From Sam Bicton: Who Is Arsene Wenger?
As a long-time reader of your site it’s been clear to me for many years that Arsenal revolves around the personality of its manager, clearly to a greater degree than any other club in England.
This is particularly ironic given that the man in question remains an enigma, even after 15 years in such a high-profile role.
The recent dearth of trophies has divided the fans, and it seems to me that the basis of the division is a difference in opinion as to who their manager really is.
Is he a man of principle, committed to a view of sport as a transcendental force in modern life?
Or is he a self-indulgent egotist in love with his own myth?
Is he loyal to a fault, to his club, to his players, to his backroom staff?
Or is he a cautious man wary of change who has created his own comfort zone inhabited by yes-men ?
Is he a workaholic monk who has sacrificed all personal happiness for the sake of Arsenal Football Club?
Or is he a worldly charmer who spends most of his free time in Paris, taking time out from commentating on French internationals to plot with his business cronies- and meet with strange women in airport lounges?
Does he love his club above everything? Or does he cynically manipulate the fans and the board by apeing their tribal language and playing on their credulity?
In short, can we believe the image of Wenger portrayed by the club, or does lack of success cause us to question it and look for an alternative?
This matters, Myles, because the modern Arsenal is inseparable from Wenger and inseperable from the conventional narrative advanced by both the club and the media of Wenger as an omniscient, otherworldly sage who ‘saved’ Arsenal from the clutches of English yobbery, mediocrity and barbarity.
If we start to doubt this mythic legend we may start looking for the reality behind it, the real Arsene Wenger if you like.
And I for one can’t find him.
I sense this is one reason for his difficulties at present. He is inscrutable, like the Delphic oracle his utterances are ambiguous and can be interpreted many ways to suit the inherent beliefs of both his supporters and detractors.
There is little sense of the man behind the oversized coat – the human being, the father, the husband the brother.
This makes it easy for people to demonize him and doubt his motives. Why do politicians always drag their family into every interview? For the same reason as Harry mentions Sandra , to humanise themselves, so we see them as like ourselves.
We essentially see Wenger as a football-managing robot, with no redeeming human qualities. Why have thousands of otherwise normal fans seen fit to abuse him in shocking terms for over a decade, with relish at times?
Because they don’t really see him as a human being, just a manager droid.
Is there a real Arsene Wenger, Myles?
There are many question-marks in this email as I don’t have any answers,unlike most of your correspondents.
I just feel the fate of Arsenal Football Club depends on which group of fans is nearest the mark, the loyalists or the cynics.
Is Arsene Wenger a figure worthy of deep respect , or an arrogant opportunist?
Can he be both?
I suppose you are in a better position to know than most, but do you even know?
Myles, who is Arsene Wenger?
Myles replies :
It’s a bit harsh to say he has no redeeming human qualities.
Yes, he’s a polymath driven by private agendas.
But the Wenger I knew for six or seven years was a guy who was always good fun, always plausible, always extremely mediagenic, the only football manager I’ve ever met who had CEO characteristics.
One of those characteristics is this : he is world class actor-salesman.
Arsene Wenger has used Arsenal’s unique circumstances to grab too much power.
The board have not been able to manage their manager, so they just let him pursue his two priorities.
First priority : to play his own brand of science-based, quick-passing football.
His fit, fast, skilful youngish team can give anybody a game and they nearly win trophies.
So Wenger can always say : There’s always next season, we’re improving.
His other priority is to make a profit that pays for his big salary and allows him to keep his job forever.