Invincible: Arsène Wenger the movie, a review
Our ACE arrives
Arsène Charles Ernest Wenger = ACE Wenger and he was by far the greatest Arsenal manager in my lifetime, definitely our ace. This documentary is, in many ways, a sad reflection of the end of his days at his beloved Arsenal. Yes, it celebrates his life, his early days, the glory years and above all the invincible season, but perhaps its greatest feat is showing the ordinary man behind the genius, the guy out jogging, being put under stupid interrogation by journalists (?) at the start of his sojourn, and the heartbreak evident in his face as he got pushed out of Arsenal.
His top achievement as a player
One sure thing I can say about Arsène, is he never boasted about himself, he had a humble upbringing in a small town in France, it was just after the war and everything was scarce. And if he had a humble background, it was even more so in football. He was well down the ladder and it took time to climb himself upwards. Implicit in this film is that he realized he would never be a master footballer so he dedicated himself to the process of becoming a virtuoso coach and manager in his twenties. Slowly his talent was recognized. His ability to work with people is unsurpassed, it is hard to think of anyone who has a bad word to say about him. In contrast to his two biggest rivals, Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, who have plenty of players with nothing but bitterness towards them. Jaap Stam, Luke Shaw, Roy Keane, David Beckham, Gordon Strachan, and Paul Pogba spring to mind but there are plenty more.
Love wins out at the end?
His greatest achievement, to my mind, documented in this film, is when he came to Arsenal in 1996.He really got an unprecedented amount of abuse and piss-taking. Our own Ian Wright said “who?” when asked about him. He was accused without any basis, that he had a private life scandal. Players thought this was never a football man because he didn’t look the part. No foreign manager had achieved much in England and the English football establishment and media perpetuated this myth. Eh, no, Arsène proved them wrong in spectacular fashion by winning the double in his first full season by playing beautiful football.
The film has its focus on Arsène Wenger and particularly the invincible year. Us Arsenal fans know all the story and there is nothing much new in this movie. For me, though, the surprising thing is how ordinary Wenger was portrayed in many ways and there is a recurring theme of sadness as a great man is laid low, partly, at least, by idiot fans and an aggressive media.
A present from our ACE -London Colney
He is regularly shown watching matches from his past in a deserted and bleak warehouse on a very large screen. He is alone, as if he has no friends. It really does look heartbreaking. For me it is strange, as I feel such an intelligent man as Wenger must have known it is not a good depiction as a majority of people still believed in him. I knew at the time we would struggle to replace him. Football had moved on and money was king so a new manager had to operate within Arsenal’s financial constraints and equal Arsène’s achievements. There are few such geniuses out there. Maybe we have found one now in Arteta but it still remains to be seen.
Another present from our ACE
It shows his final days, the protests by the numptys, the constant barrage by the media, and you can see the confusion and hurt in his face as he tries to comprehend how people cannot see that they are asking the impossible – build a new stadium that befits a top team but costs a fortune, and win major trophies with a very constrained budget just when the super rich are clambering into football and spending whatever they like. 100 million was what it cost to run a top team not so long before for a year, and now it might get you a dud player.
Time for a major statue outside
The matches leading up to the Invincible year are delineated, the inexorable march towards the title, the draws that knocked us back, the wins that pushed us forward. It was an extraordinary achievement, belatedly recognised by Alex Ferguson in this film as he was dismissive of it at the time, saying it wasn’t a record points total and there were 12 draws. However, this video shows a Ferguson who is a big fan of Arsène. Obviously he had a lot more respect for him at the time than he let on but I do feel that the reality was that there was a great mutual dislike. The strange thing, alluded to here, is that Manchester United offered Arsène the role of manager and he turned it down. Wenger doesn’t say when that happened but it is generally believed to be when Ferguson first said he would retire but then changed his mind.
So is it worth watching? I would say so for the non Arsenal fan as it gives glimpses into the man who made Arsenal, with its top class grounds, superb training facilities and high standards. It also shows that success breeds discontent, win and you are expected to keep on winning, fans get cranky, abusive and show no respect or understanding for how greatness is achieved. Fans from say West Ham or Bournemouth would love to have the problems Arsenal fans have.
Our ACE had a sense of humour
Foe Arsenal fans it gives us insight into how a small section of fans were allowed to show their lack of class, how a great man was hounded from his lifetime’s work instead of being allowed to walk away with his head held high when he felt he could contribute better with a different role. He should be like Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish, at every match and applauded. But the overriding feeling instead is that we hurt deeply the man who gave us everything, who took on the Manchester giant who had unlimited cash and gave them a bloody nose. 2 doubles and an Invincible year, 49 matches unbeaten, a record number of FA cups, and yet he is hounded out. He should never had had to experience that and maybe that is why he agreed to be portrayed as an ordinary man watching matches alone in a dark and bleak warehouse.
His last day -we will never see his like again
Arsène, you were the greatest in my time, you brought in incredible players and you nurtured many others. The football was exciting, the chasing down of teams, the quest for cups, the huge teams coming to Highbury and the Emirates, the respect garnered from every quarter of football and above all else, your creation, almost singlehandedly, of the magnificent Emirates Stadium which has enabled Arsenal to stay in touch with the big boys. That is the one aspect that I am truly grateful for, that Arsenal are among the big boys, and we achieved it with a man whose integrity is unsurpassed in football. Our heads are high in the air with the man who offered Sheffield United a replay as he called foul on himself. Nobody in football wants to do that but he did. A giant among giants and he is ours. Our ACE.
Merci beaucoup Monsieur Wenger et merci pour les merveilleux sentiments que vous m'avez donnés.