Arsenal's 'Invincibles' team unanimous in their support of Arsene Wenger continuing as manager
At the weekend, the Arsenal protest reached its peak as just minutes into the defeat to West Brom, a banner carried by a plane read: ‘No contract. #WengerOut!’
Arsenal have dropped to sixth place in the Premier League, were booted out of the Champions League in humiliating circumstances and yet again the only prospect of winning something lies with the FA Cup.
Wenger celebrated his 20th anniversary at Arsenal in November but has not won the league since Arsenal’s invincible season in 2003/04, when his team went 49 games unbeaten from May 2003 to October 2004.
However, now the Frenchman has a decision to make, with a two-year contract already on the table but with fans urging him not to sign. But what do members of Wenger’s greatest team think about the prospect of him leaving?
Arsenal’s record goalscorer Thierry Henry in February said to RMC: "Personally, I think Arsene shouldn't leave.
“Should he change tactics or his way of doing things? I don't know if he's ready to do that. That's where Arsene's work is really difficult, because it's a mental problem. It's not easy to handle.”
Kolo Toure, currently plying his trade with Celtic in Scotland, insisted the stadium and loss of players such as Robert Pires and Patrick Vieira didn’t help the manager in the long term.
"Wenger is a top manager, he has shown that unbelievably," Toure told the Telegraph. “The thing I like is this manager can make an average player one of the best players in the world. He did that with so many players."
Former goalkeeper Jens Lehmann insists Wenger should see out the bad patch and attempt to finish on a high. “I think he has to stay now, because he’s done so much for the club,” he told talkSPORT this month. “People are talking about his age, if he still has something to give and if he can influence people and they want a new manager to come in to bring fresh air.”
“But on the other hand it’s very difficult to replace intelligence, and we all know he is a very intelligent man and he’s still got the fire. With all he’s done for the club, I think he deserves not to go on such a bad spell of results.”
Pires, who left the club after Arsenal lost to Barcelona in the Champions League Final, agreed with Lehmann that Wenger should leave when he’s finished the rebuilding. “When he’ll win the League – then I can see him say ‘I’m leaving”, he said to L’Equipe.
At the start of this year Lauren, who was at Arsenal for six years, argued Arsenal fans should consider the club’s identity and who created it.
“Fans always have the right to be heard, but you have to consider Wenger’s legacy over 20 years. He brought Arsenal into the modern era: the stadium, the training ground. It’s one of the biggest clubs in the world with a distinct style of play, an identity. That comes from Wenger,” Lauren told The Guardian.
“His achievements are beyond criticism. If you changed that model – spend £200m every summer, buy a world star, fight for the Champions League – it wouldn’t be the Arsenal way.”
Sol Campbell, meanwhile, is adamant Wenger will sign on the dotted line: “I think he will assess it, he has two years on the table. I think eventually he will take it.
“What he has done for the club, how he has steered the club from Highbury to the new ground, and also the training ground, obviously now there are other clubs with unbelievable training grounds but at the time he was visionary with his ideas about the training ground - he kind of co-designed that.
A player who embodied the nature and attitude of the Invincible side was Vieira, he told Omnisport: “He is going through a really difficult period but at the same time I know Arsene and he is not the kind of person who will throw the towel in and walk out of this situation.
“He will fight for it because he is proud and he will give everything like he has been doing for the football club.”
“It is true that people doubt his capability to manage the team. But I think you have to look at the players and in some situations the players have been letting Arsene down a lot because coaches have responsibility but players have responsibility as well.”
Brazilian midfielder Gilberto Silva agrees with Vieira, he told the Telegraph: “Seeing from the outside, it’s time for everyone to give their support for the man who believed in them, to give something back, get together.”
“It’s the only way to handle the pressure and get through this situation, because nobody is in this situation alone. Everyone must stick together, that’s the best way to deal with it.”
Ray Parlour played 27 times in the 2003/04 season stated on Arsenal TV: “‘You need a few leaders in your team, there’s always a period when you’re under pressure and that’s when you need your players to say ‘Okay, let’s soak the pressure up and then we can get back on the front foot.’
“It’s up to the players on the pitch to sort that out.”
Freddie Ljungberg told Sky Sports: “He has shown he is a great manager and I think he has been restricted a bit on the financial side in the past. He never went to the media to moan about the budget and I think that shows you what a great man he is.
"I think some people wanted some signings in the summer, but everyone knows English clubs have a lot of money at the moment and if you ask for a player they raise the prices, he added.
In the Daily Mail, Dutch wizard Dennis Bergkamp stated: “I still think he’s got that drive, and if he gets the opportunity to stay there, he will take it I’m sure.
“He’s still a good manager, and you never know what you’ll get if you bring a new one in. That’s the problem. Look what happened at Man United when Sir Alex Ferguson left. You never know what’s better.”
Independent News Service