Most people long for simpler times. Almost fittingly, with Arsenal set to face Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup, Arsene Wenger longs for more difficult ones.
The 68-year-old Frenchman took time out to praise Brian Clough, but doubts whether the legendary manager’s success with Forest – including silverware on the domestic and continental stage – could be achievable in football today.
Clough, who died aged 69 in 2004, guided Forest to back-to-back European Cup titles in 1979 and 1980.
“He [Clough] is a special person in English football,” Wenger said ahead of Sunday’s trip to the City Ground, where Mark Warburton was sacked as head coach a week out from the club’s blockbuster fixture.
“It is beyond his achievement, it is his personality that has left a huge print in the history of the game, so he will be remembered as one of the greatest in English football and I find that fantastic.”
“But as well it [his success] raises other questions. Because it shows how football has changed. Can Nottingham Forest win the European Cup today? Could Aston Villa? That has gone.
“All the best players in the world are grouped in a small number of clubs. This kind of achievement today would not be possible anymore.”
Added to that, the Arsenal boss even raised the possibility that the impact of coaches at the highest level is lessened.
“Success has become much more predictable today than it was during that period,” Wenger said. “It was only two foreign players, you had shared income shared equally because there was no television money and only the gates made the difference.”
“When you played away you shared the gates so it was much more even on the chances to be successful and that’s why at the time the quality of these managers had more influence than it does today. Their work really made the difference.”
Wenger will have to make his own difference felt off the touchline at the City Ground, however, serving a three-game ban for abusing Mike Dean.