We have finally reached the end of Arsene Wenger top four jokes.
The Frenchman will say “au revoir” to Arsenal this weekend after Sunday’s match away at Huddersfield.
Many Arsenal fans split Wenger’s tenure at the club into two spells; the trophy laden period at Highbury, in stark contrast to the barren years at the Emirates Stadium.
Wenger himself draws a distinction during his period with the Gunners.
The departing manager recently declared that the spell after 2006, when he consistently got the club into the top four, were the years in which he did his best job.
“I would say personally from 2006 to 2015 it was certainly the period where I needed to be the strongest and did the best job,” said Wenger.
“I personally feel I did my best job in that period. Not the most glamorous maybe, but the most difficult.
“I signed for five years accepting it will be more limited resources. When you have that you have less good players.”
It has been well documented how Arsenal were under severe financial restrictions following the move to the Emirates.
Wenger’s transfer budgets, or “war chests” if you’re into that, in the immediate years after the stadium move took a big hit as the club had debts to pay.
The financial oasis of Champions League qualification soon became invaluable, with Wenger having to put his faith in a string of punts, bargains, and young players.
According to Club Director Ken Friar, Wenger’s temperament over the transfer budgets assigned to him during the financially constrained years was admirable,
“Whether that was £5million or £50million he would say ‘fine, that’s great, now I know what I can work with,” Friar told Arsenal’s Official Website.
“He was not screaming and shouting, asking how he could do this on £5million. Everything he did was reasoned and he was a very sensible chap.”
Arsenal actually had a transfer budget of £5million one year then…
The lack of change in pockets meant Arsenal fans had to put up with a series of signings who were bang average, but memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Allow us to briefly refresh your memory on a few of those gems
Mikael Silvestre 2008 – £500,000 from Manchester United
Sol Campbell 2009 – Free transfer
Marouane Chamakh 2010 – Free transfer
Sebastien Squilaci 2010 – £4million from Sevilla
We could go on, but we’ll stop there for the sake of Arsenal fans’ sanity
The move to the Emirates left the Frenchman with his hands-tied in the transfer market for over half a decade, that is until the signing of Mesut Ozil in September 2013.
The German’s arrival at the club signalled the end of the penny-pinching era at the Emirates.
Arsenal did however sign Yaya Sanogo in the same transfer window as Ozil, so…
The Gunners used to be mocked for their consistent top four finishes, with it viewed as unambitious by many.
When you look back at the squads assembled in that time, you can make an argument for Arsenal overachieving.
This season has shown more than ever how the top six clubs all desperately covet Champions League qualification.
It’s now viewed as a benchmark of success for the likes of Spurs and Liverpool, when for years it was a badge of underachievement for Arsenal.
It is probably an exaggeration to label those years as Wenger’s “best” at the club, with the ‘Invincibles’ era surely his pinacle at the club.
It is however certainly a period which is massively underappreciated.
We might never know completely just how tight the purse-strings were in that time, but Wenger’s squad management (albeit with the odd shocker) between 2006-2015 should be remembered as a great achievement.
Actually, maybe finishing 4th with Chamakh upfront is better than going a whole season unbeaten?
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