Why even the #WengerOut brigade should lament Arsene Wenger's exit from Arsenal

Arsene Wenger will leave Arsenal after 22 years as boss of one of the biggest clubs in Europe.
Updated 21 April 2018
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Why even the #WengerOut brigade should lament Arsene Wenger's exit from Arsenal

  • The Frenchman revolutionised the game in England across all leagues, not just the Premier League.
  • After initial success he found the going tough in the second half of his reign, but will still go down as an all-time great.

Over the past few seasons it has been fashionable to view Arsene Wenger as some sort of figure of fun — a man living in the past, left behind by the modern game, but too stubborn to realize it.
In time, though, even the most ardent, frothing-at-the-mouth #WengerOut believer would have to agree that the Frenchman will go down not just as one of the best managers Arsenal have had, but also among the greatest in English club football.
As with any caricature, there is a hint of truth in the picture created, crude as it sometimes is. Yes, Wenger’s past few years at the Emirates have been painful to watch. Yes, he was stubborn when it came to both activity in the transfer market and belief in his methods and tactics. Yes, it is fair to say he leaves the club, on the pitch at least, in a bit of a mess. And, yes, he should have left two or three years ago.
But if there is one thing that any sane fan should remember about Wenger’s 22 years as Arsenal boss, it is this: He was a game-changer, a manager who oversaw not only a revolution of the Gunners, but also of the English game.
As soon as Wenger landed in England in 1996, he banished Arsenal’s Tuesday drinking club and munching of Mars bars — in their place came stretching sessions and broccoli. Hardly profound or radical in today’s game, but this was the era when change in English football invariably meant no pies and pints on a Friday night.
The technical, passing, possession football that is now the norm for any side with ambitions to remain in the Premier League, let alone win it, and the idea that eating vegetables rather than a tub of lard would help player performance, were brought in by Wenger alone.
He won the double in his first full season in charge, signed unheralded foreign talent such as Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Viera — who went on to become world-class players — and created teams that were a joy to watch, culminating with “The Invincibles” of 2003-04, who won the Premier League without losing a match.
The irony is that the one-time revolutionary ended up being viewed as a throwback, a stuck-in-the-mud anachronism; a manager who harked back to a time when playing with the owner’s chequebook was not seen as the only path to success and when paragraphs were favored over 140 characters.
And that perhaps explains why so many Arsenal fans seemingly wanted him gone: Wenger is not of the Twitter generation, of instant opinions for the 24-hour news agenda and of hype over humility. The man who was once seen as the future stuck to principles that were deemed as belonging to the past.
It is clear there is a lot of bad blood at the club — a ridiculous Facebook post by an Arsenal fan claimed Wenger’s announcement he was leaving made it the “greatest day in Arsenal’s history.”
But for all the bluster and nonsense, Wenger’s legacy will be that of “The Invincibles” — one of the greatest club sides of modern times; of beautiful football played at pace and with artistry; of being a decent, yet flawed, man who was never anything but articulate and courteous.
Having been in charge of Arsenal for 22 years, he is undoubtedly the last of a kind, and in the era of trigger-happy owners, short-term fixes and sensationalism over stability, that is something everyone, even the #WengerOut brigade, should lament.


Van Dijk backs Salah to shine in Kiev showpiece

Updated 26 May 2018
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Van Dijk backs Salah to shine in Kiev showpiece

  • Virgil van Dijk: He (Mohamed Salah) is a nightmare for defenders, creating and scoring goals.”
  • Van Dijk: “To be calm, that is sometimes a very good thing to have, but personally sometimes I have to learn, too.”

LIVERPOOL: As Mohamed Salah prepares for a career-defining period, Virgil van Dijk is confident his Liverpool teammate’s star will only shine brighter on football’s biggest stages.
The Liverpool frontman will face-off with Ballon d’Or rival Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid tonight in the Champions League final before heading off to a debut World Cup with Egypt.
And having witnessed an incredible season that has brought 44 goals — a record 32 in the Premier League ­— for the Egyptian star, Reds defender van Dijk says he has the all-round ability to strike fear into the reigning European champions and international sides.
“He is a nightmare for defenders, creating and scoring goals,” said the Dutchman of the 25-year-old Salah. “It’s complete for him.
“He’s like everyone in our squad, laidback, calm, no big personalities and egos. We work hard for each other and just want to be better.
“I think he can definitely be the best in Europe, but there are two other players who are pretty good at the moment as well (in Ronaldo and Lionel Messi). I hope for Mo it happens because he deserves it. He is that kind of player to light up a World Cup as well.”
While all eyes will be on Salah and Ronaldo as potential match-winners in Kiev, van Dijk, 26, will have a major role on the defensive front.
The game will offer the center-back the chance to prove he was worth the £75 million ($100 million) it cost to sign him from Southampton in January.
“Any player who arrived at this club, they want to play in these games, they want to be under this kind of pressure, they want to get trophies,” he said.
“I don’t think I have been bought to win the Champions League final. I have been bought to hopefully get the best out of myself and the best out of the team with the help of everyone else.
“To be calm, that is sometimes a very good thing to have, but personally sometimes I have to learn, too.
“Against Manchester City in the away game (of the quarter final) I was a little bit too calm in the beginning, for example. That is something I have to learn as well. To be in the final right now, it has been a crazy journey.”
Watching last season’s final between Real and Juventus, van Dijk realized just how much he wanted to be a part of the competition — and why Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool were the club for him, despite interest from City.
“I never really go to big games to watch as a fan, but I was in Cardiff,” he recalled. “The sponsors (Sony) hooked us up with two fantastic seats and it was two hours from where I used to live, so we thought, ‘let’s go.’
“From the moment I got there a lot of people in hospitality were Liverpool fans and they were saying, ‘join, please join.’