In the world of soccer, Arsenal Soccer Club is synonymous with the beautiful game. Competing in the English Premier League, the club is largely responsible for reshaping the way the game is played in the U.K., through the incorporation of technique, flair, and finesse in the gameplay. The man behind the transformation, Arsene Wenger, is regarded as a monumental figure not only in the history of the club but also in the Premier League. His decision to retire at the end of the 2017-18 season sent shockwaves through the spine of the club’s fans and followers worldwide, who are left to wonder what the future holds for the esteemed club.
When Arsene Wenger became the manager of Arsenal F.C. in 1996, the club was infamous for playing a very boring brand of soccer. Under his vigorous leadership, the club underwent several changes – including a switch in the diet of the players to incorporate more healthy food as opposed to greasy fries and junk food. He also propagated a free-flowing, dynamic style of soccer that was a pleasure to watch. His ability to nurture young players into world-class soccer players ensured that Arsenal’s youth academy became a much sought-after destination for burgeoning talents. World-class players like Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas, Patrick Viera, and Robin Van Persie all saw their career take off under the leadership of Wenger in Arsenal.
As he nurtured the technical abilities of promising players, he also instilled in them his philosophy of how soccer is meant to be played. He gave importance to ball possession and quick one-touch passing, which enabled Arsenal to shed their previous tag and become a team that played fluid and dynamic soccer. Arsenal under Wenger managed to win three Premier League titles and seven F.A. Cup trophies. The final league victory, which occurred in 2003-04, engraved Arsenal’s name in history – as they became the first team to win the league undefeated, garnering them the moniker of ‘The Invincibles’. The team eventually managed to extend their undefeated run to 49 games – a record that’s probably unsurpassable in today’s cut-throat era of English soccer.
However, towards the end of his managerial career, Wenger began to display a lack of adaptability. As a majority of top clubs spent enormous amounts of money in buying world-class players, Wenger stuck to his belief of developing youth players. The idea backfired on several occasions, as Arsenal were reduced to being the butt of all jokes – managing to come in the Top 4 to qualify for Champions League – Europe’s premier competition. Even that changed during Wenger’s last two years as the manager of the club, which prompted him to finally step down from the throne that he had built from scratch.
Following his retirement, Unai Emery became the new manager of Arsenal F.C. Emery has previously won trophies with Sevilla F.C. and Paris Saint-Germain, playing a style of soccer very similar to the one propagated by Wenger. In addition to this, Arsenal hopes to capitalize on his shrewd transfer skills on the market to buy players.
Arsenal is also set to become a ‘privately’ owned club, after its previous shareholder, Stan Kroenke, agreed to buy the remaining stakeholders out. A change in ownership of the club might also change the way it’s run, including an adherence to the Wenger philosophies that reverberated among its fans. Nonetheless, maybe change is good in this aspect – and maybe “private” Arsenal F.C. under a new manager manages to create new standards in soccer history.