Football

Neil Humphreys: Stop being a dictator, Wenger

Arsenal boss must take a more democratic approach and encourage different views

Arsene Wenger has signed a new two-year contract and Arsenal fans are struggling to contain their indifference.

Will the Frenchman turn a corner or will he continue to drift towards irrelevance?

Here's what the manager must do to make the Gunners great again.

1 DON'T PLAY NAPOLEON, PLAY NICE

Napoleon Bonaparte was a pioneering French strategist.

He achieved immediate success and accumulated power beyond his wildest dreams.

But, in the end, the egomaniac rejected the advice of his generals, even when his enemies tweaked tactics and chalked up victories.

Does this remind you of any other prominent Frenchman? It shouldn't.

Napoleon was eventually exiled, but Wenger is still there.

What was once considered the greatest privilege of modern management has become his greatest weakness: his autonomy.

As long as the cash rolls in, Wenger is left alone.

Stan Kroenke, the club's majority shareholder, reportedly wanted Wenger to accept a director of football, or an influential second opinion at least.

And yet, as always, the Frenchman got his own way, perhaps using the FA Cup triumph as leverage. This is dangerous.

Tony Adams, Patrick Vieira and a number of the Gunners' old guard have all hinted at Wenger's problems with power-sharing.

Wenger surrounded himself with "yes" men when his stale tactics needed to be challenged.

He must take a more democratic approach in the next two years and encourage different voices.

With his title rivals all managed by younger managers with fresher ideas, Wenger needs to drop the dictatorial dinosaur routine. Or the road leads to Jurassic Park once more.

2 DON'T SELL SANCHEZ, AT ANY COST

The decline and fall of the Gunners really began with the sale of Robin van Persie to United. Wenger had promised not to sell him. But he did.

Cesc Fabregas was another. Wenger had promised not to sell him, but he did. Samir Nasri and Bacary Sagna were two more stars with itchy feet and a clueless manager.

In each of these instances, the only person in denial was Wenger. He still saw Arsenal as a brand name that lit up in bright, neon lights in the minds of football superstars.

Everyone else saw a selling club. Right now, Alexis Sanchez probably feels the same way.

His barnstorming performance at Wembley was just the latest example of his peerless qualities. Lose him and the supporters lose faith before a ball is kicked, as will potential transfer targets.

Wenger has promised a shake-up in the next two years.

Sanchez will prove his manager right or wrong in the next two months.

3 SIGN FIVE PLAYERS TO 
WIN TITLE

Wenger has £150 million (S$267m) in the transfer kitty. In his best Oliver Twist Cockney accent, he should ask for more.

In pre-season, he has a habit of insisting he has the best squad in years.

His first 11, which always dazzles on paper, is held up as proof of Arsenal's title credentials. He did the same last season.

And then Santi Cazorla got injured in October and Arsenal's form slowly disintegrated.

Cazorla's long absence, like the recent defensive crisis, underlined Arsenal's lack of depth.

Too many flops, near-misses and bench-sitters have damaged the reputation of a manager who once converted a half-decent winger into Thierry Henry.

At the very least, Wenger needs a centre back, a midfielder to replace the injured Cazorla and a striker. And that's assuming he keeps Sanchez and Oezil.

The next shopping trip should capture a goalkeeper and a defensive midfielder to assist the erratic Aaron Ramsey.

Three signings are the bare minimum. At least five are required to turn Arsenal into serious title challengers.

The final bill will almost certainly exceed £150m, but Arsenal's credit is good.

Wenger has to to splash the cash to convince supporters that he is no longer bankrupt of ideas.

4 START SUCCESSION PLANNING NOW

Even for the EPL's most intransigent manager, this must be the 67-year-old's last contract.

So the Gunners board should consider his successor now.

The only other precedent for replacing such a longstanding manager was Sir Alex Ferguson - and what an unmitigated disaster that turned out to be.

The transition from Ferguson to David Moyes was too abrupt.

Like Moyes, Wenger's replacement will be expected to introduce new tunes in a dressing room that has had 20 odd years of hearing the same Status Quo tracks.

Arsenal's next manager should be recruited - or slyly poached - as soon as possible.

Get him signed early to perhaps work alongside Wenger in the second season, or even earlier.

Wenger emphasies the importance of continuity.

He must prove it, by suppressing his ego long enough to allow his replacement to join him in the dugout.

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