Football

Should Arsene Wenger be praised for top four consistency?

Wenger has led Arsenal to 16 top four finishes. (©GettyImages)
Wenger has led Arsenal to 16 top four finishes. (©GettyImages).

When Sir Alex Ferguson decided to retire Arsene Wenger became the longest serving manager in England. 

In fact since he joined Arsenal a staggering 838 managers have been employed at other English league clubs. This face is a testament to the man fondly called "Le Professeur", his commitment and vision, and his club's faith in him, underlined by the fans proclamation "In Arsene we trust." 

In the 2012/13 season this faith was severely tested - it started off with another Arsenal captain jumping ship, and hit its crest in the humiliating defeats to League Two side Bradford in the Capital One Cup and the more demoralising defeat at home to championship side Blackburn in the FA Cup. 

But Wenger's team turned it around in an eventually futile but admirable win at the Alianz Arena. 

That win sparked a run that culminated in the 1-0 win at St. James' Park with the Gunners qualifying for the 16th straight season to the UEFA Champions' League under Wenger, and at the expense of their red-faced neighbours at White Hart Lane. This was the best season for Spurs and a mediocre one for the Gunners, and that the former have fallen short yet again shows the gulf between the two.

What is it about Arsenal that they always find a way into the top four? To do it season after season, with different personnel under his command, and different challenges from other clubs counts as one of the Frenchman's significant achievement. 

It is based on a keen awareness of the things to be done, identifying the personnel needed to get the job done, in spite of frequent injuries, and instilling a sense of belief in his team to get the job done. 

Last season the key players were the skipper Robin van Persie in attack, Alex Song in midfield and Thomas Vermaelen spearheading the defence. Two of these three were sold before the start of the 2012/13 season, and the man handed the captain’s armband was overwhelmed by it, and had to be benched. 

Arsene Wenger found new heroes, and in true "Cometh the hour, cometh the man" fashion, up stepped Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker in defence, Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey in midfield, and Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla in attack, supported adequately in their first seasons by Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud .

While other teams falter under pressure when in sight of a top four finish, Arsenal drive on with a single-minded focus to reach the goal. It is no mere coincidence that in each of the past two seasons their best phase of the season has been from March when the battle for the final places reaches its climax. 

Can the longest serving manager in England use the same drive and focus in taking the club to a long due trophy next season? The signs are very promising.


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Topics:
Football
Premier League
Arsenal

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