Could a Different Assistant have Helped Wenger?

The announcement of Arsene Wenger departing the club has led to the inevitable thoughts of the many years the Frenchman has been at the helm of the club.
After twenty two years of ups and downs, the search for Wenger’s disappearing mojo has led us all down a variety of paths.
Some scenic – some desolate.
Was it the start of the financial restraints and the need to sell our star players year after year?
Perhaps it was down to the changing face of football tactics and Wenger’s taciturn approach to his methods under fire?
The influx of cash that flooded the game was always a weapon that Wenger liked to furiously brandish, waving it with enthusiasm as United, Chelsea and City began to spend money like Mario Balotelli in a fireworks factory.
Or was it simply Wenger’s recalcitrance?
It’s probably a combination of the above, but his choice of Assistant Manager could be a contributing factor.

Wenger and Rice.

Arsene Wenger inherited the services of Pat rice when he joined back in 1996. The Arsenal stalwart bleeds red and white and through his playing and coaching career, Rice accrued invaluable knowledge of the club.

Rice was a huge reason Wenger’s strange and new methods took so well at the club. It helped that the results soon started to flow, but the playing personnel had a familiar face and one that was convinced by Wengers actions. This would help convert the masses.
Rice was no manager though. He was the perfect Assistant, and it meant that when results started to go south and an objective voice was required, Rice was the perfect ally rather than the difficult words that needed to be said.
Rice left Arsenal in 2012, when our ship began what was a particularly rough patch of water. This stretch of choppy seas we are still navigating, and another former Gunner has taken the coveted seat next to Arsene.
Much has been speculated about the role of assistant to Wenger. Some have said his rule is absolute. His reluctance to scout opposing teams and instill rigorous defensive training is yet another piece in the Wenger falling star jigsaw, and you would think two of our finest defenders would be just the answer to our backline blues?
Maybe it’s true that Bould and Rice have not been allowed to impart their wisdom on proceedings, maybe it’s fallacy. What isn’t myth is that perhaps, these men weren’t the answer? Rice perhaps in his later years was not the right man, and is Bould the right hand man Wenger needs when the ground became rockier and the incline steeper?
Some of the greatest triumphs involved a Manager who realised his limitations and stuck to what he was good at, and relied on his Assistant Manager to plug the gaps. Brian Clough leaned on Peter Taylor and look what they achieved with Forest and Derby. Sir Alex Ferguson used a number of Robin’s to his Batman and his trophy cabinet bulged. Kidd, McClaren, Quieroz, Knox, Smith and Phelan were just some of the names that were allowed to have an impact on the training field.

One of the finest examples of this involved our own Bertie Mee and Don Howe. Mee knew his own boundaries and so did Howe, but together they formed a formidable coaching unit.
It is increasingly difficult for just one man to play every part at a club, and with Wenger going from Arsenal, this is maybe one of the last Managerial postings where the manager has his fingers in a multitude of pies. Now is the time of the coach, and now we have Sven Mislintat and Raul Sanllehi, we have the expertise to supplement a great coach on the training pitch.
Arsene Wenger at times could have really done with a partner to pull him to one side and make him realise where his errors were. Whether he would have listened or not is another matter entirely.
Wenger is still undeniably – along with Chapman – the greatest manager we’ve had. We’re lucky to have been able to witness what we have during his tenure. Even in his later years, we were still treated to some football from the gods.
Wenger’s legacy is where we stand right now, and our brand of football. With or without a change in Assistant Manager, we still have this to remember him by.
With a different Robin though? Batman could have really made Gotham a better place.

Published in the Gooner Fanzine.

10 thoughts on “Could a Different Assistant have Helped Wenger?”

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed the read and wholeheartedly agree with the points made.

    I am convinced that anyone who ventured to steer AW in any direction, particularly after he assumed total command after David Dein departed would have been given short shrift. Indeed that may be the reason why some of our ex personnel were kept very much at arms length.

    Most observers both inside and outside of Arsenal were aware of our defensive frailties, our lack of consideration and acknowledgement for our foes strengths, which in turn must have a demoralising effect on the team when results aren’t going your way. Yet there isn’t any evidence that counsel was sought at any point, A sad indictment on a man who enjoyed introducing his philosophies, watching them grow and bathing in the success they yielded. As we the supporters did.

    The major difference between Chapman and Wenger was that Chapman revelled in change and repeated his successes through two different clubs – validating his continuing greatness. Wenger on the other hand seems to have peaked and then believed that he had the answers to everything and that his formula was untouchable.

    The lesson here is that when constraints have been indulged in for some time, then some seemingly minor changes occur it doesn’t take long before the author of the constraints becomes victim to the effect of change.

    We now have a new set up at Arsenal with many new faces and only time will if more changes are required. At least changes have been made and that in itself has to be a positive move – it was a long time coming.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I find that difficult to accept, you provide a well written article that stimulates my thoughts and I respond with my point of view.

    As an add on to my comment re Chapman/Wenger – when Chapman was tragically struck down he left a legacy that became a blueprint not only for Arsenal, it inspired Matt Busby and Bill Shankley – their words not mine. Whilst Wenger’s philosophy initially had others standing and taking note, in the finish they were long back to see where he had gone to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t know about the Busby/Shankly thing. Every day is a school day. Just saying that your comments are so well informed and easy to read.


  3. That’s what comes with writing lots of reports for a living. However they were never able to hold my interest like writing about things to do with Arsenal. Same for you I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can write about anything, but I really enjoy creative writing. It’s a shame there’s no audience for it though. If you’re interested, try my other site – for something different. I’d appreciate your keen eye.


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