Arsenal, Wenger, and Cocaine: What happens when you become addicted to your princples

Aug 30

Arsene Wenger truly changed the English Premier League. It’s not every day that an economist becomes a manager of a top flight team. He brought statistics to the game and lead Arsenal to an undefeated season. His statistical analysis lead him to players like Thierry Henry, Patrice Viera, and Emmanuel Petit. Arsenal won the Premier League under his stewardship. Sometimes we forget that his best teams played nice football, but they had hard tacklers and a chippy attitude. There is clearly nothing wrong with a commitment to youth. Manchester United’s starting 11 on Sunday had an average age of 23, however that starting 11 is augmented by wizened group on the bench, including Ryan Giggs (older than Gandalf) and Ji-sung Park (he’s Asian so he be could 25 or 40 and look exactly the same, either way, he’s a veteran of the game). That’s where Wenger seems to have it wrong. He remains committed to bringing in young players and developing them, but where are the seasoned professionals who will calm nerves and show the new guys what it takes to win? It will surprise no one that, according to The Annual Review of the European Football Players’ Labour Market produced by the International Centre for Sports Studies, Arsenal had the youngest squad in England (fourth youngest among the big five leagues) at 24.89. In more non-news, Arsenal also fielded the most home-trained players in England. The commitment to youth and development has now become an addiction. Wenger hit rock bottom on Sunday. What happens now? I’m going to turn to the Stone Temple Pilots for answers.

You: Wait, Stone Temple Pilots?

Me: Yes. STP.

You: Come on. When you think of addiction you think of Guns N Roses, Led Zeppelin, or Eric Clapton, not STP. Besides, their not even a great band.

Stone Temple Pilots peaked in the 90’s. They had two legitimately good albums in Core and Purple, with Core going platinum eight times. They were on track for better things when heroine and cocaine put lead singer, Scott Weiland, into rehab. He was never quite the same and discussed his drinking problem in September of 2010. STP will never be completely irrelevant because of their history. You’ll always turn up the radio when “Plush” and “Interstate Love Song” come on, but try and name a song from their most recent album. Go ahead. You can’t. Just like you can’t name a single player on Arsenal’s back four. The Invincibles and two Premier League titles will ensure Wenger’s legacy, but his addiction will always loom over the club.

He’s currently out spending decent amounts in the transfer market to shore up his terrible defense, but I think we can count on him spending quite a bit this summer on a 14 year old Francophone West African who currently plays for a second tier French team. Rumors also abound that this is really the fault of Arsenal’s board of directors. They are willing to provide for transfer fees but not for the wages that would keep a Nasri at the club. The shake out will be fun to watch, but Arsenal supporters will always have Wenger’s addiction on the back of their minds. Waiting to see if he can remember life before it completely overtook him.