Wenger’s position at Arsenal has been over the years an object of respect, envy and curiosity. How does he get them playing so well so young? How can they keep winning even with a threadbare squad? How come he’s not out of a job yet?
More and more people are asking that last question in recent years as Arsenal haven’t won the league title in the last four seasons. In a culture where winners are glorified and everyone else is looked down on, and in a league where managers are fired on a regular basis for missing their targets by an inch, Wenger isn’t concerned.
“For me, when you’re in a big club, the important thing is that you are fighting for the title. Is finishing 12th and winning the League Cup a successful season for us? I don’t think so.
You see the real quality of a team after 38 games – in the League Cup, or the FA Cup, if you win five games you can be in the final. Does that tell you the real quality? No, because real quality only comes out in the championship.
If you don’t win the league, of course you are frustrated but the levels are very high – possibly the highest in the world – and two or three points is not a big gap. We finished with 83 points last season and everywhere else in Europe, that would have made us champions.”
The ‘champions everywhere else in Europe’ bit is irrelevant (you’re not playing anywhere else in Europe, you’re playing in England) but everything else makes perfect sense. If Arsenal had finished 4th and struggled to make it there, it would have been cause for concern. However, we saw the Gunners make a massive improvement at league level and despite the departures there’s a good chance that they will be in the hunt for the league title come Christmas.
Winning the League Cup (Tottenham) or winning the Champions League (Liverpool) is great but hardly a measure of quality for a team whose ambitions lie in league positions (Tottenham want to play in the Champions League, Liverpool want to win the Premier League). Ultimately, a manager is going to be judged by how they do in the league and whether they’re in a position to meet their goals or thereabouts every season or not.
Chelsea had a different issue – Grant was disposed of not because he ‘failed’ in the league but because the players never respected him the way they respect Mourinho and Scolari. However, the margin for error is still small at Chelsea and one of Scolari’s targets would be to win the league in the 2 years his contract runs for. If Chelsea are finishing 3rd in both seasons there’s a chance of Scolari being dismissed – even if giving the gaffer more time at the club is the foundation for building a successful team (ask Ferguson).
Tottenham and Liverpool? Both clubs with high ambitions but not ‘getting there.’ Spurs will need to give Ramos more time and Liverpool will need to give Rafa more money if both clubs are to realise their targets.
At the end of the day though, Wenger’s position remains the safest of all 4 – if only because Arsenal are content on taking the slow but steady approach to the top. It’s worked before, and it’s bound to work again. It’s only a matter of time – time which other managers rarely get in the Premier League.