It is happening. Arsene Wenger is finally leaving Arsenal. Long-time readers of this column would know that I have advocated for his departure for some time now. But I have also always praised his footballing ideas, ideals and philosophy.
There is no doubt that Wenger is an intellectual. His game has a very particular characteristic, unlike coaches who utilize chaos. Nevertheless, Wenger's strict idealism had its consequences. One of them was Arsenal not being versatile enough to win major trophies.
Wenger's Arsenal has always been a promising team throughout the 20 years he has been in charge, but rarely did it show any adaptation skills. Thus, despite being one of the most promising projects in modern day football, Arsenal was never a reliable team under the Frenchman.
Here one must be very careful, however, to distinguish between being cunning and adaptive. The former means that you have no philosophy or ideal whatsoever, and merely utilize the best tactic to save the day. Ultimately, cunning coaches tend to rely on chaos and individual talents but lack the strategies to inspire collective action.
On the other hand, adaptation is different, mainly because it requires a philosophical ground - a starting point that reflects the coach's footballing ideal. After laying that groundwork according to your team's specific needs and with your opponent's abilities in mind, you make small but effective amendments to your entire team's structure.
Wenger deeply failed at the adaptation phase, since he paid little to no attention to his players' needs and the way his opponent's played.
Especially in the last 10 years, Arsenal was mostly made up of young and inexperienced players who grew up and developed themselves under Wenger. They were trained to play a certain possession game with certain set-pieces, and whenever that game was disrupted by their opponents, they were left clueless. Of course, I respect Wenger's idea of settling a game comes before actually winning them, but the former takes more than a decade, it is obvious that there is a problem with the approach.
The main problem was that Wenger rarely analyzed and utilized his opponents' mistakes, and solely trusted his own game. As we see with Manchester City, it is very much possible, but Wenger somehow could not manage to do so in ten years.
At this point, I believe he had to accept the fact that his philosophy was not sufficient to build a self-sufficient strategy and he should have experimented with different strategies much before Guardiola arrived in England.
But unfortunately, neither did he change his philosophy nor did he pay more attention to analyzing his opponents. In other words, as self-sufficiency and opponent analysis reached their peaks under Guardiola and Mourinho, Wenger stood by an outdated and superficial possession game.
It was about time Wenger pulled himself away from football for a while and developed a new philosophy. In his brilliant career, he has proved his capacity countless times, and I am sure that after the break he will return with great strength.