Arsene Wenger has launched into a bizarre, hypocritical rant at Manchester United’s Louis van Gaal and his transfer policy.
RetroUnited.com ran an article the other day outlining the 36 players that have left United or retired since Sir Alex Ferguson retired – there is no hiding from the fact that Van Gaal has heavily invested in his short spell as manager in order to keep United competing and achieved his primary object of finishing in the top four in his first season in charge.
However, Arsenal manager Wenger has reacted to United’s transfer activity by re-writing history.
“We want to continue to combine stronger financial resources with faith in our philosophy and policy,” Wenger is quoted as telling the Times. “That means we want to continue to give chances to young players and build the players from inside our club with our culture.
“Afterwards, if we can buy the exceptional players, we can compete today. But that will not be the basis of our policy. Most of the clubs who have been successful are clubs who have done that well. You can take Barcelona or Man United, who had a generation and built their success on players who came from within.
“These are our values and it is our DNA and it’s important we keep that. With United’s success they have created huge financial resources and today there is no patience for them to continue what they did. They have the financial resources to go with a different policy. And they do not have available players like Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham inside the club.”
The comments are being portrayed as Wenger criticising Van Gaal’s spending, with the implication that Arsenal have chosen to develop players through the club instead of spending.
Perhaps he has a point. Or, maybe not. After all, since he took over in the autumn of 1996, Ashley Cole, Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere are the only three English players he has given a true opportunity to. Cole played 228 games. Gibbs has played 178, and Wilshere 155. The latter two will undoubtedly play more, but is this vindication of Wenger’s ‘DNA’ swipe.
It’s impossible to compare Van Gaal’s year in terms of similar longevity but United have developed British and Irish youngsters who have played more often for their team in the same spell as Wenger.
So, perhaps it’s a fairer comparison to look at Arsene Wenger’s first years in charge, as a foreign manager in a new league.
Just before he was named as manager, the club signed youngster Lee Canoville. Wenger signed ten players in his first season – all of them foreign, except for Matthew Upson. In fact, in his first five seasons in charge, Wenger signed just three British players – the controversial move for Jermaine Pennant and then the expensive mistake with Francis Jeffers. That’s three British or Irish players and 33 foreign players.
Furthermore, Cole – being the first Arsenal developed youngster Wenger really gave an opportunity to – didn’t make his breakthrough until the 1999/2000 season. Three years into the Frenchman’s reign.
So, in his first full year in charge, Wenger bought just one British player, the same as Louis van Gaal (Luke Shaw).
Let us look at Wenger’s first year in charge. One start and seven substitute appearances for Paul Shaw – 9 starts and 5 sub appearances for Stephen Hughes. Scott Marshall made seven appearances. Lee Harper, Gavin McGowan and Matthew Rose made one appearance each.
Wenger’s first full campaign, the 97/98 season wasn’t much better – he gave Upson five games, Stephen Hughes started 7 and made 10 substitute appearances, Scott Marshall made 3 appearances, while Gavin McGowan, Isaiah Rankin and Paolo Vernazza made one appearance each (the former two making substitute appearances).
How did Van Gaal’s first campaign compare to the six players Wenger gave chances to? Paddy McNair made twelve starts aand four substitute appearances. James Wilson made two starts and eleven substitute appearances. Tyler Blackett started six of his eleven games. Jesse Lingard started one. Michael Keane, Tom Thorpe and Andreas Pereira all made a substitute appearance.
Those are just league appearances – so, technically, you could argue that Van Gaal has been more faithful to the true DNA of Manchester United than Arsene Wenger was to the DNA of Arsenal he claims they have.
Did Wenger have patience in those early years as he brought in a flood of foreign players?
Where were his comments about the DNA of Arsenal Football Club in February 2005 when he said ‘I don’t look at the passport of people, I look at their quality and their attitude’ after naming an all-foreign XI?
Perhaps Arsene Wenger ought to consider how he approached life in England and how impatient he seemingly was to change the very identity of the club he took over. But then again, Wenger has never really been aware of the stones and glass houses concept, has he?