Arsene Wenger is obsessed with freedom.
There are many commentators, fans and pundits who think that due to his background in economics, Mr Wenger is obsessed with money and how to run a fiscally responsible football team. I believe that the fiscal responsibility is simply an accidental output of Wenger’s love of freedom.
When Wenger arrived in England in 1996, he discovered a tyranny of oppression covering most of the football landscape. For example, he found a culture of heavy drinking (Tony Adams) and poor eating habits that kept a large number of the Arsenal players from being able to become the best that they could be. first project was to free these players from the shackles of physical captivity by encouraging proper eating habits, new training drills and eliminating the heavy boozing culture.
Wenger’s commitment to freedom continued as he changed some of the team members and, most significantly, Arsenal’s playing style. The “1 nil to the Arsenal” which was made famous under former manager George Graham was based on a defence-first system that resulted in an extremely dour football style for their fans. Mr Wenger decided to emancipate the Gunners from the tyranny of this type of hoof-and-hope football and guided his players towards a passing-based and free-flowing game.
Another notable blow in Wenger’s freedom struggle was the battle for a season free of defeat. During the 2002-03 season, Arsenal overhauled Nottingham Forest’s record of 22 away league matches without defeat and then surpassed Manchester United’s Premier League total of 29 matches unbeaten. This led to Wenger suggesting that “it was not impossible to go the entire season undefeated”. Wenger’s prediction was a season too early, but Arsenal went on to win the 2003-04 season without a single defeat.
Wenger continued his single-handed battle for freedom and his next objective was to field a team free of any British players. Wenger had established a reputation as one of the first managers to scout for talent outside of the UK and he brought a host of foreign players to the club including future legends like Dennis Berkgamp, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires amongst others. In a league match against Crystal Palace on 14 February 2005, Wenger fielded a squad of 16 players that did not feature a single British player and achieved another victory in his personal battle.
The biggest success in his freedom fight to date, however, has been the quest for trophy-free seasons. Having won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups, Wenger decided to set his sights even higher and try to take on a new challenge – that of maintaining a trophy-free cabinet. Arsene Wenger can proudly say that Arsenal has been trophy-free since 2005, although he almost had a heart attack in the 2010-11 season as his team almost conspired to win the Football League Cup until his trusty lieutenants, goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny and defender Laurent Koscielny, came to his aid and ensured Birmingham City won the trophy instead.
Arsene Wenger’s adventures in freedom continue to this day as he continues to go where no other football manager has gone before. His latest quest for freedom involves ensuring that no big money signings are made by Arsenal ever again – he makes sure that the press continue to link his club with highly rated players (Higuain, Suarez) and claims that “the club has money to spend”. Ultimately though, Arsenal may sign one or two precociously talented young players, groom them into superstars and then sell them at a huge profit.
Arsene Wenger believes that “it’s better to die fighting for freedom than to live life in chains”. Viva!