It struck me the other day, as yet another manager was sent packing after a season and a half (on paid leave! Wrong job Jim, wrong job!), and with more managers threatened with the sack by the day, how odd it must seem to a newcomer to the Premier League to see a man who’s been in the same job for over 17 years.
In that regard, Wenger really is the last of a dying breed. With Ferguson gone, and Moyes moving, he’s far and away the longest serving manager in the Premier League, and I suppose it says all you need to know about how things have changed that the second longest-serving manager is Alan Pardew, at just over three years.
Times, as someone once said, they are a-changing. Up until 1989, West Ham had only had five managers ever – and while that was the exception rather than the norm, things really have shifted the other way to an extraordinary degree.
When Wenger hangs up his sleeping-bag jacket, or screws the final lid onto his pesky water bottle, will we ever see another Arsenal manager surviving 17 years? I can’t see it. Can you? Football has changed so much since 1996 that three or four years has become the norm – much as it has always been on parts of the continent.
Maybe English football has finally ‘caught up’ with the rest of Europe. Maybe its global appeal, and the money sloshing about, have made long-termism impossible. And maybe the legion of overseas owners, businessmen predominantly, see football like any other business.
We always read in the press that managers are not given enough time, and are knee-jerked out of their jobs at the drop of a hat, and I think on balance that I agree with that. But is longevity a guarantee of success? You could argue that you only last that long if you’re exceptional in some way. Wenger’s got us into the top 4 since time immemorial, and his first 8 years were phenomenal, but we’re potless in a while. Would he have lasted this long elsewhere? Perhaps not. Over at Chelsea, they operate at the opposite end of the spectrum, hiring and firing without so much as a by your leave. Some of their fans may resent that, but I bet there are plenty who look at the cabinet and conclude that it’s not a bad thing if there’s silverware at the end of it (and money helps on that front, of course).
I think Wenger’s done a terrific job so far this season. I’m just saying that when he’s gone, we won’t see longevity like that again. Not at Arsenal, not anywhere. I hope I am proved wrong, but it’ll be a good 15 years until I can be, so I feel able to say that with some confidence…
Only fifteen years to go, Alan.
Two game ban for flicking the bird? Fine if everyone from now on gets the same punishment. But will they? I suspect there’ll be a few Arsenal fans monitoring that.
Happy Christmas, FA.
Unless I get cut out and cast to the wind (and it’s always a possibility – watch me backtrack if that’s the case), I’ll be on the Arseblog Arsecast on Friday. I fear that I am remarkably positive on it. Which is a little odd and may come back to haunt me.