Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Fall of Icarus

"I build a team, and we compensate by creating a style of play, by creating a culture at the club because the boy comes in at 16 or 17 and when they go out they have a supplement of soul, of love for the club, because they have been educated together."

6 years back, I wrote this post. And there's a specific reason why I chose to publish this one before the game tonight against Athletico Madrid, because the outcome doesn't change anything. Arsenal might go on to win the Europa League and it might be a fairytale exit for  man who has toiled hard for 22 years. Or, we might flounder and reason that it's best to see Wenger go. For a man who has repeatedly been judged, tarnished and humiliated by fans, ex-players and the British media, spare a thought. He's not superman in a puffer jacket, just an honest man who tried his best to protect the club he loves. And if his walking away is the solution to all problems, so be it.

In today's world, Honesty and Integrity are overrated virtues. Everyone has a twitter handle and an opinion on what the team composition should look like, what formation should be used and which players should be dropped based on a couple of games. It's interesting though that most ex-players choose the easy way out to Punditry rather than contributing towards the development of young players in their clubs. Arsene is different because he doesn't single out players and their performances after a horrific defeat. It's a team game and even with individual mistakes, the entire team contributes to it in some form or another. In previous generations, the manager would have walked up to the player, asked him to man up and build a character. The current generation is different, and is weighed down by the expectations of a social media profile. Not to concur that they are brittle, but a young player may never recover from a public scathing over a mistake.  I agree there are business interests and careers involved, but it's just a game after all, and the larger  purpose of sport is to entertain, not admonish.

The average tenure of a manager in all the English leagues combined is 1.66 years as per stats published at the end of last season (Link). The premier league is slightly higher at 2.68 but with Wenger's exit that metric will drastically come down. If Wenger is replaced by Luis Enrique, the Premier League might have the best managers in the world with Pep, Klopp and Mourinho leading the pack. But that does not impact the quality of the England National team and that's the area that the English FA should focus on; bring English players to the forefront and build a world cup winning team.

For me, Arsenal is Arsene because that's the only way I've known the club. Arsene changed the way the game was played in the Premier League and developed a philosophy that paved the way for many other pioneers including Ranieri's Leicester City. Icarus will always be chastised for flying close to the sun and falling to his death, but he should be given credit for innovating and trying to fly like a bird. Thank you Icarus!

Image result for #merciwenger
To all the Arsenal lovers take care of the values of the club
"Arsène made Arsenal what they are today, and the fans understand it perfectly. If he was to leave tomorrow, he would do it with his head up, not by the back door." -Robert Pirès