Arsene Wenger has probably been at Arsenal longer than you’ve been alive. He rocked up at Highbury way back in 1996, a lanky bespectacled Frenchman who nobody in England had even heard of (although to be fair, nobody in England had heard of zonal marking or pasta then, either, so it probably said more about his host country than his own managerial credentials).
The overwhelming sorrow of a badly cooked roast potato
— VeryBritishProblems (@SoVeryBritish) November 13, 2016
The first ten years or so were pretty spectacular – and certainly the best Gunners fans, who had grown accustomed to football of the type Sam Allardyce would be proud of in the years that preceded his arrival, had ever seen.
They won the Double in 1998 – his second season at the club – and then again in 2002. He signed players like Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires on the cheap, and then nurtured them into the some world’s best in their positions. He even made Ray Parlour look like a competent footballer once or twice.
For a long while Wenger’s Arsenal were the only team in England who could legitimately stand toe-to-toe with Fergie and United, look them in the eye and say: fuck off, you’re not winning it all this year. They even experienced a bit of joy on the continent, coming up just short in the Champions League final in 2006 against Barcelona.
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) November 23, 2016
Then something strange happened: Wenger stopped winning. He still had a knack for developing young players, but most of them deserted him in search of money and silverware before he could see the fruits of his labour. The Gunners went a decade without lifting a trophy between 2004 and 2014, and even now, despite looking every season like they will mount a title challenge, seem to fall at the final hurdle year after year.
Arsenal fans are divided over the news that Wenger could be in line for a new two-year deal – although you could be forgiven for thinking it doesn’t really take much to send Gunners fans into a mad frenzy if you watch ArsenalFanTV.
You can understand why there are dissenting voices. The fact is lack of spending power is no longer an excuse for Arsene’s failure to land – or even challenge for – the major prizes. He’s been given the funds to bring in superstar players like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in recent years, and he surely has the backbone of a title-winning side – especially when you look at the jobs Klopp and Conte are doing at Liverpool and Chelsea respectively.
Is his new contract good news, or bad? Good if you like seeing Arsenal fans having a collective meltdown – but bad if you happen to be one of those Arsenal fans.