Among a section of Arsenal's support, Arsene Wenger is derided as clueless, and destroying Arsenal football club. I believe that before taking a look at how Arsenal should go forward in the next few years, we need to examine objectively the man who is the subject of so much scorn and derision.
Just as in the Life of Brian, we need to consider everything Arsene has done for us.
Arsene Wenger revolutionised how we all think about the diet and fitness of footballers. Before October 1996 it was considered completely normal that players should drink twelve pints on the night before games, as well as scoffing doner kebabs and pizzas.
Just look at the bust-up Tony Adams and Ray Parlour had with Spurs fans in a Pizza Hut - what were they ever doing there in the first place? Remember how our players used to eat chocolate on the way to games?
In fact many managers encouraged heavy drinking amongst players, think Terry Venables and the infamous dentist’s chair, which he implicitly endorsed through his failure to prevent it from happening.
Arsene Wenger recognised that in order to be the best, players had to be in peak physical condition. This is why the old back four carried on as long as they did.
The 1998 Double was partly due to the fact that we were leaner and sharper than the other teams. It is remarkable when you look back now how the old style “lump it to the big lad up front” English football manager has completely disappeared.
Only Alex Ferguson and Harry Redknapp were able to adapt to Wenger’s arrival. Consider Kenny Dalglish, who won trophies with Liverpool and Blackburn before the arrival of Wenger, but was a complete disaster when returning later.
In some respects the likes of Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola have built upon and developed his work, and it is now Wenger who has been left behind, just as others were left behind by him.
Under Wenger, we have seen Arsenal win with style instead of just substance. Victories have been much more enjoyable than they might previously have been, when we won with long-ball tactics and “parking the bus”. Our attacking style has at times made us the envy of the football world.
He has put the club on the map permanently in a way we never were before. Under the Frenchman, the ambition and success of the club has gone to heights that it had never previously been at. We have been in the Champions League every full season bar one under him when before his arrival, while we had been in the old European Cup only twice in our history.
We have won two doubles, and the unique feat of an unbeaten Premier League season. Remember that in the 10 seasons prior to his arrival our league positions were incredibly inconsistent, as we finished 4th, 6th, 1st, 4th, 1st, 4th, 10th, 4th, 12th, 5th. Now compare that to never finishing outside the top four under Wenger. It would be inconceivable for us to finish twelfth these days- and that is his greatest achievement.
This is not to say the Frenchman is faultless. He is very dogmatic, refusing to budge from his core beliefs when it is required. For example it hurts him inside to play “park-the-bus” tactics, although they have a time and place.
He seems to have lost his ability to find good players and the vision that moved Thierry Henry to centre-forward. His refusal to do money-spinning overseas tours means we have lost out on millions of pounds of potential revenue. He also should have won much more at the club than he has done, as well as conquering Europe.
As a matter of fact, I am too young to remember anything else other than Arsene Wenger. I know I have been very lucky to have been an Arsenal fan at a time of such consistency, style and success.
There is certainly an age dynamic around the Frenchman, with older fans still behind him, while younger fans have started to turn against him.
I do not want to take sides in the debate over his future but simply to show that he deserves more respect for everything he has done for us than he currently gets and as he approaches his 1,000th game tomorrow, still has the right to leave on his own terms.