Eric Cantona was never a favourite player of mine, although I knew he had a lot of talent. However, he lacked pace and was arrogant. Perhaps that’s why he never went to the World Cup finals with France.
Likewise, Arsene Wenger has a reputation for arrogance and tactical ineptitude (as although ‘pace’ is not a criteria for good management, you could argue his predictable 70th-minute substitutions lack speed of thought). Additionally, like Cantona’s failure to win international honours, Wenger failed to pick up a European trophy.
However, despite all of this, there will be some Arsenal fans who will hail Wenger as the best manager ever. It reminds me of the endless arguments I had with United fans, who insisted Cantona (at his peak) was better than Diego Maradona (in his pomp).
Of course, anyone with any kind of football understanding will know that Maradona would take some beating. Winning the World Cup almost single-handedly is something we will never see again. The same goes for what he did at Napoli, who would never have won Serie A without him.
Meanwhile, Cantona walked into a top team, when he joined Man U, and he made them better. He was a catalyst.
It’s a lot like the impact Wenger made when he came to Arsenal. He tinkered with George Graham’s team, gave them creatine, used a stop watch and the rest is history.
Like Cantona, Wenger was in the right place at the right time. Should Wenger be lauded so much for benefitting from the team he inherited from George Graham? I’m not so sure.
However, Arsenal fans may hope that Wenger’s successor does what the young Arsene did in the 90s when he took over: he brought in a midfield lynchpin in Patrick Vieira. Emmanuel Petit was another great signing of the Wenger era.
The mystery is: why did this ability to bring in top players for peanuts desert Wenger?
Mislintat seems to have this ability, judging by the performance of Mavropanos at United. I’m beginning to think Mislintat should get the manager’s job, so astute has he been in the transfer market.
Actually, the squad that Wenger leaves behind is not that awful, providing the new boss can find a new Vieira and Petit. If two tough, ball-playing midfielders can be found by a new manager, who understands that winning football is not just about possession, I might even back Arsenal to win the league next season. It all depends on the recruitment of those two key midfielders and a defensively-disciplined new boss.