Wenger v Ferguson: Who Was Greater? (And How To Talk To Extremists)

So I was talking about Extremists. (If you didn’t read the last post, you might want to catch up. I can’t guarantee this one will make sense otherwise. Actually I’m not guaranteeing it anyway, so you do what you like.) Well, I started off talking about Extremists last night and got sidetracked off into the IFFHS, a self-elected and self-important body who dish out odd awards such as ‘World’s Most Popular Player’ to players I’ve never heard of. The IFFHS is based in Germany, but according to Wikipedia (I know, I know) Germany’s largest news agency refuses to report anything they say or do, on the basis that it’s somewhat out of step with the rest of the world.

Anyway, this august body famously voted Arsène Wenger as Coach of the Decade for the first ten years of this millennium, despite the fact he won nothing in the second half of the decade. This brings me back to extremists. You see, the point I was trying to get to in my self-indulgent way was this: some of those who love Arsène Wenger simply won’t hear any criticism of him whatsoever. But they don’t think their view is extreme – they think I’m the idiot because I dare to criticise him. My main crimes include:

·        believing Herbert Chapman to be Arsenal’s greatest ever manager (in fact I believe Herb to be the greatest football manager ever when you look at his innovations and what he did for two clubs in the 1920s and 1930s)

·        believing that perhaps Alex Ferguson is a greater manager than Arsène Wenger

Let me make one thing plain: I am an Arsenal supporter and always have been – though some think that I can’t really be, as I never seem happy with what’s going on at the club; in their eyes I’m not really ‘supporting’ if I’m complaining. Well, each to his own; if you’re happy being served gruel there’s no real incentive for anyone to serve you caviar, is there?

Incidentally, some of the comments after yesterday were on the lines of ‘you say the worst extremists are those who don’t recognise they are extremists – how do you know that you’re not one then?’ Simple: Arsène lovers hate me criticising him, and Arsène haters (of which there are also many) also hate me because I say he’s still a very good (if not as great as he was) manager, and certainly does not deserve to be sacked. Thus I’m in the middle of the spectrum and clearly my views on this matter are not extreme. QED.

I’m not going to bang on about Herbert Chapman again, I’ll just say this: Paddy Barclay has a book coming out soon about HC, and I’m sure he will give you far more reasons than I can as to why he was so great. Get the book, read it and then come back to me.

As for Alex Ferguson, well I don’t like him as a person particularly; in fact I’m pretty sure Arsène Wenger is all round a nicer bloke. No doubt Alex Ferguson has not had the same revolutionary impact on English football that Arsène Wenger had either. But what he has done is been a one-man dynasty at arguably the biggest football club in the world (top three definitely), rebuilding successful teams time after time and winning a trophy haul far in excess of anyone else in the game. Yes he’s had quite a lot of money to do it with, but that level of success for that long is phenomenal. He has single-handedly outdone the period of dominance that Liverpool had with three or four managers in the previous two decades. Let’s not forget that before Man Utd (where he admittedly had a slow start), he broke the old firm dominance in Scotland with Aberdeen; that was some achievement too.

But it’s not permissible to some for me to think that Fergie is the equal or better of Arsène – oh no, because Fergie has had it easy with all that money. He hasn’t SINGLE-HANDEDLY BUILT A STADIUM and MADE PROFITS EVERY YEAR and REVOLUTIONISED ENGLISH FOOTBALL, all while buying players for tuppence and turning them into superstars.

These are things Arsène Wenger has done, and Arsène must not be criticised as a result.

I don’t go along with the ‘single-handedly built a stadium’ nonsense, or even ‘Arsène made Arsenal’ – that puts down the achievements of everyone at Arsenal before 1996. Obviously Arsène’s achievements helped towards funding a stadium, no one in their right mind would deny that. In fact his achievements are really all linked together: he revolutionised English football by bringing in relatively unknown or underused players, some of whom helped win trophies and make profits, some of whom didn’t want to stick around or were deemed past their best and were sold for big profits.

His ‘revolution’ was in a few parts: he managed to get the best out of what had appeared to be a rapidly ageing group of players for several more years, particularly the famous defence, by changing eating habits, fitness regimes and so on. He introduced ideas that weren’t all new, but were new to England. In effect he forced notoriously insular English clubs to catch up with what the rest of Europe was doing.

Then he used his vast knowledge of the European and world game to find players he could mould into a great team at relatively little expense – again, beating other more insular English clubs who did not have the same vision or knowledge.

As a result of these two advantages Arsenal stormed ahead and went from the kind of level Spurs are at now to Champions and perennial Champions League participants (it’s a stretch too far to say perennial CL challengers). Only Man Utd could keep up, and in fact maintain a higher trophy count, by virtue of two things: more money and an equally good (in his own way) manager, who was willing to learn and adapt.

That served Arsenal well for several years, culminating in the one in 100 chance of an unbeaten season in 2004. (And I won’t take any crap about finishing third or fourth with the current squad being Arsène’s greatest achievement – an unbeaten league season is by far his greatest achievement, that should be unquestionable.)

But after that peak, things changed. Several things. Firstly Abramovich had arrived in 2003. Chelsea had won a few cups in previous seasons and sustained title challenges until early spring, but suddenly they were catapulted to being real contenders. The two horse race became a three horse race. More recently, Man City have made it a four horse race.

Secondly Arsenal had made the bold decision to move stadiums, and after 2004 they were gearing up for that move. That meant some restrictions on spending, because sponsors money was diverted to stadium funding.

Thirdly, the Man Utd marketing machine moved from being merely very good to being staggeringly good. Their deal with Nike from 2002 has earned them about as much on average per year as Arsenal will be getting from Puma (allegedly) starting next year. So they went from being a bit richer than Arsenal to a lot richer (luckily for them, as the owners have taken quite a bit out).

If you ask the Arsène Extremists, that’s where the story ends: what more do you need? The World’s Greatest Manager™ was hamstrung by the triple whammy of Man Utd’s money, the Oilies money and the cost of a new stadium. If it wasn’t for those things, Arsenal would still be partying like it was 1998.

Let me make this very clear: I AGREE ALL THOSE THINGS HAD AN EFFECT.

But there’s another factor. By 2005, the innovations Arsène brought English football weren’t innovations any more. Every two-bob Premier League no-hoper club had scouts all over the world by now; no chance of Arsène consistently finding new seams of gold in places where no one else was looking, because everyone was looking everywhere.

And everyone was now eating like athletes, training like athletes and being treated like athletes. There are so many foreigners in the English league we’ll be lucky to find 11 natives to make up an England team soon. But there’s the other advantage gone: with one or two exceptions, English football has dispensed with the teams of cloggers that used to largely make up the top division.

So Arsène is left with his ability to mould a team, which he does a lot better than nearly every other manager, but has lost all the other advantages he enjoyed in his early years. I think the Arsène Extremists have only noticed the first three external changes I mentioned. They’ve overlooked the other reasons for recent (relative) lack of success.

I personally think it would have been difficult for another manager to finish in the top four every season in Arsène’s position – but another manager might have had one or two great seasons and won some silverware. It’s personal preference which you think is better, but clearly a lack of silverware leads to criticism from some quarters.

Whatever you think of the level of restrictions Arsenal have had on spending since we last saw a trophy, there’s no doubt we will soon have much more money and start to pull away from most of the clubs below. The Arsène Extremists see this as the new golden age about to dawn: when the money is back on a more equal footing, Arsène will be back at the top. Maybe he will – if the loss of his other advantages is not too great. We shall see. But if you’re talking to an Arsène Extremist, just nod and agree – they really get annoyed otherwise.

Twitter: @AngryOfN5

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74 thoughts on “Wenger v Ferguson: Who Was Greater? (And How To Talk To Extremists)

  1. Stopped reading way before halfway point, I used to enjoy your blog, but judging on recent posts, there’s only 1 worse, and that’s old captain hindsight Geoff from Le Grove
    Try and stay on topic, your drifting all over the place

      • To be correct, Paul, my summary was of their whole careers, as Fergie and Herb aren’t currently great managers either.

      • Phil, you are obfuscating again.
        Wenger is an active manager. And once again you have not missed the opportunity to find away to DOWNGRADE his status. “Was great, not any more.”

      • I’ve been saying for several years he’s not as great as he was, and that should be plain to anyone viewing objectively. Explaining it was the whole point of this blog post.

  2. stopped reading at “only Manchester United could keep up” l’Arse were always clinging onto United’s coat tails and to say otherwise is being very selective with the period – and even then, United were never “keeping up”, rather the other way around. Deluded.

    Oh, and to cite “United’s money” as if it were an unfair advantage is wrong. They made their own money through their own endeavours, unlike the oil clubs. Wenger is nowhere near Ferguson. Laughable comparison.

  3. There are two main things that are making me look forward to the day Wenger finally leaves his job at Arsenal. Firstly and primarily, I think it’s likely he’ll be improved upon by his successor and the health of the club will be enhanced. Secondly, all the AKB extremists will be so disappointed.

  4. Your blog is more like the guy who sits atop a mountain and comments on the city below. Now being just a spectator the guy weighs at the positive as well as the negative side of the city. He does not want to take a risk by taking sides. He is a neutral and has no bias against or for. It seems that you are the middle of the road guy. You state plain facts but its boring, uncontroversial and a conversation non-starter. A sane thinking person will come to similar conclusion on wenger and fergie. Dude you need to be a little bit less pedestrian and more controversial.

  5. The fact that you think Wenger may even stand comparison to Sir Alex Ferguson confirms that you are indeed on drugs

  6. One thing I like to see is Wenger to manage Arsenal for 5 or more years so when the financial burden of the stadium is off. The team then has a stadium that is as big as that of Man U. Let’s see if Wenger can deliver or not. Or, if he keeps bringing in trophies, he might be greater than Alex Ferguson when he ends his career.

    On the other hand, there is also a chance that he fails badly but that is not very likely.

  7. Yes Rich and Red Rupert are correct, what century did you live through where only UTD could keep up with us?
    it was the other way around and thankfully we can say that AW had his advantages in all the little aspects like diet, fitness etc that did us wonders. UTD/Fergie could always just pay someone to come in and do that, but our man thought the idea up and implemented it. He then built our name up, millions of fans jumped on board and more money came in to help build the stadium and fund a comptetive team. Personally I would not want to have a good season and maybe win trophy with some manager then the next we come 7th, 5th, 6th before maybe winning something again, but who knows only Captain Hindsight does really. I hate having so many managers come in like CFC but they can afford it, with their dodgy money and other ‘real reasons’ for buying chelsea so Putin cant get him in public so to speak.
    Short Termism is the big issue here which ppl cant see for looking.
    COYG.

  8. I can’t stand the AKB crowd either, and am quite critical of AW but have to agree with Rich. You’ve gotten a bit boring with this stuff. Maybe you need a vacation from blog writing.

  9. I am an Arsenal fan but Ferguson is streets ahead, just look at his trophy haul and how many players wanted to leave in the past 10 years even with ridiculous oil money around? That would be one then, players were loyal to him full stop whereas Wenger can’t keep them…

  10. I think you would have done better if you had compared Alex Ferguson with Jose Mourinho than with Arsene Wenger, simply because Mourinho hasn’t had restrictions that Arsene had. Or AW with SAF prior to building the stadium.
    I also find it foolish to compare Arsene and Chapman simply because the trophy cabinet doesn’t always tell the whole story. It doesn’t explain the kind of competition and restrictions that were in existent at their respective times. I believe both man are great in their own right. We will never know who will come out tops if they are to face each other.

  11. Can’t find much to disagree with there. Wenger’s impact on English football was huge, and it gave Arsenal an advantage. That advantage has manifested itself in not just trophies, but the fact that we moved from practicing on university grounds to having a top quality training centre, and of course, the stadium, which has moved us into the European elite. Off the field at this point, but the product on the field generally follows from the financial ability to sustain it.

    Although, of course, some outstanding seasons are possible, and this is probably what you mean by some other managers might have won a few trophies but been less consistent. I think we certainly could have won trophies. It’s not like we weren’t close to it under Wenger anyway. Some other managers might have prioritised the immediate term rather than the medium term and won us trophies. Arsene Wenger could probably have done that as well. He had enough clout amongst the fans to pull a Benitez and publicly demand more money from the board, distance himself from the realities of the finances. That he chose not to do that is to his credit in my view. Overall, I prefer my team’s success to be a result of solid foundations rather than a wild swing of fortune.

    Alex Ferguson. There was never a time that I liked him. But there was a time when I respected his achievements (despite him always having a financial advantage). That respect ebbed away due to the…let’s say…auxiliary advantages..he and his club have enjoyed to keep them at the top. Conspiracy theorist I hear you shout. I say realist. That’s the only part you left out about both these football managers; the differences in how they have been treated by circumstances which normally should be a level playing field. Forget the finances. Give Arsenal the refereeing that ManU get, and Arsenal would have won more trophies than zero in the last 8 years.

    I love Arsene Wenger. I love him for what he’s done for the club I love. I love him for doing it while maintaining a certain level of class and humility (despite what the media would have you believe) I am certain that, whatever the world thinks about Alex Ferguson being greater than Wenger or not, that Arsenal got the best man for the job. Some people question whether he is still the best man for the job. So do I. But the answer to that question is, till date, always yes. That doesn’t make me an extremist. And if it does, I couldn’t care less. I don’t care where I stand on the chart of public opinion.

    P.S. Meant to say you are right about those initial advantages not being there anymore. But in that case, money becomes even more important, so as to have some sort of an advantage. The lack of money compared to other clubs has had effects on our scouting process as well as our ability to buy/retain players. With extra funds, we will have a little more flexibility to try and utilise our (still good) scouting network better than we’ve been able to, apart from the more obvious positive effects it has in transfers and wages.

    • PPS. Ferguson won a Scottish league title with Aberdeen. Wenger won a league title with Monaco, and a cup, and took them into the CL quarters,and would have won another league title if not for match fixing engineered by Marseille. Those are some marvellous achievements right there too. Wenger didn’t just become a great manager at Arsenal. He came to Arsenal because he was already a great manager.

  12. Waste of time, couldn’t get anything reasonable to say so he pick some old stories and say them his own way. Please go on vacation this off-season.

  13. how was Ferguson better than wenger? He was a dictator that used United big money to pay experts to do all the coaching and buy trophies. How many titles would united have won with all that spending had the ref’s not been gifting them double digit points every season? How many top four finishes would ferguson have had if you sold his best players every year and replaced them with cheaper alternatives? He would have been a big baby and taken his shovel and gone home instead of even attempting to do something great.

    It was ferguson who copied wenger after wenger implemented cutting edge and new concepts to the game when wenger was new and transformed the league. It’s arsenal who you praise for style of football, not United and united had the bigger payroll. etc

  14. Phil,

    While I enjoy reading something different to transfer rumour’s and I do like how you write, I must say I find myself often disagreeing with your articles. I read the post and comments in your last piece about extremists and it made me think. Isn’t our perception of an extremist rather subjective? You are setting your own parameters and claim you are in middle but personally I would disagree with you. I could be deemed as extremist but don’t believe I am, it is all a matter of opinion. Looking back over most of your posts and they often follow the theme of ‘Don’t get so excited, we are not as good as that’ or ‘Team x is actually better than us’ it is rare to find anything that you’ve written that is praise of manager, board or players. In my opinion that is pretty extreme but that is just my opinion.

    You could show me several recent articles contradicting what I’ve said, and if so fair enough but every time I click on one of your links I find myself reading stuff like Arsene ‘Wenger Has Taken More Money Out Of Arsenal Than Any Other Person In History!’ It would probably be more balanced if you also had articles of ‘Arsene Wenger Has Made More For The Club Than Any Other Manager’ but each to their own and all that.

    I usually try and avoid the whole fan divide these days (even though I jump in today)

    Comparing Arsene Wenger vs Alex Ferguson is a bit pointless really. I haven’t read your post today (yet) but I hope you provide the much needed context. The playing field has NEVER been level with Manchester United even in the days when we went head to toe with them.

    Scrap that, I ask everyone this. If Alex Ferguson had to guide a club that had to move stadium as well as having to being backed with poor commercial deals for a long, long time whilst Arsene Wenger was in charge of the top two clubs in the world with huge financial backing do we really believe that Ferguson would have acquired more trophies than Wenger? Not on your nelly. That said, I reckon Ferguson would have won a few trophies during the transition because no doubt about it, he is a top manager but so is Arsene Wenger and Arsene has done things during the stadium move that would have been beyond Ferguson.

    We see all the trophies in the United cabinet and assume that would be the case if Ferguson was at Arsenal. It’s simply not that simple. It is like saying Mancini is a better manager than most in the league because he won the FA Cup and league at Man City. Stick him at Spurs and would he win the league?

    Anyway I am rambling on far too long. I could have used this time to write my own bloody blog. Anyway, breakfast awaits so have yourself a happy (and Angry about Arsenal) Sunday 🙂

      • Yup did indeed. It’s because the last thing I did before going to bed was read your last post and the comments. I’ve yet to do my daily blog catch up. I will when I get round to it.

    • Spot on, ML. I probably get to read 1/2 of Phil’s blogs. So, I did a catchup yesterday. I wanted to see how many I needed to go back through till I found one that was just about Arsene being a good manager. I went through them for half an hour. Couldn’t find one. But I found lots of “He’s not nealy as good as X says, buy I still think he’s ok or good or very good or I still support him.” Or “Here are a bunch of people who are better than Wenger, cos, you know, it’s important you don’t think he’s “great.”” Etc. Etc.
      So, if Phil has done that blog ie “Arsene is just straight up really good and here’s why” or “Here’s some great stuff about Wenger you may NOT have known” then I will have had to read I don’t know how many blogs of the “Wenger – your manager is not as good as you think, and it’s important you know this” variety to get to it.

      • Here’s my post praising Arsene: http://wp.me/p1I44P-gj
        But don’t expect it to be totally unconditional praise – that would be ludicrous in view of events over the past few seasons. If I’d written it in 2004 it would have been a wholly positive story, but only an extremist would think things have been perfect since.

      • Who’s point did you think that proved, Phil?
        1. July 2012???
        2. “Here is my post (singular)”

        To find that post, I bet (if I weren’t so lazy) I would have to work my way back through 10-15 of the Wenger Isn’t As Good As You Think variety to get to it.

        And to my point, thanks for registering me to your blog. That was amusing. But guess what 2 blogs it auto-prompted that I should read???

        Well, words wouldn’t do it justice, so have a look yourself…

        I tell ya, you can’t make this stuff up.
        Phil, it’s okay not to be in the middle. Most of us aren’t. Only 1 guy can be. You aren’t him. You are a lonnnnnnng way from him.
        That’s ok but it’s important for you to admit that to yourself. It will help you – in your blogging and as an AST board member.

      • I don’t know what registering you to the blog is – WordPress must have done that itself, nothing to do with me.

        So what’s happened since July 2012 that would make me write another piece praising Arsene? What has he done in that time to enhance his reputation? Genuinely interested to find out, because as I remember it, it was roughly: average transfer window at best, due to best player leaving; average start to season with 0-0 draws; got worse, lost at home to Chelsea in a display of appalling defending; gradually improved in the league but hung around outside the top 4 for most of the time; went 4-0 down to Reading, worst team in the league, before beating them (with the embarrassment of some players not even having been told the rules of the competition they were in); eventually being knocked out of domestic cups by teams we should have thrashed; being ‘killed’ by Bayern at home; finally putting form together and scraping fourth place due to Spurs’ seemingly inevitable collapse; no action so far in this transfer window.
        Now where among that lot is a sane person going to write that Arsene Wenger has got any better as a manager? Where am I going to say, hey, I thought he wasn’t as great as Herbert Chapman, but now I realise he is. I thought Fergie just edged it, but look at all these trophies we’ve suddenly won.
        Once I’ve gone through and said what he’s good at and why he has been great, why am I going to repeat it every month? You tell me.

        Paul, you’re an Arsene lover – he can do no wrong for you, so you are the extremist on this topic, not me. You should really admit that to yourself so you don’t need to keep slagging me off.

      • This is great, Phil. We have found areas to agree upon.
        Here is what we agree on. Since July 2012, you can find nothing to praise the manager on but plenty to critize him on. Hence if you have written on him since, (and you have many times,) it is to point out his failings.
        As regards your view of me, there is SOME agreement. I am an Arsene lover. Here is where we disagree. I can find plenty to critize him on. Here is where we disagree further. There are plenty of people already critizing him eg you. We do not have a critizism shortage. As you so correctly surmize there is a view circulated by folks such as yourself that there is NOTHING to praise him on in the last few years. It is that challenge that I have taken on seeing as you have cornered the “Here is some other shit to help you downgrade your too high opinion of Wenger, Mr Arsenal Supporter.”
        And the only thing I slagged you off over is your ridiculous assertion that you REPRESENT the reasonable majority. Even you have to admit that was pretty pompous and ripe to be challenged. Especially given your just stated view that THERE HAS BEEN NOTHING TO PRAISE OUR MANAGER FOR SINCE JULY 2012. It is THAT challenge that I take on, Sir. That is why you confuse me for someone who sees no fault in our manager.
        But the danger here is your arrogance that you REPRESENT the reasonable majority in all things Arsenal and that you are in the middle. That poll you just kicked off better end with a HEAVY result saying Wenger has lost his greatness. Because 50/50 would mean YOU ARE NOT in the middle, mate.
        And thanks for clarifying that you think I’m an extremist, which if I remember, is someone who thinks he’s in the middle. I seem to be aware I’m not where as you are more and more vehemently demanding that you are, and you are determiined to prove it. But you won’t. Cos you’re not.
        Self awareness will save you, Phil.

      • You’re being very selective there Paul. What I actually said was “So what’s happened since July 2012 that would make me write another piece praising Arsene? What has he done in that time to enhance his reputation?
        Now where among that lot [ie the events of last season] is a sane person going to write that Arsene Wenger has got any better as a manager?”
        At no point did I say there’s nothing to praise him for, and in fact in several posts I’ve pointed out how remarkable it is that he consistently gets into the top four. But the question is, how has he improved as a manager or how have Arsenal improved since a year ago? What is better?

        Regarding ‘representing’, okay, maybe I should have been clearer, but what I was trying to say was that my view on Arsene is a common one: was great, now not so great. I was not claiming to be a spokesman, just to be in tune with the majority who don’t think that either he is an infallible genius or he is a complete idiot (polite version), which are the extreme views on the subject.

        I’m interested to know what you criticise Arsene for though, because I can’t say I’ve noticed it. I accept that maybe I haven’t been paying enough attention, but please enlighten me, I’m happy to be corrected.

      • Dear He Who I Should Not Call By His Name,
        let me give you one topic you could blog on. Our turn-around starting with the 2nd Leg against Bayern (which I predicted in my “Bayern Are F***** And They Don’t Even Know IT” blog when we were basically the only team to beat them at home all season, or in the CL. Which then became the catalyst for a 10 match unbeaten run with dogged and exceptional defending which grabbed an absolutely vital Top 4 spot. Whereas our hated enemy can’t even land a knackered David Villa to play for them in the Europa!
        So that’s 18 CL qualifications in a row? Unbroken! Which sets us up for what may turn out to be one of the greatest summer transfer windows in the clubs history. (We’ll see.)
        There are 4 or 5 blog topics in there alone.
        And your blog missed it all.
        Nothing positive? Really, Phil? (Ooops. Sorry.)

      • You mean ‘Dear He Who I Shall Only Call By His Name A Maximum Of Five Times Per Comment’.

        I’ll leave you to write about this great summer of transfers for the moment – much as I would like there to be one, I prefer not to make too many predictions that go against the evidence of the past.

    • What’s that whooshing noise, Phil? The sounds of the pedals on your tricycle spinning backwards?
      The poll you published has 66% of people agreeing with my view and disagreeing with yours so what is the answer to the question you posed, to introduce the poll…
      “Please vote and confirm my prejudices or cast me as a no-nothing pariah.” Errr… apparently youre a prejudiced, no-nothing Pariah, Phil.
      But I think you are being harsh on yourself. I think you know a lot. But you are nowhere near the middle. 12 months of criticism followed by a statement that said Wenger had done nothing for you to praise in the last 12 months.
      Yeah, we knew that already. That was our point, Phil. You see no good in the manager for 12 months. If you talk about the manager, it is an attempt to downgrade people’s opinion of him. And you said you had no agenda, Phil!
      And the main difference between us, Phil is…I don’t delude myself that I represent the middle, Phil.
      I don’t continually make statements that imply other people are extremists because they believe things like “Wenger is still as great as he ever was.”
      You were undone by your own words and your own braggadocio and your own poll which will hopefully provide you with some data to help with your new self awareness that YOU DO NOT REPRESENT THE REASONABLE MAJORITY.
      You represent those people who can’t find anything to praise about the manager in the last 12 months. That’s EXTREME, Phil.
      Ever watch the movie, the other guys, Phil? Remember the quote after the Tuna Attack: “You just lost at your own game. You are outgunned and out manned. Did that go the way you thought it was gonna go?…Nope.”
      Refresh your memory. It’s a classic: It’s at 1:44 mins http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4wykeJBHdE

      • A minor note, you raise a number of other points:
        Like what has Wenger done that is praise-worthy in the last 12 months. Quite frankly, I am astounded you can’t identify anything, yourself. But I will leave that for later. It would get us too far off topic.
        But your critical blogs aren’t restricted to the last 12 months activities. Why should you not be able to come up with “Great stuff about Wenger and his career that you haven’t already considered, Mr. Supporter” like all the critical stuff you do, digging into the past?
        Also, you have now called me an Extremist. Good to know, Phil.
        Also, you asked why I don’t write critical blogs of Wenger. I explained that earlier in our discussion. Short answer? Because you have that market covered. There is a surplus of it between you, LEGrove and a few others. But I don’t delude myself thinking I speak for the middle. I speak for me. Sometimes that will be also be the middle view.
        You’re a good blogger, Phil. Blog all the criticism you want, but please stop telling us how you know you are the voice of the reasonable majority.
        Here is another non-self aware, yet classic, pronouncement: “When it comes to Arsenal (in fact most things) I’m in the middle.” Not you’re not, Phil. No your not. You’re just a guy who can’t find anything new to praise about Wenger but who can find plenty new to critize him about. Unlike most supporters.
        PS: I don’t think you are extreme.
        PPS: Neither am I.

      • On a scale of 1-100, where 1 is unconditional admiration of Arsene and everything he’s ever done or will do, and 100 is a fervent desire that he is sacked tomorrow for some hideous offence and has to repay every penny Arsenal have ever paid him, where do you sit?
        (I was going to say for the latter that 100 is wishing a horrible and immediate death on him, as some extremists on twitter do, but really that’s going too far to even joke about.)

      • This conversation is rapidly being rendered pointless by the fact that you ignore what I’ve now said twice. Third time lucky, maybe: I didn’t say there was nothing to praise in the last 12 months, I said Arsene has done nothing to enhance his reputation. All the things in praise of him I said 12 months ago still stand, but since then he’s done nothing new or above what he’d previously done – unless you can point it out of course, which I asked you to do but you preferred to turn into a parody of yourself and talk about tricycles.
        The other thing I said that you ignored is that I wasn’t claiming to be a spokesman for anyone, so in that sense I’m not representing anyone.

        Sorry, I haven’t seen the movie you refer to.

        So now I have an ‘agenda’ to downgrade people’s opinion of Arsene? I do laugh when people start going on about agendas, as though there is some benefit in me making everyone believe something false. What would the purpose of this agenda be exactly? I presume you think there is a purpose, as I don’t think it counts as an agenda otherwise.

        If 66% of people who vote think that Arsene is as great as ever, that’s fine. They can think that if they want to. I won’t get too excited about it and start TYPING IN CAPITAL LETTERS to EMPHASISE HOW APPALLED I AM.

        You’ve also used my name at least EIGHT TIMES in that comment, which starts to look A BIT EXTREME. Oh dear, this capitals thing is actually QUITE CATCHING.

      • And your 1-100 poll? I really think you should leave the polling alone for today.
        It really doesn’t matter cos I don’t claim to represent the majority of the reasonable. What I do claim is that there are a whole bunch of supporters who were massively under-served by these critical blogs and that there is a great desire for a blog presenting, in interesting and entertaining ways, a positive view of the club, their manager, their team and their season’s trials and tribulations.
        I was one such supporter myself.

      • If you refuse to say where you are on the scale I’ll have to assume you think your answer would mark you out as an extremist.

  15. The extremist view is one that tries to assert that there’s no contrary view. Of course Fergie was a great manager in his way as was Chapman but the fact that they were doesn’t make Wenger any less great. It’s an extreme argument to try to argue that one is necessarily better than the other. If you’re counting trophies then Fergie is the best but if using broader criteria both Wenger and Chapman have things going for them. The answer is that there’s no definitive answer to such a question but arguing that those backing Wenger with an unbeaten season and 49 games undefeated are somehow extremist is a bit extreme.

  16. Have to largely agree with your blog, but unlike others – your blog is becoming one of my favorites because you can praise and also dish out criticism.

    I hold similar views – Wenger is a very good coach who hasn’t had the money to compete, so for keeping us in the money during this lean spell has been a very good achievement – but, had he been pragmatic with the flair players that we have had, we would have done better – no doubt about it. The way we defended as a team post the Bayern Munich game was something that wins you championships (even if it was by the seat of the pants sometimes) and it is a shame that he didn’t do this much earlier in the past 8 years. That is his failure, in my opinion and it is also why Ferguson is a great manager and not a very good one (and I am a season-ticket holding Gooner).

    I also think that it would be a mistake handing Wenger a new contract right now, unless he is prepared to upgrade the team properly. At the moment, I am not sure that he is and I suppose that is also partly due to the fact that A) We haven’t signed anyone of note yet and B) We have seen this happen many many summers before.

    We have a real chance to build on that defense (providing that we stick with it – I hope so!) with upgrades to the attack to properly challenge for trophies. If we fail to upgrade, I think that this should be Wenger’s last season then.

  17. How about a comparison of owners? They are of far greater importance to a Club long-term. For a start it’s the owner who hires the manager, dictates the financial budget and lays out the road map. Analyse the image a Big Club presents, the tradition it has, its ‘uniqueness’, and I’m pretty sure we will find a product of the kind of owner it has had over the generations. Any BIg Club, in England or anywhere. Are not AFC (solid, respectable) and THFC (flashy, unreliable) each perfectly in tune with their type of ownership? We should hope that Stanley is a custodian in the Arsenal tradition and not a short-term profit-seeker. The key to the future is not Wenger v Ferguson (or Moyes or Mourinho) but Kroenke v the Glazers (or Roman or the Sheikh).

    • Owners and the budget they provide are important, and obviously the way to really decide the best manager is by simply giving them all the same budget. But I haven’t noticed Liverpool reducing their spending, yet they are no longer real title challengers, so as usual it’s a combination of factors and manager is quite a big one.

  18. Taking in all you’ve written the only conclusion I can come to is that Arsene is the best manager for Arsenal right now. At this moment all things considered. Greatest of all time arguments are largely futile in my opinion due to the amount of subjectivity required in comparing environmental constraints. It makes for good conversation and that’s about it.

  19. I like that you’re objective Angry. In fact I wish most fans were the same. But I hope that some of these extremists aren’t pushing you towards the opposite end of the spectrum and away from your objectivity. Some of your recent articles have had a “having a go” feel. Maybe that’s just me

  20. I find it ridiculous that anyone challenges the notion that Fergie’s a better manager than AW, giving all the bullshit excuses like referees, money, yadayadayada. Load of crap. I’m a gooner and think AW is one of the game’s greatest managers, no question, but Ferguson is simply flat-out better. He’s proven far more adaptable than AW has with regard to tactical developments in the sport. He freshens up his staff regularly. He responds to challenges from other clubs superbly and consistently. He learns from other managers who come into the PL and temporarily wrest the league title from him. And he always wrests it back from them. He changes his tactics and strategies and teams quickly to adapt to competitors who best him for the title. Unlike AW, he understands the critical importance of a balanced team re age & experience, re attack and defense. Whereas AW has shown himself woefully unable to recognize the vital importance of the balance between age/experience and attack/defense. And unlike AW, Ferguson does not coddle his players.

    If I were to use one example of the difference between the two, it would have to be AW’s stated reasons for keeping Arshavin out of the FA cup semifinal against Chelsea in Arshavin’s first season with us.

    Arshavin and Song were our best players at the time. Here we were up against a strong opponent like CFC in a semifinal, with an opportunity to get to a final, perhaps win a trophy for AW’s maturing young team. And what does AW do? He leaves his two best players on the bench, putting Arshavin on the pitch in the 76th minute.

    Later that year at a meeting with shareholders (which was shown on arsenal.com), one shareholder got up to ask AW why Arshavin was kept out of that semifinal. AW’s response was astonishing and tells you all you need to know about his priorities: he said the young players on his team needed to figure out by themselves how to get out of trouble without the help of a veteran player. I saw his response for myself on arsenal.com.

    His priority wasn’t to win the trophy – but for his young players have no help from an experienced player in getting out of trouble to advance to the final of a domestic cup.

    Ferguson would NEVER EVER have made that decision. His all-consuming priority has always been TO WIN EVERYTHING–and he does everything possible to achieve that, damn the consequences.

    • To be fair they may well be Arsenal fans Sandra. Just misguided ones who are presumably unaware of much of the club’s history prior to Wenger’s appointment.

    • “I find it ridiculous that anyone challenges the notion that Fergie’s a better manager……..anyone who disputes the fact that Chapman is AFC’s greatest manager is no Arsenal fan”

      There you are….perfect examples of extreme opinion that refuses to countenance that a valid contrary argument can exist. Claims that Fergie and Chapman are better managers have their justification (though the arguments for either are opposing to some extent) as does the argument that Wenger’s achievements entitle his supporters to make a similar claim though as is pointed out above it’s a largely futile argument. Still if Phil was looking for an ideal illustration of an extremist opinion for his next blog at least you have provided him with one – and not, it appears, from the pro- Wenger perspective that Phil seems to feel it is most likely to come from.

  21. I totally agree with you Phil. Wenger had been hamstrung but still could have used his resources better. Everyone must read “Arsenal:The Making of A Modern Superclub” before they start judging Arsene. He is a better and smarter person than Ferguson and one of the top ten greatest managers ever, I sincerely hope that our new sponsorship deals allow him to spend more, if he doesn’t then that’s his fault. In terms of success and longevity and building a global brand Ferguson is the best. In terms of building a club as a whole and managing to survive and outdo others with limited resources for a number of years (until 2010) Wenger is the best. But overall success, longevity, innovations and influence on the game, Chapman is the greatest ever.

  22. “….finally putting form together and scraping fourth place due to Spurs inevitable collapse…”

    Was that due to Spurs collapse or was the form we put together for more than the last third of the season, since mid January, better than that of any other team? To the extent that had the season started in mid Jan we would have won the league. But there’s no opportunity to offer praise no matter how qualified? You should be able to see where you lack balance Phil. Maybe not to the extent that would make you an extremist, though your willingness to brand others as such is bit extreme, but certainly enough to mark you out as someone too blinkered and narrow in your perspective to claim to hold the middle ground. Then again maybe that’s true of most of us.

    • Yes, it’s most unfortunate no one ever wins the league by only being on form for part of the season. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s the beginning, middle or end that is the poor part, does it?

      • It matters to some extent yes dependent on what factors contribute to that poor form. But nonetheless outperforming all your peers for the final 45% of the season and showing improving form is possibly more worthy of some recognition than it is of dismissal as ‘scraping fourth place due to Spurs collapse’. You can’t see that because you’re unable to from the position that you’re standing in.

      • It means nothing. We scraped fourth, that’s the truth. And do you think Man U were really trying for the last 7 or 8 games? They’d won the league already. If they had needed more points, they’d have got them, so their ‘form’ is misleading.

  23. Of course it means something if only CL pre-qualification. We scraped fourth due to our improved form not to anyone’s collapse. Spurs average points per game over that same period increased over the preceding period, as did ManU’s! Just not as much as ours. There was no collapse by anyone, other than a modest drop by City, but certainly not by Spurs. There was just a significant improvement in our results. It’s not that hard to acknowledge it as such but the fact that you’re struggling to do so betrays your own myth about your presence among the reasonable majority.

      • Strange – I expected that, as a member of the reasonable majority, you would’ve been grateful that I was able to correct your misconceived claim that we managed fourth largely because of Spurs collapse. That’s the problem with extremists I suppose. They accept such factual arguments so grudgingly. 😉

      • No, extremists don’t accept corrections at all.
        You seem more bothered with the semantics of any perceived collapse than with the fact we scraped fourth. Strange priorities!

  24. There was no collapse, perceived, semantically or otherwise, that allowed us to scrape fourth (or if you prefer achieve CL entry for the 16th year running). You seem more concerned with the claim that we only scraped fourth due to the failure of others than appreciating and praising, no matter how modestly, our own achievements. Those are the strange priorities, whereas a member of the reasonable majority might be expected to see both sides.

    • I don’t really care how we scraped fourth, the issue is that we scraped fourth. On budget we should be far nearer Man Utd than Spurs, especially given we have a great/once great (delete as applicable) manager. Is that not the issue? Hardly an extreme view to expect to be well clear of little Spurs and their wage bill of £1m a week less than Arsenal’s.

  25. Well of course you wouldn’t care if your preference is to avoid anything that might appear moderately positive towards the club. We have the fourth highest player budget (wages plus transfer fees) in the PL and have had since Mansour bought City. We’ve finished 3rd in three of the last six seasons despite only having the 4th highest player budget in that time and while Spurs (who have only finished 4th twice and as low as 11th in that same period) may spend less per week on wages their nett transfer spend (over the last 10 years) has averaged about £11m more per season than we have so their player budgets are closer than you suggest. Even so, by extension of your argument, Chelsea supporters should feel entitled based on wage bills to have ended further ahead of us than they have done over the couple of seasons or so. An extreme view can be fairly characterised as one that fails to embrace the many factors that can contribute to a more rounded view. The ‘I don’t really care’ response doesn’t suggest that you’re open to these more rounded arguments.

    • I quite agree about Chelsea supporters where PL performance is concerned, but they did have the bonus of being European champions, and thus were lucky enough to scrape into the CL again last year. But sure, they should be getting a better PL return – maybe they haven’t had a manager as good as Arsenal’s for a couple of years?

  26. I don’t disagree with what you’ve written Phil. It’s intelligent, obviously written with care and always likely to provoke a lot of comments. Having read all of your posts for quite a while now I think you genuinely do try to come across as being balanced and constructively critical. It’s why I read your blogs and quickly ignore a lot of others after one or two reads.

    I personally can’t stand people who argue themselves into a corner and then throw wild punches at anyone that comes near challenging the irrationality of their position. Football, like life, is greatly nuanced; there’s all manner of shades of grey. Most people can’t handle grey, it’s too confusing for them, they don’t have time to constantly challenge their minds, they just want a simple black or white choice; Labour or Conservative, EU or Independent, Monarchy or Republic, Wenger or anyone else. Make your mind up, eat a Big Mac and find something on TV that you don’t have to think about.

    Personally, I love everything that Wenger has done for the club and would love to see him succeed again. I don’t understand how any real Arsenal fan would want anything else. I also know that he’s made many mistakes and not all of them can reasonably or rationally be explained away – things he deserves criticism for. I don’t understand how any genuinely unblinkered Arsenal fan who’s sat through every game over recent seasons cannot see this either. Some of us do inhibit the middle ground, although most of us are just enjoying the summer laughing at the extremists fighting it out amongst themselves. I don’t blog, I don’t tweet, I occasionally comment on this site if I have a point to make. I respect you for your efforts Phil, don’t give up easily – you and Mr Mangan are a dying breed but providing an invaluable service for the silent and pragmatic.

  27. What a fun ‘debate’ going on here, even now.

    In the battle between a brain and a brick wall, the brick wall will win every time. It doesn’t know any better.

    Phil. Your criticisms of the manager. Fine. That’s up to you. But it is strange to hear you hold on to and repeat the view about where you stand in terms of the larger view on Arsenal. What that tells me is also one criticism I’d put in my comment yesterday. That it’s very hard to respond to your views on Arsenal properly because your views don’t seem to exist without having a pre defined counter argument to lean on while simultaneously raging against it. You’re so obsessed with defining yourself as being Malcolm in the Middle that you see an ‘extremist’ everywhere.

    Besides, people’s views are generally vague. People who want Arsene fired, have various different reasons for it, and have different gripes. People who want Arsene to stay, are generally more ‘extreme’ only when combating the extremism of the haters. This should be quite axiomatic because people who are generally well disposed to the manager, otherwise have nothing to be extreme about. They are getting what they want anyway (in this regard. Doesn’t make them status quoists, or happy to be also rans) But how does one stay in the middle of an ever shifting, amorphous body of opinion for which there is no one reliable source? How can anyone objectively claim to be objective?

    When I called you out on your railing against the wage structure, I gave you a possible alternative to mismanagement. You never entertained the possibility of that being the case. You instead wrote in your next blog about please no one comment about how you’re wrong about the wage structure since you aren’t alone in this criticism of the club. You weren’t really being in the middle then were you? Which is fine. No one can be in the middle of something they do not know the shape or size of, except by accident.

    I think the problem is, that you start from a viewpoint of something necessarily being wrong at the club. I think this because you go on about how you mistrust ‘experts’. I don’t disagree with you about that. Being an expert doesn’t make anyone right. But it does reflect that they have experience, and importantly, access to information that others don’t have. Meaning it is harder to conclude that they are obviously wrong, and requires a more indepth analysis than simply judging them on the outcome. Judging someone’s decisions simply on the basis of outcome is a flawed process. Arsene Wenger (or any manager) is the manager he is. Whether he wins trophies or not, is not necessarily reflective of his aptitude. Even though that is a major evaluation factor, it is not the only one. Because it relies on judging someone by the outcome rather than by the soundness of their decisions.

    • P.S. And the soundness of a decision is tough to judge without being ‘in the know’ of all the inside information at the club

  28. 1).First reaction to the IFFHS is who are they? From that starting point, anything they say is pretty meaningless.

    2). Wenger VS Chapman. What makes me want to cry is the feeling that all too often the answer would be Wenger VS Who? For me, Chapman edges it if nothing else for the ‘might have been’ factor. Both had great successes, were innovators, but with Chapman cut down in his prime; how much more could he have achieved?

    3). Wenger VS Ferguson. The gut call is easy. As an Arsenal fan, and someone who dislikes Ferguson at a profound level; there is no choice.

    Taking things objectively, separating them is impossible for me simply because their circumstances have always been so different. Number of trophies puts Ferguson on top. You balance that against the fact he has always had more money to work with. So many other factors can skew things: Ferguson already being in place and settled when Wenger arrived, the Beckham generation. Was he lucky that they turned up together? Or do you give him credit for fully taking advantage of them? How much credit do you give Wenger for his training strategies or transfer inside knowledge?

    I’ve seen the swapping places argument: would Wenger have got more or less success at United? Could Ferguson have navigated Arsenal through the last few years as well? Again the answer is probably they both would have done as well.

    Far too many subjective factors to ever get a definite answer.

    4). The one thing that always strikes me about the pair, is you see articles show up now and again that try to show how well the smaller clubs do really well with a limited budget. The results invariably end up showing both Wenger and Ferguson overachieving compared to their budgets.

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