Arsene Wenger managed his last game as Arsenal manager on the 13th May 2018, beating Huddersfield at the Kirklees Stadium to finish 6th in the Premier League. It’s fair to say that his time at Arsenal is a story of success and struggles, with his early time bringing trophies and plaudits but his later time bringing failure and critique from ex-players, fans and pundits alike. So what if Arsene Wenger had left ten years earlier, in 2008, and left his club of more than ten years for new horizions?
In 2008, Wenger had recently taken the club to a Champions League final, in 2006, and the club was still considered a real contender to win the Premier League and continental honours. Wenger found himself a wanted man, with rumours of a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid refusing to go away. So what if the Frenchman had stepped down a decade earlier and how would it affect the club he had led to numerous trophies?
As for Arsenal, at that time they were still a very attractive proposition for any manager, a squad with proven professionals and exuberant youngsters and a brand new Emirates Stadium. This could have been enough to attract the best managers available at the time but that stadium move was massively expensive, transfer spending took an obvious dive in the time immediately after moving into the new ground. This lack of money to spend might have been offputting to the elite managers around at the time.
So what about a look within? In the ranks of the club, there were a few names that spring to mind that could have taken the reigns. Dennis Bergkamp was a man well liked by fans at that time and would have been a huge risk for the club, but so was Arsene Wenger when he arrived from Japanese side Nagoya Grampus in 1996. Bergkamp spoke, and continues to speak, well about the game and could have been an appointment similar to that of Pep Guardiola at Barcelona that same summer.
As for Wenger, had he chosen to join a club side, given that the France job became available that summer, he could have ended up at a European rival like Real Madrid. Had he taken the reigns at the Santiago Bernabeu, he would have inherited a side with real issues and in need of new identity, a struggle that could have ultimately destroyed the Frenchman’s time in the helm.
Wenger would need to spend wisely, something he had done at Arsenal, but to deliver elite level results to sustain his position. There would also be the issue of a certain Pep Guardiola taking charge of fierce Madrid rivals Barcelona and revlutionising the game in Spain and further afield, a threat that consumed many in the Madrid hot seat.
So would Wenger and Arsenal be successful apart? Or were they better together? Let me know in the comments and in the forums!
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Featured Image Courtesy of Charlie Pumfrey