Arsène Wenger, for a lack of a better term, is simply a football man.
Yes, he was the leader behind the rebuilding of Arsenal into the huge football institute it used to be, but he just isn’t a coach.
Let’s be clear about it: Wenger has made Arsenal one of the most consistent football clubs in Europe, and put them on par with great European champions like Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Liverpool – at least in terms of prestige and income. The financing of Arsenal’s rebuilding project came mainly from money generated by Wenger’s shrewd thinking.
These achievements certainly make him Arsenal’s, and maybe the Premier League’s, greatest sporting director or general manager. Wenger excels in directing where a club should head, with consideration to the resources at hand, the reputation of the club and other means of objective measurement. In that sense he is more of an Uli Hoeness than a Jose Mourinho.
However, a football coach needs to possess a different set of skills than a sporting director.
Wenger’s vision and understanding of economics doesn’t help Arsenal during the game. He has won important tactical battles in the past, but only when Arsenal’s roster was decorated with world-class leaders such as Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira and Tony Adams. He just doesn’t seem to win many games from the touchline nowadays.
Wenger won games on the training pitch by producing a style of play that he brought into the stadium, and sticking to that game plan regardless of the opposition. It worked when he had world-class players and leaders, with experienced defenders that worked together for many years. When these players left the club, Wenger led Arsenal to defeat in almost every important game in the last 7 years.
Over the past seven years Wenger has made countless tactical mistakes, mostly when it came to replacing the right player in the right time. His tactical shortcomings during games are well documented in columns, blogs and even books.
They are all connected to the fact that like most visionaries, he was obsessed with his vision, and failed to understand what most crowds saw as Arsenal’s shortcomings all along. His stubbornness and lack of coaching instincts left Arsenal chasing poorer teams such as Tottenham.
A coach who only thinks about winning the next game would have seen Arsenal’s shortcomings, and acted to solve them. That coach might have even tried pushing the board to help him solve these problems. A coach would have fitted the system better to his players. A coach would have evolve and adapt to his surroundings better than a stubborn visionary.
Arsenal needs this kind of coach, or they will never play on the same level of Manchester United, Chelsea or Manchester City.
The Gunners’ reputation is fading, and in order to become a great team again they need a coach. They need someone who will work together with Wenger, the greatest sporting director ever, along the lines of his vision, while doing what needs to be done in order to win the next game.