Why Arsene Wenger’s new contract could define his Arsenal legacy
Today it was confirmed by Arsenal that long-serving manager Arsene Wenger had signed a new three-year contract at the club. Speculation had been rife during the closing stages of the season that there could be a change in management. Arsenal’s success in the FA Cup, coupled with Champions League qualification for the 17th consecutive season, saw Wenger’s future secured. He has become synonymous with the Gunners since joining in 1997.
The Arsenal faithful’s long wait for silverware was ended this year with the FA Cup now proudly on display at the Emirates stadium. The nine year gap between trophies was a monkey on the back of Arsene Wenger, a failing that was aimed at him at every opportunity. That statistic is now obsolete. Arsenal can go into next season without the fear of a tenth trophy-less campaign. The challenge next season will be to prove the FA Cup triumph was not a one-off event.
Many have questioned Arsene Wenger’s transfer policy during recent seasons. A perceived reluctance to spend big money on players put Arsenal behind in the transfer market to the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City. Last summer saw Wenger do something seemingly out of character, with the £42.5 million capture of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid smashing the club’s transfer record. It was a real statement of intent by Arsenal, and it was rewarded with the success of the season just past.
What lies ahead for the Gunners is firmly in the experienced hands of Arsene Wenger. No longer can the trophy draught be a source of opposition, nor failure to spend big in the transfer market. Wenger goes into the summer with little to prove to anybody. This relaxed change in atmosphere could be the catalyst for a productive transfer window. Two players have departed, having coming to the end of their contracts.
Bacary Sagna and Lukasz Fabianski were always expected to leave, an eventuality that Wenger had no doubt been prepared for. The key will be how he goes about strengthening his playing staff. Will old habits die hard and the Emirates see an influx of youngsters? Or could the transfer fee record be broken for the second successive summer? A new right-back is certainly on the agenda to replace the experienced Bacary Sagna. A new striker has been mooted for a considerable amount of time, with Olivier Giroud being the one recognised option. While he has proven to be a good goal-scorer, Giroud has a tendency to go missing in the big games. Some serious competition for a starting berth could also see Giroud improve his game further. Another option on the flanks could also be a consideration for Wenger. The injury to Theo Walcott in January derailed Arsenal’s title bid, the team was significantly short on pace and couldn’t replace him.
Arsenal’s patient build-up play could benefit with an injection of speed in attack without having to rely solely on Walcott. Arsene Wenger’s new contract will see him reap the rewards of his nurturing of young talent. The likes of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs have come on leaps and bounds over the last few years. They are now considered key players in the first-team, alongside Wojciech Szczesny and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. These players will continue to improve under their trusted manager, who has a track record in getting the most out of young talent. They also now have a taste for success having won the FA Cup. The players will be hungry to repeat and emulate that success at the earliest possible opportunity.
There will come a day when Arsene Wenger leaves Arsenal Football Club. He has earned the respect of fans and pundits, regardless of their allegiances. He will be remembered as one of the greats of the Premier League era. His old adversary, Sir Alex Ferguson, ended his long, illustrious reign as a champion. The progress of his Arsenal team over the next three years will determine if Wenger can equal that achievement. He certainly deserves to.