ARSENAL’S sharp decline is down to Arsene Wenger wielding too much control over matters both on the field and off it – and the manager must be challenged if the freefall is to be arrested.
That is the view of football guru and Wenger confidant Alex Fynn, who believes the long-serving boss has been allowed by the board to assume excessive responsibility for both transfer policy and the playing side.
Wenger’s methods and the once-invincible Gunners’ fall from grace have been hurled back into the spotlight by Sunday’s 8-2 massacre at Manchester United – the club’s worst result since 1896.
Fynn, who advised on the creation of the Premier League and got to know Wenger while writing Arsènal, an insider’s look at his tenure, insists sacking the Frenchman would be “drastic” and that he remains the right man for the job.
But, he adds, Wenger must compromise his vision of a team built on talented youngsters by investing in players with pedigree and consider strengthening his back-room team with figures prepared to question him.
“The key thing is that until recently he wasn’t challenged by the board, and he certainly isn’t challenged by anybody on the playing side,” Fynn tells City A.M.
“So he has been allowed to develop a policy that has come under threat with the free spending first of all of Chelsea and then of Manchester City.
“That policy was to grow your own and develop players from youth to first team. That’s where it has gone wrong.”
Fynn believes a youth-orientated strategy was the right one while Arsenal paid off the debt relating to the Emirates Stadium move, but that they have been too slow to react to a change in market conditions brought about by cash-rich rivals.
“Self-sufficiency is fine so long as there is an even playing field,” he says. “Time has moved on and Arsenal have not changed their strategy.”
Chief executive Ivan Gazidis was hired to improve the club’s commercial performance and has succeeded, but could now take a more hands-on approach in transfers, says Fynn, while promoting youth-team coach and famously no-nonsense title-winning centre-half Steve Bould might help mend defensive frailties.
However, Fynn is adamant that inviting ousted former vice-chairman David Dein back to the fold, while beneficial, would not be the panacea touted as by some.
“It’s not likely and it’s also a fallacious policy,” he says. “If David Dein came back it would help the situation but what people fail to realise is that he didn’t really challenge Wenger.”
Far from blaming the club for failing to help him, Fynn believes Wenger feels privileged to still be in charge and will be frustrated with himself more than anyone. “I think he’s taken on too much and he is a very harsh critic, not of others obut of himself,” says the former Saatchi and Saatchi director, who has just updated his book.
While the weekend result at Old Trafford marked a new low and increased mutterings about the end of Wenger’s 15-year reign, Fynn says any talk of sacking is “drastic”. “There are simple steps that could be taken that would obviate the need for that to happen.”
And he is encouraged by the fact the board appear to be beginning to challenge Wenger, citing the summer sale of Samir Nasri, a player he had wanted to keep, and a pre-season trip to Asia, rather than Wenger’s preferred Austria, as proof of progress. Fynn concludes: “Precedents have been set and it looks as if they can go forward together to the benefit of the club.”
Arsènal is available from Vision Sports Publishing. More information is available at www.visionsp.co.uk