Arsene Wenger has revealed that he hesitated in signing a new deal due to personal reasons, doubting whether he could take Arsenal to the next level. Such doubt and uncertainty must now inspire a key difference in his management: that time is short and success must come quickly.
The final few months of last season was perhaps the most despairing and desperate time throughout Arsene Wenger’s, largely, illustrious tenure. Titles and trophies have come in plentiful supply; a new stadium with improved infrastructure and healthier finances; an Invincibles season of which we may never say again. These are all the things that Arsenal have achieved under Wenger.
However, last year, the celebrations of years gone by seemed like mere distant memories, whispers in a blowing wind, straining your hear to catch a glimpse of a praising noise.
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Such decimation of his reputation and his history, though, saw Wenger’s future called into question. With his contract set to expire at the end of that season, there were significant reasons to think that, after 21 years, the end could be near. As we all infamously know, Wenger and Arsenal agreed to a new two-year deal in controversial fashion. But there were doubts from Wenger himself over whether he could continue to progress what a club that is often one and the same as its manager:
“Yes, I hesitated to extend for personal reasons. I’ve been there for so long that you always wonder, can you still take the team to the next level? I’ve been at Arsenal many years and last season we struggled a lot. This year we won our first game, we weren’t as good in the second match and then we had a catastrophic performance. But now we have to recover and, as always in a time of crisis, you have to win your next game.”
Such doubt is rare from Wenger, or at least the admission of doubt is. He is often seen as an in-control figure who innately understands all the variables of his decisions and carefully and attentively acts and speaks accordingly.
Obviously, this is a facade, belying the truth. No human can claim to lack doubt and uncertainty in their decision making. But it is an acknowledgement that cannot merely be words. For many years, Arsenal have been the masters of PR, spouting what the fans want to hear with no intention to ever deliver on their promises.
Wenger’s concession means very little if it does not now drive him forwards. Time is short and the demands are high. It is now that Wenger must vindicate and justify the new deal that the club chose to agree with him.
Whether he can do exactly that, only time will tell. But the doubt that reigned in him and over the club last year must inspire change. Let’s hope that that is what happens, even though I have my reservations.