Arsene Wenger helped to build Arsenal into the global powerhouse it is today, but the Gunners could miss out on the top four for the first time in over 20 years. The Frenchman may have made Arsenal a power, but he's also presided over their recent fall, and they haven't been a legitimate title challenger in years.
Where'd it all go wrong for Wenger?
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He failed to replace important leaders
During Arsene Wenger's heyday, his squad was filled with experienced winners who knew what it took to lift trophies and grind out results. When players like Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires and Thierry Henry left, Wenger went with youth and potential in lieu of proven players to fill the void. Without that senior leadership, Arsenal lost a huge edge they had in pursuing championships.
He grew comfortable with mediocrity
Wenger's biggest strength has also proven to be his biggest weakness. His belief in his players, and his trust in their ability to sort things out on the pitch has always been his hallmark. It was successful in the days of Henry, Vieira, Bergkamp et al, but in the absence of that level of talent, Arsenal have floundered when it matters most. Players like Theo Walcott shouldn't have the same level of freedom as Thierry Henry, and believing players like Francis Coquelin can operate at the level of Patrick Vieira or Gilberto Silva hasn't proven to be a successful strategy.
He alienated former players
At most successful clubs, retaining the support and advice of former players is paramount. Legends who have been there, done that, and have the club's best interest in mind are often a boon to the running of a winning organization, but there's a suspicious absence of that at Arsenal. Thierry Henry was pushed out of his coaching job due to his refusal to stop workin as a pundit, but a number of other former players have moved into footballing roles at other clubs. Patrick Vieira and Mikel Arteta both moved onto City, Dennis Bergkamp and Marc Overmars are at Ajax, while Wenger stands alone at Arsenal.
Vieira himself spoke about his disappointment in being pushed out at the club.
“I don’t know the demands of everyone, but in my case I just expected a call to ask me if I would go and learn my craft at Arsenal – without taking the place of the under-21 or under-19 coach, because they are good at their job.
“I’ve never spoken [with Wenger]. At the same time, he does what he wants.
“It is good for the young players who could see a Thierry Henry, a Ljungberg, a Sol Campbell or a Martin Keown who have been at the club a good few years working in the academy, or working somewhere. I think they can do it a bit more.
“Players want to do it but do not have the opportunity. I don’t understand it.
“The perfect example is Ajax. You see all the old players working for the club, on the field, in the office – the door is always open for them – but Arsenal don’t do it and I don’t know why.”
He let key players leave
One of the hallmarks of the world's biggest clubs is their ability to hold onto key players. If they can't hold onto them, in general, a cardinal rule is to avoid letting them move onto direct rivals.
Arsenal have broken that rule over and over again, letting Ashley Cole, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, and Robin van Persie all move to direct rivals. Every single one of them won a Premier League trophy after leaving, further underlining the importance of that point.
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He failed to adjust tactically
Arsene Wenger helped change the face of the Premier League with his sweeping, possession-based football characterized by beautiful team goals. His open style of play inspired a number of other teams, but it also became predictable. Wenger never properly developed a Plan B for the Gunners over the years, and saw his teams stonewalled more and more against teams who sat in and hit them on the break, taking advantage of their open style of
After 20 years, Wenger switched it up this season and tried out a back three formation, but even that was a half-baked idea that reeked of change for change's sake, and it may just be too little, too late.