It has been undoubtedly his most turbulent term in his 17-year career as Gunners boss. His sale of Robin van Persie last summer to archrivals Manchester United along with the club’s inability to compete for trophies once again this season sparked outrage amongst some sections of the Arsenal fanbase, disappointment and disillusionment with the manager amongst most others.
The Twitter campaigns of ‘Wenger Out’ hashtags and the ‘you don’t know what you’re doing chants’ on occasion from discontented fans in dissent slowly subsided as the Gunners improved their form in the latter stages of this season and now are still left with a very good chance of qualifying for the Champions League for the 16th successive year.
However, whilst his critics this term have come charging at him from all directions, his transfer policy being the most notable point of contention, Champions League semi-finalist and likely finalists Borussia Dortmund have been operating a very similar financial policy in the Bundesliga.
Last term’s Bundesliga champions have spent €68,950,000 in the last 5 years, buying 29 players, and selling 31 at combined value of €67 million, making themselves a net profit of €1.9 million over that same five-year period.
In that time, Dortmund have won two domestic championship titles (the same number as Bayern Munich) along with two domestic cups and they look set to progress to the Champions League final this season.
Whilst it’s plain to see that Arsenal have not enjoyed Dortmund’s success over that same period – the Gunners haven’t won a trophy for 8 years and will have to wait for a 9th year to give it a shot of ending this complex once and for all – it is not so obvious why Wenger’s critics attribute their lack of success to their transfer policy.
It clearly works for Dortmund and, up until 8 years ago it was working for Arsenal.
In fact, as I’ve outlined a number of times, the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Real Madrid most notably haven’t seen any increased success in the same five-year period despite spending vast amounts of money on players and making great financial losses overall, compared to the likes of Manchester United, for example.
So, it’s obviously not Wenger’s philosophy of buying young and cheap players with potential, developing them into first-team stars and then, eventually selling them for silly money to a richer club with more money than sense oftentimes.
That is not actually the problem – not for Dortmund, at any rate. If that’s not the reason behind Arsenal’s slow and painful transformation from a powerhouse both domestically and continentally to an ‘also-ran’ each and every year, then what is?
I believe it is very simple – Arsenal have been unlucky. In that 8-year period since their last trophy, the Gunners have played in a Champions League final, a League Cup final and several semi-finals along the way.
That’s life, you win some, you lose some. To compound the problem, every year they haven’t won their complex about it gets more debilitating. They’ve been unlucky. It’s that simple. Borussia Dortmund’s success shows that Arsenal's failure is not all down to Wenger’s transfer policy.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald