The prevailing complaint surrounding Arsene Wenger and Arsenal in recent years has been the lack of ambition that has been shown, especially in the transfer window. The move to the Emirates is now more than a decade removed and the financial restrictions have lessened significantly. And yet, still we sit here waiting for a squad with a genuine title chance to be assembled.
Predominantly, it has been Wenger that has taken the flak for this. Given the 20 years that he has led the club, that is natural. He is the face of the franchise, as they say in America, the one that everyone sees when they think of Arsenal football club. Whether valid or not, the general thought, from an external perspective, is that Wenger has the final decision on every aspect of the club. Consequently, he deserves the blame for the club’s failings.
That thinking does have some logic to it. However, this summer, with the fans reaching the end of their tether with Wenger and the board, culminating in an extremely frosty and angsty atmosphere engulfing the club to close last season, and baying for some ambition to be shown, the organisation has, to some extent responded.
Mesut Ozil wants to stay. The transfer record was broken. Sead Kolasinac seems to be an unusually solid and astute signing. The Community Shield triumph now adds to that positive feeling as the Premier League season draws near. And, to top it all off, Wenger has repeatedly and profusely proclaimed that Alexis Sanchez will not be sold, with or without a new contract.
Because deciding to keep Sanchez without a new contract lacked financial sense, I assumed that Wenger and the board had collectively made the decision, with the Stan Kroenke and the board ultimately the ones with the final choice, since they are the ones who own the wallets.
However, a recent report from the London Evening Standard claims that it was Wenger who demanded that Sanchez would not be sold, with Ivan Gazidis and other board members earlier in the summer considering the possibility of selling the Chilean should a suitable offer be received, thought to be north of £50 million.
Assuming the report is true, and I have little reason to not believe it, that is a twist in the narrative that Wenger lacks ambition. Although his management has been frustrating at times, I have never quite subscribed to the thought that he doesn’t want to win. Wenger was a serial winner. He is ruthlessly competitive. Of course, he’s ambitious. He was simply mistaken in much of his decision making.
And this perhaps begins to vindicate that thought. If it was Wenger that was adamant that Sanchez would not be sold, then perhaps he is eyeing one last push at a Premier League title. It’s unlikely with Sanchez; without him, it would be nigh on impossible.
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