Over the years, Arsene Wenger has achieved many great things at Arsenal Football Club. That can never be taken away from him. He loved the glory. He enjoyed being last up and lifting the trophy after the captain. A ‘Look at me… Look what I’ve won’ guy.
Now the heat is on, he doesn’t want anyone to look at him and his supporters are defending him left, right and centre based on his achievements from over ten years ago.
In fairness, Wenger has a very good win percentage record and a better one than Ferguson for his first 1,000 games. What is never mentioned is that Ferguson inherited an awful lower table Manchester United and Wenger inherited an Arsenal side that had just finished joint 4th in the Premier League with many foundations set in place.
I have tried to give a balanced look at it. There is no point me comparing Wenger’s record against Gary Megson or Roberto Martinez – games we should be expected to win but ones we have managed to throw in the odd wobble against!
Wenger is often criticised for getting it tactically wrong on the big occasion. In Premier League games that matter – games against sides in the top half of the table.
In his first season, Wenger had problems in the big games. One win against sides in the top five – away at Newcastle – And, of course, he went out of the FA Cup at home to lowly Leeds United… managed by George Graham.
He didn’t win a game at Anfield until December 2001 even though Liverpool had become a kind of joke team of the late nineties with their ‘Spice Boys’ image.
When Arsene Wenger first came to The Arsenal he was 45 years old. An unknown manager with one French title, a French Cup, a couple of Japanese trophies, two sackings (one stated as mutual but it was a go or be sacked situation) and a relegation on his CV.
It should be noted that once he’d won the League at Monaco, he finished in the top three on three occasions before they plummeted to 17th and he was sacked. They, like Arsenal, got into the top three/four comfort zone. Wenger shunned the sacking by blaming bribery and corruption of one club – despite the fact fifteen other clubs were ahead of him in the table.
So is it a case of history repeating?
Is there a case that teams catch up with Wenger’s style and tactics and then work out how they can beat his sides?
I think people forget Wenger was a young manager when he came to The Arsenal. To put his age into comparison; Zidane is 43, Pep and Simeone are both 45. Is Wenger a good manager or was he a good manager at his time in his age group?
As I have said, Wenger has a good record against some managers including Pellegrini and Ranieri and had the two wins against the latter been reversed in 2003/4, Chelsea would have won the title. We may have been Invincible but Ranieri’s Chelsea were closer to us than we’ve got to the Champions in eight of the past ten season.
It should also be noted that Ranieri only had one season with Abramovic’s money. He took over at Chelsea in 2000 and got them back into the Champions League. I have included him in the stats to keep it fair against sides who regularly finish in the top 10, although I’m sure most of us thought Leicester would be struggling rather than winning the League!
What I have looked at is not to degrade Wenger’s record but to compare his record against the ‘Old Breed’ – for example; Sir Alex Ferguson, Pellegrini, Ranieri, Redknapp, Hiddink, van Gaal – to that of the newer breed – Pochettino, Klopp, Koeman, Bilic and the mid-age range managers such as Mourinho and Mancini. I haven’t put in Garry Monk either!
Has the new breed caught up with Wenger’s tactics and is there a pattern?
I have used Premier League games ONLY. The reason is simple.
- Pellegrini has lost to Wenger in the Champions League but has beaten him in the League Cup
- Ranieri has beaten Wenger in the Champions League
- Sir Alex Ferguson has beaten Wenger twice in the Champions League
- Sir Alex Ferguson has also beaten Wenger in numerous FA Cup ties
- Van Gaal has lost to Wenger in the FA Cup but beaten him in the Champions League
- Koeman has beaten Wenger in the League Cup
I will also point out that Wenger has beaten Klopp in the Champions League but to give him these couple of victories, I would need to include the above into the stats and it works out less favourable – trust me!
One manager not on the list but highlights Wenger’s poor away record against certain managers is Mark Hughes. In truth, Wenger’s record looks impressive – Eleven wins from eighteen games. Look closer and he hasn’t won an away game against Mark Hughes since Blackburn at 2-0 win in 2006/7. A record that includes defeats to a pre-mega bucks Manchester City, QPR and Stoke (twice) and draws at Fulham and Stoke.
There are those that will say “…But how many have finished above us…”. Whilst this can be considered, why not ask a slightly different question. “What if Wenger had a better record against these managers in a big game and had won against them more often? How many more times would he have won a title for The Arsenal or at least had a challenge until the final couple of games?”
The above table seems to have a common theme.
Wenger seems able to work and get results against managers in their 60s – around his age range.
One thing to note is that eight of his wins against Redknapp came with Harry at a struggling West Ham between 1996 and 2001. Take those out of the equation and even that record looks less impressive with six wins achieved in nineteen games and two of those were against Queen’s Park Rangers.
Sir Alex Ferguson bucks the age trend – but this is his current age – not when he managed against Wenger aged 54 to 71. His age range is on a par with Wenger’s and of the ten wins only three were achieved at Old Trafford.
The older Wenger has become, the better Ferguson and Redknapp’s records became. Neither of them lost to the Invincibles. Wenger only won two of eight North London Derbies against Redknapp and lost three including the collapse from 2-0 up.
Mourihno is in the list at age 53 but remember when he first came onto the Premier League scene he was actually 40. He faced – and didn’t lose to – Wenger 10 times in this first period at Chelsea.
The remarkable thing is against managers aged under 55 at clubs you now expect to see around the top eight: Liverpool, Manchester City, Southampton, Tottenham, West Ham have all got a decent record against Wenger.
With Manchester City ditching their ageing manager for a younger model in the summer and Chelsea turning their attentions to a 46-year old, are Arsenal about to stand still and get caught up.
True, it doesn’t work for everyone Andre Villas-Boas has a record of one win and two defeats against Wenger but there are lots of one off coaches that fail for one reason or another.
If Mourinho does end up at Manchester United next season, Wenger and Ranieri could both find themselves steamrollered by this new wave of young managers.
The stats of Wenger’s achievements against them are not good. Records that get missed or hidden – not scored against Southampton in the last three games.
His win percentage in the Premier League is around 52%. Very good – you can’t fault that. Champions, however, tend to have a win percentage of above 60% indeed the Invincibles had a win rate of over 70%. This is how far he has fallen from grace.
His away record is shabby to say the least. Struggles highlighted earlier against Mark Hughes can go the same for Tony Pulis and indeed many of the managers listed. Home form keeps his win percentage high but it is your away form that is critical if you need to mount a serious title challenge.
Of the managers listed, Wenger has only beaten Ranieri, Redknapp, Pelegrini, Ferguson and Mancini on their own patch in the Premier League. Two have retired, one is managing abroad, one doesn’t currently have a job next season and the other has the freedom of Leicester and has managed to finish ahead of Wenger.
Wenger has not recorded an away Premier League win against van Gaal, Koeman, Pochettino, Hiddink, Mourihno, Klopp or Bilic albeit the latter two have only managed one season in the Premier League.
If Wenger stays on, which I’m sure he will, he will need to break this run if The Arsenal are to have any chance of a top four finish let alone a championship challenge.
One thing for sure is that the Wenger debate will continue and run on until he believes he cannot do the job or Stan decides that this is not the club he originally was introduced to in 2007 when he bought shares from Granada TV.
Add in another season and this could mean that he has to hand over a club to a new manager with no European football and an ageing squad which will by then include Cech, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Cazorla, Giroud (all over 30) and Ozil, Sanchez and Walcott (within a couple of years of 30) – this is a man who wanted us to believe in his youth development.
As teams opt for younger managers with fresh ideas and impetuous, The Arsenal could be getting left behind. Clubs will spend big this season with the new TV deal with their fresh, young, hungry managers at the forefront of any battle and if he does walk in 2017/18 a new fresh, young, hungry Arsenal manager may only have the scraps none of the big boys wanted first time around.
It could damage this club, OUR CLUB, for seasons to come.