Much to the dismay of many Arsenal fans, manager Arsene Wenger is going nowhere. After the club failed to qualify for next season’s Champions League, it was assumed Wenger’s days in North London.
That did not happen. Arsenal announced a new two-year extension for Wenger.
The reaction to the news was everything we expected it to be…
While some fans may be disappointed (and rivals elated), the extension does make some sense. Wenger has consistently kept the Gunners competitive domestically for more than two decades, and he’s done so while not spending a ton of cash like his closest competitors have.
Arsenal may not have done a good job of keeping its best players in North London — although Wenger has done a better job of doing so in recent years — but its dealings have kept the club in a good spot financially, which won’t get the fans excited but is a big deal for team owner Stan Kroenke and the club’s board.
“The amount of selling players was a big part of our income and we have survived quite well during that period,” Kroenke told The Telegraph back in October when discussing Wenger’s future with the club. “We are in a much more competitive position than five or six years ago to fight for the Championship.”
The club’s strong finish to the season, which included a win over league champs Chelsea in the F.A. Cup final, was likely another factor in the decision to extend Wenger. The frenchman made the wise decision to switch to a three-man defense late in the season. After the tactical shift, Arsenal won nine of its final 10 games.
The shift in strategy showed the tactical side of the game hadn’t passed him by completely just yet, and it makes sense for the club to give him and his three-man backline — which we have to assume he’ll continue to employ when the new season gets underway — at least one more season.
Arsenal fans may have grown tired of Wenger, but there’s no guarantee things will improve once he’s gone. With a notoriously thrifty owner, Wenger’s, er, creative approach in the transfer market may be the only thing keeping Arsenal as competitive as it has been over the last few years.