Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Wenger-style dynasties now harder in football

Published:Saturday | February 18, 2017 | 2:14 AM
Arsenal's manager, Arsene Wenger.

LONDON (AP):

Arsene Wenger is the last of a dying breed, the football coach who can establish a long-standing dynasty at a club and seems to be able to decide for himself whether or not he leaves.

In the 21st year of his Arsenal reign, Wenger is the longest-serving manager in a leading European league.

Whatever pressures counterparts face, Wenger seems to emerge largely unscathed within the hierarchy regardless of the setbacks on the pitch, of which there have been many during his second decade.

The succession of silverware - which peaked when the "Invincibles" side went unbeaten throughout the whole season in the 2003/04 campaign - has been replaced by a cycle of capitulations, the latest a 5-1 humiliation in the Champions League at Bayern Munich.

The ownership is more forgiving than the fans, rigidly standing by the Frenchman who was once a trailblazer but who has now been overtaken by a new generation of more tactically-flexible, innovative coaches.

"We are all very high on Arsene," Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke said in a rare interview with The Associated Press recently.

And for all Wenger's shortcomings he has delivered Champions League qualification in every season in charge, guaranteeing the comfort blanket of the UEFA windfall for Kroenke by finishing in the Premier League's top four.

But how healthy is it for any business when an employee appears able to set his own departure terms rather than his bosses calling the shots?

"No matter what happens I will manage next season ... is it here or somewhere else?" Wenger said yesterday, toying with Arsenal and asserting his power.

Perhaps he's just waiting to be begged to stay. There's often a convenient array of stories linking Wenger with leading jobs, including Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain in recent years, whenever the pressure from fans starts to intensify, showing he's a man in demand.

 

NOT ALWAYS GREEN

 

The grass isn't always greener on the other side, and Wenger reminded Arsenal fans of that.

"Even if I go, Arsenal will not win every single game in the future," Wenger said, facing up to elimination for the seventh successive year in the round of 16 of the Champions League.

The Champions League now often determines the fates of the elite managers in a way it didn't in the pre-1992 format where only the national champions made the European Cup.

Louis van Gaal was fired by Manchester United after two seasons despite lifting the FA Cup in May because he failed to secure a top-four finish to make the Champions League. Successor Jose Mourinho will survive in the job if his sixth-place side misses out again but patience will eventually wear thin at Old Trafford where Alex Ferguson ruled for more than 26 years until his retirement in 2013.