Alex Ferguson has been interviewed defending Arsene Wenger. The first point here is that football managers nearly always defend other football managers, never think they should be sacked and usually proclaim what a great job they’re doing even if it’s blatantly untrue. So pinch of salt required with all managerial utterances of this nature.
As to the actual content from Fergie, I don’t know how long the full interview went on, but the 90 second clip doing the rounds can be summarised as:
- Arsene has taken a lot of abuse this season and been quite dignified about it (true)
- Arsene has not bowed to pressure or crumbled under it (true)
- If Arsenal get rid of Arsene then they might not do as well as they have with Arsene (true)
I’ve said points one and two are true, and they sort of are, though occasionally Arsene reacts in odd and undignified ways when questioned at press conferences, and while I personally don’t want him to crumble into some sort of nervous breakdown it would be nice if he took notice of the pressure, realised why there is pressure and either called it a day or made changes to how things are done rather than insist nothing different is needed.
But on point three, Fergie’s rationale is ridiculous. Of course Arsenal may not do so well when Arsene goes, we all know that, but he claims that Arsenal are better off sticking with Wenger because his success in the past shows he’s a better option than risking change now. He held up Brian Clough at Forest as another example, and it was plain by the time that Forest were about to be relegated that Clough was well past his sell-by date. Arsenal haven’t drifted that far, but it should be equally obvious that in the current Premier League, stuffed with rich clubs and managers who’ve been extremely successful elsewhere much more recently than Arsene has, it’s not going to get any easier for Arsene to guide a team back to the top.
Winning the league when Fergie’s Man Utd were the only equal club was one thing, winning it above Pep, Klopp, Conte and whoever is spending Man Utd’s massive budget at the time is going to be a lot harder, not to mention occasional dark horses like Leicester and plucky little Spurs (though only one of those last two has actually won it in my lifetime).
Presumably this idea that if you appoint someone inexperienced at top level to follow a successful manager it might go wrong has only just occured to Fergie, given he anointed Moyes as the chosen one at Old Trafford. Yes, sure it might go wrong, there’s never a guarantee that the chemistry will work even if you appoint someone with recent top level success. But to claim sticking with Arsene is the best option for Arsenal now? Seriously Fergie, even if you suggested it to your horses they’d say neigh (sorry).