Friday, 29 August 2008

Is The Wenger Project reaching its Autumn?

"In Arsene We Trust", proclaims the fan's flag permanently stationed behind the goal at The Emirates. It's partly a tribute to the Esteemed Professor of the Highbury renaissance and partly a prayer from the faithful hoping he can restore the Gunners' falling star.

And in recent years, faith is all Arsenal fans have. Faith that Arsene Wenger can restore the club to prominence in the English game. The gleaming new trophy cabinet in the gleaming new stadium is bare. The truth is with each passing season, the Gunners are slipping further behind Manchester United and Chelsea.

A boardroom who's only joint position seems to be in repelling the takeover bid by Usmanov and Dein, Arsenal's development is as achingly slow as that of Theo Walcott's.

The Emirates stands as a monument to better times. Once they had a settled board with a clear destiny buoyed by years of Doubles and cup success. Sure, the stadium propels the club into the big league and a chance to compete with anyone in the coming decades.

But what of now?

What chance does the Professor have of building a winning side when two of his best players, Hleb and Flamini leave at the drop of a hat, and a third, Adebayor only stays after his Italian move falls through?

Wenger frequently talks of an ethic, a way of doing things which he looks for in his players. But if ultimately the players he propels to stardom end up no more than foreign mercenaries using him as a stepping stone en route to Milan or Barcelona, isn't it time he modified his mindset? Wenger's beliefs work in a winning club but they're left wanting when things get tough.

This doesn't happen at Manchester United. Not only does Sir Alex Ferguson cultivate homegrown youngsters who play for the shirt like few others, he also manages to create that loyalty among the players he brings in.

Until Wenger engenders that dimension into his squad of players, then Arsenal fans will have to make do with being also-rans. His squad rotation will be more about covering for players heading for the exit door!

David Dein once said every manager has a shelf life. It's time for Wenger to show he has the longevity of the other managerial greats. Can Wenger dig deeper to keep up with the Fergies?