By Jonathan Copping, Lawyer, Stone King, London, UK
Arsenal Football Club has announced the arrival of former Paris Saint-Germain and Sevilla manager, Unai Emery, to replace Arsene Wenger.
On 20 April 2018, Arsene Wenger announced that he was leaving Arsenal after 22 years at the club and overseeing a huge transformation in its fortunes both on and off the pitch.
Arsene Wenger’s career at Arsenal was very much a “game of two halves”.
After joining in 1996, as a largely unknown manager from Nagoya Grampus in Japan, Wenger proceeded to win three league titles, including two league and cup doubles (1997-98/2001-02) in his first eight seasons. The third title triumph, in 2003-04, saw Wenger’s team go unbeaten for the whole 38 game league season with the team being nicknamed “The Invincibles”.
Following the 2003-04 season, Wenger only managed to secure one further trophy (the 2004-05 FA Cup) for the next nine years. This period, however, saw the rise in fortunes of Chelsea, following the takeover of the club by Roman Abramovich and the arrival of Wenger’s future sparring partner, Jose Mourinho as manager.
Wenger managed to reach his only Champions League final in 2006; however, Arsenal lost the match 2-1 to Barcelona, not helped by the early dismissal of Arsenal goalkeeper, Jens Lehmann.
Coinciding with Arsenal’s subsequent decline during the Wenger years was the opening of Arsenal’s new stadium: Ashburton Grove (commonly known as “The Emirates” in accordance with a sponsorship deal). The construction of The Emirates limited Arsenal’s ability in the transfer market, with substantial interest payments required on the £260million loan taken out to finance the construction of the stadium.
Subsequent years saw a number of profile players depart from Arsenal, including Cesc Fabregas and Thierry Henry to Barcelona; Ashley Cole to Chelsea; Kolo Toure; Gael Clichy; Bacary Sagna; Emmanuel Adebayor; and Samir Nasri to Manchester City and, perhaps most controversially, Robin Van Persie to Manchester United.
More often than not Arsenal failed to find suitable replacements for the departed players, leading to discontent among the fans. During Wenger’s reign at Arsenal, the club increased season ticket prices to be the most expensive out of all the clubs in the Premier League.
Arsenal’s policy of only offering one-year contracts to players over the age of thirty, as well as allowing younger players to run their contracts down, did not assist Arsenal in remaining competitive with its main rivals and resulted in lost revenues from player transfers and also being left in a position where a player could leave for nothing in 12 months’ time.
The huge injection of foreign money into Manchester City, as well as the continued expenditure at Chelsea, not taking into account the constant pressure from Manchester United, saw it become even more difficult for Wenger to put together an Arsenal team that could challenge for the major honours.
The end of Wenger’s reign at Arsenal finished with three FA Cup’s in four seasons (2013-14, 2014-15 and 2016-17).
In total, Wenger presided over 1,235 matches, winning 707, drawing 280 and losing 248. Whilst the final period of Wenger’s reign led to fans vocally demanding his resignation, Wenger’s legacy at Arsenal should be honoured.
He brought an attacking and stylish brand of football to the Premier League in 1996 that helped usher in a change in style of play not seen before in the English game. His managerial reign led to Arsenal’s most productive trophy haul in the club’s history.
Unai Emery, who it is expected will change the style of football currently played by Arsenal, to an attacking, high pressing game, is stepping into the shoes of a huge figure in Arsenal’s history.
Let us see what he can do for the club!
Jonathan Copping may be contacted by e-mail at ‘JonathanCopping@stoneking.co.uk’