Wenger investing money in stadium while SAF went onto invest millions to develop squads.That’s the difference.You cannot compare SAF and Wenger accomplishments.
    Infact Wenger cannot be compared to anyother manager in the modern era.I would also point out a fact here.No team have managed to stay up in a league when they have their stadiums upgraded in three seasons.
    Wenger has constantly challenged for titles.

    1. “Good on you for stating Wenger investing money in stadium while SAF went onto invest millions to develop squads.That’s the difference.You cannot compare SAF and Wenger accomplishments.”
      You are forgetting that Sir Alex built United from scratch when he took over. And the money he spent, is the money earned by the club. The only reason United are in debt is because of the Glazers, not because of how the club is run. And about the stadium thing – Old Trafford wasn’t always a 76,000 seater(44,000 in the early 90s). It was expanded many times during Sir Alex’s rein and United still managed to be successful during that time.

  3. How does bias dross like this end up on major new feeds? You could say this is what happens when you let Arsenal super-haters near a keyboard, or when you let fans who can’t see the big picture into the pulpit. But honestly, there is no excuse for this. This is what you get when you give small minds a big stage.

    Seriously, is Wenger really a great manager?! You’re really asking that?! He has transformed the English game at least as much as Ferguson (he revolutionized the game with new fitness regimes, new diets, an emphasis on substance and style over quick and dirty wins). He has won 2 doubles, led a team through the season undefeated (with 90%+ players he brought into the club), gone to 2 European trophy finals (one of which he should have won, and the other against Barca the team went out with their heads held high), won additional league titles and cups, never finished outside the top 4, and made Arsenal the only large English club which runs on a profit (and no, I’m not counting those dodgy financial ‘smoke and mirrors’ tricks, because they are just that, tricks).

    Pauly, if getting attention was all you wanted then congratulations, you got some. But you’ve forfeited your credibility for it. I hope in the future you can do better. Your writing style is pretty good, and you raise a couple of decent points. But most of the substance here is seriously flawed. You need to check facts and try to leave your blatant bias at the door if you want to craft an article on this kind of contentious topic.

    1. Wenger is a really good manager, but is he currently one of the best? Past glories can only get you so far. He did win a lot of titles in the past, but he hasn’t won anything in 6 years – and most of the blame for that falls on his shoulders. There was a time, not too long ago when United were in decline – no league title for 3 years, no trophy in 2. How did Sir Alex respond to that? He rebuilt his team and won 3 straight league titles, 4 in 5 years, among other things. Rebuilding after the inevitable decline after a successful spell – Thats what Sir Alex has done time & again & thats why he’s one of the greatest managers ever & unless Wenger manages to do the same, he will never be considered one of the greatest.
      “Arsenal the only large English club which runs on a profit”
      The only reason United have a debt is because of the Glazers & not because of how the club is run.

  4. Look it’s bloody simple! SAF could never have got Arsenal to play football the way Arsenal plays under Wenger, with the same resources! SAF comes from the shipyards of Scotland ! Wenger, A university graduate at both engineering and economics who loved football more! Wenger is just more well-rounded and has more savvy than SAF. Chalk and cheese stuff!To call Wenger stupid is a joke! I fail to understand the unshakable British belief that one is more superior when British!

    1. “Look it’s bloody simple! SAF could never have got Arsenal to play football the way Arsenal plays under Wenger, with the same resources!”
      You seem to forget the condition of United when Sir Alex took over. He built that team from scratch.
      “SAF comes from the shipyards of Scotland ! Wenger, A university graduate at both engineering and economics who loved football more! ”
      What has that got to do with football & their abilities as the Manager of a football club?

  5. First of all, you took too long to introduce the rivalry instead of focusing on why Wenger isn’t a good manager.
    Secondly, I feel like the only reasons why you think he fails as a manager is because he hasn’t won anything recently (which is too easy to say ) and you and your fiend think he’s moronic for being bitter about losing which is just your own biased opinion.
    Others people in the comments have clearly proven that Wenger’s record speaks for himself. This idea of managers who inherit teams are only as good as the players they have is just misguided. A manager is still responsible for drilling teams, for the tactics to win games and to get their teams prepared for crucial matches. Wenger has proven that his teams over the years can compete with the best. Could he have done better in the transfer market? Yea maybe but that just shows how good he is in that he has a consistent top 4 team without having to buy so many players.
    This article just sounds like you don’t like Wenger or Arsenal and therefore, he is an inferior manager in your eyes.

  6. Twelve strait champions league appearances isn’t it?

    I’d guess that about anybody who isn’t a fan of the six or so very biggest teams on Earth would be more than happy to have their club take Wenger off of Arsenal’s hands.

    As a fan of the Bundesliga I drool at the very thought of the damage The Professor could do with Bayern, Schalke or Dortmund’s youth system behind him.

  7. This is a terrible article. I’m a United fan and have no love for anything to do with Arsenal so I actually hope the moronic masses get Wenger fired because he is the second best manager in the PL and the only one who worries us every year. This kind of nonsensical, knee-jerk mentality is why so many other teams go through manager after manager without success. All the while United keeps piling up the silverware and Arsenal remain in the hunt every year even though they spend a fraction of the money we do. I remember idiots like this in our camp starting to grumble about SAF being “past it” a few years back when we had gone a couple of seasons without winning the league. Always made me sick to my stomach when some supposed United “fan” wrote an article like this or posted a comment on a blog calling for Fergie to hang em up. I would give Fergie both of my kidneys and go on dialysis if he needed them, just to get him to stay on for another half a season and these traitors were ready to send him to the OAP home. Where are those idiots now? I haven’t read any “I was wrong about SAF being too old” articles or posts. True Arsenal fans should be just as disgusted by the sentiments expressed here. I hope someone remembers this post in a couple of years when its stupidity has been proven. At that time, this moron should be banned from writing anything more opinionated than a grocery list. As much as I hate to say it, Wenger is top class and anyone with an ounce of sense would know that if Arsenal lost him, it would be a disaster on the same level as this article.

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