On the Ball – Merci, Arsene, and the fond memories
May 15, 2018 | 6:38 PM
by Times News Service
What Arsene Wenger represented are qualities the world so desperately needs in this day and age.

“If you do not believe you can do it, then you have no chance at all.”

Never judge a book by its cover, it is always said; it’s what’s on the inside that really matters. Unfortunately, we live in the world that increasingly judges people on the basis on how good they look, not the good they do.

For Arsene Wenger, that was doubly so — football, is after all, a results business, and he was judged almost solely on the basis of what Arsenal Football Club achieved under him. Not that that’s wrong, he is after all the manager of that club.

A manager with wide-ranging powers that would’ve been afforded to few others in this day and age, of a club expected to challenge for honours year after year.

Instead, Wenger has overseen a precipitous slide that saw Arsenal go from regularly challenging the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea to now battling clubs such as Burnley and Leicester for a place in the Europa League; which while it is Europe’s second-tier club competition, is a far, far inferior tournament to the Champions League, home of the European elite.

It was Wenger’s job to make that happen, and while his project did begin very ambitiously — who can forget the unbeaten season of 2003-4, an achievement that is all the greater given the intensely fierce competition of the English Premier League — it has gone off the rails recently. And while attempts were made to set things right, Wenger’s austere methods seem to be at odds with a younger board of directors hungry for instant success.

Isn’t that always the case with modern-day football? But it’s not just the beautiful game that craves instant reward: Pizza Hut is only a phone call away from gratifying your junk food craving, Amazon is but a couple of clicks away from feeding your shopaholic tendencies.

What Arsene Wenger represented are qualities the world so desperately needs in this day and age. Wenger represented honour, decency, morality, integrity, and sincerity, intangible qualities that have been replaced by a desperation for attention and vain attempts to fill our lives with one brief euphoric hit of joy after another. Wenger was a man of wisdom.

When he spoke, the world listened. Many laughed at him, but he knew that those who did giggle at him were either too daft to understand or too scared to stand up for themselves.

Those who did understand Wenger realised that he was sharing life lessons with people, not just the instant comments that feed the media machines across the globe. Few other managers would share words of wisdom such as “When you look at people who are successful, you will find that they aren’t the people who are motivated, but have consistency in their motivation” or “Some are wrong because they are not strong enough to fight temptation and some are wrong because they do not know.”

Actions, of course, do speak louder than words, and a quick interaction with the players who were under Wenger speaks volumes of just how much he’s impacted their lives. From bringing legendary Arsenal defender Tony Adams back from the brink of death, to re-moulding Thierry Henry into one of the deadliest strikers the world has seen. When the recent Grenfell fire set one of London’s most iconic buildings ablaze, he was first on the ground to see how Arsenal could help.

And let’s not forget the manner in which he’s revolutionised football in England. Out went the crisps, chips, deep-fried foods and lasagna that were considered standard fare for footballers before games, and in came broccoli, grilled fish and steamed vegetables. It may not have been the tastiest of foods, but footballers all over the world will now thank Wenger for the ideals he set.

Arsene Wenger may not have been right all the time, but he always did things the right way. That, to him, was more important than victory. It may, unfortunately, make him a figure increasingly out-of-date in this modern world, which almost always turns towards short-term gains and instant success at the expense of future failures, but the footballing world is a much, much sadder place for losing Arsene Wenger.

The truth is that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is one of the greatest managers who has ever walked this earth, even if that isn’t so obvious to everyone.

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