It’s difficult to question a man who transformed your team in to one of the leading clubs in world football. Thirteen years ago, Arsenal Football Club languished in mediocrity, grinding out dull and dreary results against the likes of Coventry City and Swindon. These were my early years of going to games and it sometimes seemed like a chore. But then Arsene Wenger arrived out of nowhere and rapidly transformed my team in to a worldwide brand, a footballing success and an aesthetic pleasure.
He brought in the likes of Thierry Henry, Nicholas Anelka and Patrick Vieira, and revolutionized the way players trained, ate and generally conducted themselves. It was, for want of a better cliché, salvation.
Suddenly, however, the almost blind faith Gooners had in their gaffer led to the ‘Professor’ having total control over every aspect of the club, with no one questioning his decisions. To be honest, why would they? After all, everything he’d done until now would have Midas looking on with envy.
There is one area though, that Wnger has never mastered. One simple part of the chain that at times has the biggest impact on the biggest of games. Bill Shankly once said “you can score all the goals you want, it’s the keeper who wins games”, and he certainly is a man whose judgement we trust.
Inheriting David Seaman in the early French Revolution at the club, Wenger had struck it rich with arguably the finest English goalkeeper of the mid 1990’s. Once good ol’ Seamo took his gloves off for the last time, it immediately became apparent that Wenger didn’t really know how to choose a solid, reliable goalkeeper. Stuart Taylor liked the sauce too much, Richard Wright couldn’t catch a cold and Jens Lehmann was, well, just plain mad really.
And now the current number one. At a recent home match, Lukasz Fabianski’s own fans cheered sarcastically when a replay of him catching a corner was shown on the big screens. He really is hopeless. So hopeless, in fact, that constructive and articulate criticism doesn’t seem justifiable.
On my Christmas visit to the Emirates, I was astonished at the way the mood towards God, or Arsene as he is formally known, is rapidly turning. It all centres on one key issue, and until he digs just a little deeper and spends more than a million quid on a keeper, Arsenal won’t win a thing. And that, five years after the last trophy, just isn’t good enough.
Go on Arsene, sign Shay Given and shut us all up.