Wenger's 'genius' faces the music again

Arsenal: Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger is still too eulogised for my liking in England. The presence of a cerebral polylinguist with a background in economics at the heart of English club football continues to daze many a hack, who sum him up with tired labels like 'genius' or 'the professor'.

Make no mistake. Geniuses achieve wondrous things and Arsenal have won nothing for four seasons. After the Arsenal-Man U hegemony of the 1990s, they now risk being overtaken by Liverpool and Manchester City. In creating an empire and a new castle at Ashburton Grove, Wenger is clearly the Gunners' most important boss since Herbert Chapman, but his trophy-less years leave him too open to flak to justify the genius tag.

Wenger lays his soul open to Matthew Syed over 13 pages here, touching upon his political beliefs (one-world government) and art preference (abstract, though he has never been to Tate Modern) amongst other things. It is an intriguing interview the like of which you could never see Harry Redknapp giving. Wenger, not Mourinho, is the special one.

Wenger finally confesses to lying, ackowledging his 'I did not see it' mantra as dishonest, but also refuses to concede that his buying policy, or lack of it, needs revision, when it was quite evident by the end of last season that for Arsenal, youth is not enough.

I am glad Wenger arrived and stayed in the previously closed-minded world of English football, forging an alternative way of doing things, fulfilling Voltaire's maxim to cultivate your own garden, while bringing many new ideas to the table.

But powerful reservations about him remain, paticularly regarding his apparent dismissal of international football and self-confessed robotic drive to make Arsenal the best, a direction he seems unable to swerve from, even when it seems to most eyes not to be the best route.

Anyone who has lived and worked in London for 13 years and could not show a visitor around because they have never visited the sights themselves is someone I find it hard to warm to.

Whatever one's opinion on the Frenchman off the field, the league does not lie. Wenger bravely predicts in the Syed interview that Arsenal will win the league this year, but should four barren years become five, the mythology of Mr. Wenger will unravel that bit further.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile


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