When people talk about Arsene Wenger we often hear them complimenting his ability to get the most of young players and making them excel beyond initial expectation. He is complimented on the innovative style of football he gets Arsenal to play and the fact that he keeps them in the top 4 despite a mid table team budget. However there is one thing which I often hear said, particularly by Hansen and co, which is that Wenger is not a great manager because he has not won the European Cup.
The point of this article is not to argue that comment, although personally I disagree that it is a fundamental prerequisite, as managers such as Eriksson, Bobby Robson and Luis Molowny for example could well be considered great managers despite never winning the European cup. This article will assume for arguments sake that something monumental like the European cup needs to be achieved in order to be considered great and instead find a worthy substitute.
This substitute for Wenger is the absolutely unprecedented “Invincibles” season where Wenger led Arsenal to the title without losing a single game. No team has done this since Preston North End in 1889 when the game was still young, that goes to show just how unbelievable it actually was. They achieved this despite Chelsea spending £100m adding new players to an already decent squad and Champions Manchester United still going strong with Van Nistlerooy firing on all cylinders.
Thierry Henry scored a whopping 30 goals as Arsenal bustled in 73 goals for the season (7 more than Chelsea) and conceded just 26 goals all season (4 less than Chelsea). Whilst this was not the highest points score ever achieved, the fact that it was an unbeaten season is absolutely legendary, not even greats such as Alex Ferguson, Bob Paisley, Brian Clough or Matt Busby ever achieved such a feat. Even looking at records in all of Europe’s top leagues it is a scarce feat, Fabio Capello’s 1992 season with AC Milan another one of note.
So while Wenger has not managed to win the Champions league (despite coming so close) such an amazing feat such as this surely allows him to be considered a great despite finding that one piece of silverware elusive. Love or hate Arsenal you cannot deny that an unbeaten season is a legendary achievement which will probably not be fully appreciated for years down the line.
Of course Arsenal fans would love Wenger to win the Champions League and put this to bed once and for all, and each season Arsenal look more and more accustomed to Europe and Wenger looks to be figuring it out so who knows how long we will have to wait. However I believe Wenger to already be a great manager, a record breaking, unique manager who has an unbeaten season to his name and such an achievement is more than just a stat, it is the mark of greatness!
What do you think, is Wenger great, or does he have to wait?
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