Arsene Wenger - The King Of Almostness

Arsene Wenger has managed to occupy a wonderful place where glorious failure is seen as enough. Other clubs sack their managers, but Wenger lives on...

Last Updated: 20/02/14 at 09:53 Post Comment

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It was another night of losing being dressed up in the clothes of a winner without them actually fitting. This is the way of things at Arsenal - never good enough to win things, never bad enough to entertain a radical change. They exist in a netherworld, a strange void of their own in English football. Other top clubs win things, but they don't. Other top clubs fail to win things and sack their manager, or in Manchester United's case, attempt to destroy their future on the back of a terrible appointment. Arsenal don't do that either. They just do the same thing over and over; promise much and deliver little.

They're stuck in a rut of almostness. Almost league champions. But not. Almost cup winners, but not. Almost competing with the best in Europe, but not.

Wenger's brilliance has not been to oversee this, it has been to oversee this while being able to convince enough people that this is actually really good; that this is a special sort of talent. His sides always play well enough on occasions and in interludes to give you enough hope to think that they're nearly there. The first 30 minutes against Bayern Munich being a classic example. They've been top of the league for long enough to allow him to point at the season as a success even though they won't win it. It is not any flavour of Moyes style awfullness but neither is it achieving success by any normal measure of, y'know, winning something.

The manager's great victory has been to establish as a truth the notion that what some call failure is actually a manifestation of success and that winning trophies is not the primary goal but rather a secondary aim, subservient to not over-spending and playing good football. There are plenty of dissenters to this view who see through the fa├žade but not enough for them to ever oust Wenger from his imperious position.

What he forgets or chooses to ignore is that Premier League football is not a normal world where sense and prudence are worth anything. Its a crazy world of crazy money. Making profits and not blowing your wad every year is a worthless achievement. No-one benefits from it except perhaps the very highly-paid Wenger. Yet the way he talks you'd think he was running an old people's home that didn't want to over-stretch itself in case they go bust and the pensioners ended up with nowhere to live. Arsenal is a massive asset and could be an even bigger asset if they had, over the years, properly invested in the strength and depth of playing resources so that the inevitable injuries didn't wreck their season every year. You simply will never compete successfully against your rivals unless you do.

Wenger has instilled a belief that those who simply see football as a sport where the winners are those who actually win things, as crude and stupid. He's of the view that they're winners for endlessly qualifying for the Champions League and playing some good football sometimes before bits fall off them and bits always do fall off them. Add in all the business about funding the new stadium and not having enough money to compete (however true) and it's easy to see the last eight years not as a collapse of a once successful club into mediocrity but rather a noble, successful struggle to compete against financial doping and the debasing of the beautiful game. Once in this mindset everything is a win. Failing is not failing, losing is not losing; its all actually winning.

So well done last night, Arsene. You win again.

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