Wenger reflects on fan outrage that dogged post-Invincible era

Wenger Statue

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insists it was never a 'personal battle' between himself and the minority of the club's supporters who wanted his resignation.

During Arsene Wenger's 17-year strong tenure at Arsenal, the professorial Alsatian has put together a number of elite teams but none more so than the legendary Invincibles of 2004 that went an entire Premier League season unbeaten, a feat without parallel in modern English football.

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That alone, though, was not enough to win him a permanent position in the mindset of fans who became increasingly perturbed by the consistent offloading of each key member of that side in each and every transfer window up until the last man, Kolo Toure, departed in 2009 for Manchester City.

Influential and intimidating leader Patrick Vieira left for Serie A in 2005, Dennis Bergkamp retired in 2006 in the same year Robert Pires transferred to Villarreal, Sol Campbell went to Portsmouth and Ashley Cole swapped red and white for the blue of Chelsea. Thierry Henry inevitably joined Barcelona in 2007.

It was perhaps Toure to City that was the last straw. Especially as it came at a time when City were improving each and every year while the Gunners were obviously weakening.

Accusations of a 'selling club' mentality began to plague the Emirates as Cesc Fabregas joined the Camp Nou side in 2011 while Robin van Persie joined Manchester United last year with the same idea Fabregas, like Henry even had: to challenge for trophies… an ambition that could have been realised at Arsenal had the club been able to keep hold of, or attract, or develop, the calibre of players it had on it's roster during the Invincible era.

While the fans who wanted Wenger out were a minority, they were also vocal, staging loud protests outside of the ground, holding up banners during home matches at Ashburton Grove and even pleading… imploring… demanding that big-money, high-profile signings be made in order to restore the club's title-challenging credentials.

What a difference a summer makes.

Wenger signed off the departure of 22 players on the books in the latest transfer market, including former players in and around the first-team such as Denilson, Andrei Arshavin, Sebastian Squillaci, Andre Santos, Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh, while only really making two substantial incoming transfers in Mathieu Flamini and the £42.4m acquisition of Mesut Ozil but the team is now considerably stronger.

This is perhaps due to the lift Ozil has given to his team-mates, but credit also to the continued gelling and footballing progression of last season's signings Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla and the break-out Aaron Ramsey is enjoying.

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The results speak for themselves. During the October international break, Arsenal are atop the Premier League, are the second highest collective goal-scorers in the division, have one of the strongest midfields in the country, have the joint-third top striker and can brag the leader of the assist charts within their ranks.

It is a comfortable position that Wenger has not been accustomed to in some years, but it is vindication of the 63-year-old's footballing creed, the loyalty afforded to him by the club's board and the majority of supporters who never wished for his departure.

It is testament to Wenger's character that he does not hold it against those who lost faith in his abilities, as he told AP: 'It's not a personal battle. My desire is I love to win. I love to do well. I just feel I am happy if I can give some pleasure and happiness to people who love Arsenal. That is my main target. When I don't achieve that I am very disappointed.'

When Wenger was appointed the Arsenal manager, there were few in the British press who were even aware of his existence. Some, with knowledge and passion for the French league at the turn of the 1990s, will have noted his success at AS Monaco, but most turned their nose up at the arrival of a bespectacled, largely unknown coach from Grampus Eight in 1996.

Since then, he has been chased by the European elite desperate to lure him from a project largely his own creation. Real Madrid were perpetually unsuccessful in snaring Wenger and, of late, Paris Saint Germain have also been unable to capture their primary target.

No other club, if his latest comments imply, will tempt him. He said:  'I can see the rest of my life in England.'

He added: 'I feel comfortable in this country because we share a common passion for football and as well I am very thankful for this country for having accepted me and giving me a chance. I am happy on the football pitch.'

Arsenal fans must surely be thankful he has stayed true to North London despite that minority who wanted him out, a minority who have suddenly been silenced due to the resurgence of their side this season.

image: © dyobmit

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