It’s post-match interview time at The Emirates. And Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is upset. Yes, his team have lost out to a late Danny Welbeck goal. But the Frenchman is unhappy with the Arsenal fans.
Some sections of the home support booed when debutant Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who helped create Robin van Persie’s equaliser, was taken off.
“I’ve been a manager for 30 years and have made 50,000 substitutions. I don’t have to justify every one,” Wenger responded.
It’s a challenging time in Wenger’s management career. There is every chance that the Arsenal will finish outside the top four, and thus miss out on finance-critical Champions League qualification. An outcome that will galvanise that section of the Arsenal support who feel that Wenger’s time at the helm is up.
Whilst frustration is inevitable, as Arsenal fail to make an impact at the very top of the Premier League, it is surely the height of disrespect to openly boo Wenger. During his tenure, Arsenal have continued to play an exquisite brand of football, that has afforded them a clear and attractive identity.
Perhaps it’s not delivered the silverware that success dependent fans crave. But the journey has been a memorable one.
However one area that Wenger hasn’t developed is his Management Team. By his side throughout his tenure has sat Assistant Manager Pat Rice and media-shy coach Boro Primorac. Compare to say, Sir Alex Ferguson who has recruited a variety of assistants and head-coaches, from Brian Kidd to Steve McClaren, Archie Knox to Rene Meulensteen.
This change of personnel allows a flow of new ideas and influences. It keeps the players stimulated and on their mettle. And as a management and leadership strategy it prevents things getting too familiar or stale.
Perhaps Wenger values loyalty above all qualities. And thus won’t change those things that he is comfortable and settled with. But if he were to bring in a new Management Team, maybe it would help him take his own motivation to another level. And freshen up his thinking.
The very best leaders are never frightened of change. In face they usually embrace it openly and enthusiastically. For with change comes development and progression. Wenger brought a freshness of approach to Arsenal when he arrived from Japan. He prolonged ageing players careers with his dietary and training strategies, which showed him to be an imaginative thinker and innovator.
But that was then. His lead was taken up and copied by others. The question is has Wenger stayed one step ahead of the rest? Results would suggest otherwise. No leader can do it all by themselves. They are reliant on the quality of the team they have around them. And perhaps, it is here, that Wenger has fallen slightly short?