Arsene Wenger – The Inside Story of Arsenal under Wenger
By John Cross
Simon & Schuster – £20.00
”If you eat caviar every day, it’s difficult to return to sausages” quips Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, in the third chapter of this rather refreshing, explanatory and all-round fascinating book, Arsene Wenger – The Inside Story Of Arsenal Under Wenger. Replete with numerous other pearls of wry wisdom, it makes for an idiosyncratically ‘inside’ read, that most self-respecting football fans have invariably come to expect from a top-flight, Premiership football manager.
To be sure, this is a book which encompasses an array of statistics, footballers, journalists and Wenger anecdotes, in an equally entertaining, and in the case of the protagonist himself, enlightening manner: ”Wenger watches Match of the Day but is rather dismissive when it comes to the points made by pundits. He is equally disparaging when it comes to radio phone-ins and football chat shows, and says he’s never looked at Twitter […]. ”The only thing I can say on social networks is anybody can insult anybody even if it’s not true, and that is maybe a weak point of the modern social networks. You can tomorrow be insulted by anybody without any defence […]. We have to live with that and maybe reinforce our solidarity and be stronger inside the clubs. And maybe this is a time as a manager to have stronger beliefs than ever, because you are questioned more than ever, and maybe that’s the new challenge we face”” (from the eleventh chapter, ‘Press Relations’).
Like so much of Wenger’s unique approach, the above is an honest as well as interesting take on social networks, many managers of whom – Louis Van Gaal springs to mind – would probably prefer didn’t exist; especially when one considers how downright crass and horribly unforgiving a great number of (English) football fans can be.
There again, with more than a thousand games in charge, the Frenchman has managed Arsenal since 1996. So he’s obviously doing something exceedingly right – which these eighteen chapters (excluding Introduction and Index) wholeheartedly investigate and purposefully reflect upon.
By shedding a prism of varying light that induces the reader into reading ever more, Arsene Wenger is indeed, a most thoughtful assessment of both his achievement(s) and legacy at the club.
Although for me, it’s the book’s managerial analysis that I found the most absorbing.
Once again returning to the third chapter, author John Cross, interestingly writes: The magic formula of management must be the elusive balance of being able to entertain and win at the same time. Some managers, like Jose Mourinho, will set up a team to win at all costs and then add in the flair later. Managers like Wenger begin their philosophy with entertainment and then figure out how to win later. They build from a base of scoring goals, creating chances and skill. He is one of the few managers who put winning and style on the same level.
Wenger, detailing his philosophy, said ”we are in a job where you have to win. But the truth is that the ambition of every great club must be to win and to win with style, and to think of the people who pay a lot of money to come to watch the matches. You always have to have it in your mind that you want people to wake up in the morning with a love of going to the stadium and for them to go home having enjoyed themselves. In fact, the real goal of professional football entails not just winning but also enabling people to discover the pleasure of watching something beautiful.””
With such an intrinsically pristine persuasion, is it any wonder Arsene Wenger remains the longest serving manager in the Premier League?
This irrefutably well written book by The Daily Mirror’s Chief Football Writer more than explains why. If you’re an Arsenal fan (in particular), you won’t be disappointed.