Today’s result notwithstanding, the celebrations surrounding Arsène Wenger’s 1000th game in charge of Arsenal have produced some lovely insight into the great man’s approach to developing elite talent. Here are five we can all apply:
Encourage learning, independence and responsibility – Kieron Gibbs’ take on it:
Set the culture and climate right and your talent will bloom – or count itself out of the running.
Lee Dixon on Wenger’s arrival at the club and how quickly he turned the culture around:
"Arsène was saying: this is what I can do for you. You can further your careers if you take these things on board. Certainly in the early days everything he introduced was completely different. There is a whole array of mindsets and characters in a dressing room and he wasn't brainwashing. He just made things available."
Move people around to give them learning experiences. They will find it hard outside their comfort zone - have the courage to support them and defend them.
“It’s sometimes a good idea to deploy a player who has a future in the middle of the park on the flank. He gets used to using the ball in smaller space, as the touch line effectively divides the space that’s available to him by two; when you move the same player to the middle, he breathes more easily and can exploit space better.” – Wenger.
An example of how Wenger supports his players no matter what the pressure, for fantastic results:
One simple illustration is Wenger’s net transfer spend compared to competitor clubs:
Club net spend per season:
Arsenal -£1,100,000 (Yes – a profit)
Manchester City +£73,110,000
Manchester United +£21,300,000
Superlatives do not do this record justice. Arsenal made the strategic decision to Make, not Buy, and have implemented it incredibly well.
Put simply, Arsène Wenger’s ability to develop talent has kept the club afloat financially. He maintained a level of sporting success consistent with other far richer clubs at the same time as Arsenal’s funds were focussed on the long term future of the club by building a new stadium.
A couple of well-known examples:
Thierry Henry – plucked from Juventus whilst struggling as a winger, and turned into the best striker in the world by Wenger
Patrick Viera – Signed from Milan where he had made only 2 first team appearances, he quickly became the best central midfielder in the world, winning the Premier League 3 times with Arsenal, the Italian Serie A 5 times, and the World Cup and European Championship with France