What has gotten into Arsene Wenger? One of the most innovative, forward-thinking, progressive, football managers out there – with the trophies and records to go with it.
And then it all seemed to stop. With vastly improved facilities, stadium and financial position, Le God seems to have desscended and is once again vulnerable to the vicious taunts of Jose Mourinho. But why? How?
Well, I have an idea that Wenger has found himself caught in limbo between what he wants more than anything and what he has to get while he is waiting to get what he wants. Does that make sense?
Here is the science: Only one English team has won the Champions League in the same season as winning the Premier League. Mancheser United have done it twice, once in 1999 and again in 2008. All the others have failed.
The Arsenal ‘unbeatables’, the Jose-Drogba dream team, Manchester City’s Mancini-Mercenaries - all were ultimately vanquished in their quest for the combined Grail of European club football.
The finest teams the English Premier League has produced have all floundered in Europe and yet the also-rans have achieved far greater success. Liverpool seemignly did not have a hope of beating AC Milan in Istanbul in 2005 but they won.
They had finished fifth in the Premier League that year, 37 points behind winners Chelsea. When Chelsea won the Champions League in 2011/12, they had finished sixth, 25 points behind Manchester City.
Yes, Manchester United have done it twice, but look at the detail of those wins. In 1998/99, barring the forced omission of Roy Keane, United put out what could be described as their best 11 since the Law/Best/Charlton era.
They scored the equaliser and eventual winner in the 91st and 93rd minute and in 2008/9, a John Terry penalty was the difference. My point? Those victories were a result of the difference that Sir Alex Ferguson can make and I tip my hat to him, because by all accounts it could have gone either way just as easily.
In a way, with 'Fergie' being the only manager to do the Premier League/Champions League double, it proves my point that in order to win the top-flight, you have to forego the Champions League and vice versa unless you are a Premier League all-time legend.
Our continental cousins do not seem to be afflicted with any such failings, as all too often their best teams smash everyone in their league and then win the Championss League at a canter – Barcelona, Jose-flavoured-Inter, the Real Galacticos, Barcelona again, AC Milan, Bayern and Hamburg.
Wenger wants to win the Champions League more than anything, as it is the entry level to the European manager Hall of Fame. So, he ends up developing a team for Europe that gets picked apart by the European giants, like crows on a cornfield each time something ripens – leaving him unable to make an impression on the ultimate prize while failing dismally in trying to do deliveries in a Ferrari in the Premier League.
Well, maybe, just maybe, a lesson can be learned from the European battles of old; that the effort required to achieve the core objective of securing the Premier League,leaves little in the tank to achieve all the targets in Europe and just may be that bridge too far.
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