Arsene Wenger and Patrick Vieira

Arsene Wenger is a very good manager. His teams play neat, quick passing, fast-paced football …. in England. I have never thought of him to be a great manager simply because he could NEVER EVER cut it in Europe. He has been to exactly 2 European finals in his entire period at Highbury/Emirates. The first final they made was in 2000 and the next one in 2006. I do not know how Arsenal, as always, were the better team in Copenhagen and lost but clearly remember the 2006 final. Wenger apologists will bring up Lehmann’s sending off (which it was) and claim Eto’o was offside (when you need a Vernier Caliper to measure offside I think it is not offside).


Those apologists completely ignore that the referee disallowed Giuly’s goal after Lehmann’s foul which should have made it 1-0 to Barcelona inside 20 minutes. Or that Eboue dived to win the freekick that produced Campbell’s goal. Or that super striker Thierry “I am better than Zidane” Henry choking that night by missing two gilt-edged 1 on 1s later blaming the referee for not cautioning El Capitan Puyol’s physicality.

Wenger has never been closer to any European final ever since that fateful night in Paris. It is now 9 years since a European final and 21 years for a European success. These are the list of trophies won by Wenger at Arsenal:

English Premier League:  1997–98, 2001–02, 2003–04

FA Cup: 1997–98, 2001–02, 2002–03, 2004–05, 2013–14

FA Community Shield: 1998, 1999, 2002, 2004, 2014

I will ignore Community Shield. That is 3 league titles and 5 national cup titles. Before 2013-14 season, Arsenal won their last trophy in 2005. Even then it was only the cup. The closest they came to winning the league was in 2007-08 and 2013-14. All but one of Wenger’s titles came with one guy running the team. Yup. Patrick Vieira. Tall, fast and powerful Patrick Vieira. Vieira had a disciplinary problem but there was no doubt that he was one of the league’s best defensive midfielders. I started watching English football only around 2001-02 and I always felt Vieira was much better than Roy Keane. Maybe Keane got older but Vieira almost always outplayed Keane in their head to head battles.

It was not uncommon for Vieira to break an opponents’ attack, bring the ball and provide an outlet to Henry/Bergkamp/Pires and they would finish off the move within a couple of 1-2s or a through ball. Wenger’s early 2000s Arsenal were a joy to watch but only in England though. Even with Vieira, Arsenal were repeatedly, both physically and tactically, outplayed in Europe on a consistent basis. Poor Vieira. His arseneuropetes was never cured and turned out to be contagious to both Juventus and Internazionale where he continued to win league titles but failed in Europe. Vieira left Inter in January and Inter went on to win the treble in May beating Bayern, Barcelona and Chelsea on the way. What wretched luck!

Wenger never could find a replacement for him. He tried Fabregas the over-hyped Catalan. Fabregas provided goals but he never could provide the protection Vieira could. He tried to split offence and defence between Fabregas and Gilberto Silva, Flamini, Diaby. It was never very successful. None of them could provide the thrust and the drive Vieira did. At 6’4″ Vieira was an imposing figure in the middle of the park. He could also get stuck into tackles and come out unscathed. Even though Arsenal had Bergkamp as playmaker, Henry scoring goals for fun and Pires scoring and creating goals for fun, when Vieira had a bad Arsenal would have a bad day. When he missed the title run-in in 2002-03, Arsenal completely collapsed giving up an 8-point lead in the beginning of March.

Wenger is also said to be a guy who finds diamonds in the rough. BULLSHIT PART DEUX!! Name one youngster who can be called world-class that was developed by Wenger. Only Fabregas comes close and he is merely good. Fergie made Giggs, Scholes, Cristiano, Van Gaal gave debuts to Xavi, Iniesta, Mueller and the legendary Ajax of ’95. Hell even Pep Guardiola gave debuts to Busquets and Pedro and he is not even 10 years into management. Is there a single player developed under Wenger, Vieira excepted, that is good enough to be mentioned in that class? He converted Henry yes but Henry was already a world cup winner and a champions league semifinalist with Monaco before he came to London via Turin. He merely needed a reboot and to be fair Wenger brilliantly rebooted Henry.

I don’t know if it is his stubbornness or his hands are tied by the management but Wenger is outdated. He wants to recreate his early great Arsenal sides with players that aren’t good enough to be champions. Maybe he is still searching for his Patrick Vieira but Wenger was consistently winning only with Vieira and all he could manage after Vieira was a series of 3rd/4th place finishes. It is time to ask the question. Was Wenger any good or was he made to look very good by the brilliant Patrick Vieira?


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