There are no knee-jerk reactions to Arsenal anymore. The idea that a large section of the support are fickle is not only arrogant but extremely deluded. The loss at Swansea on the weekend compounded Arsenal’s problems. It revealed one of the lowest points during Arsene Wenger’s time at the club – possibly even lower than the 8-2 loss at Manchester United last season.
The problem is, and Wenger alluded to this recently, it’s not always about just buying good players. There’s a problem at Arsenal that means everyone sits back and admires the view, no matter what that view may be. Now, Arsenal are a sports club and one who are active, so to suggest everyone with some relevance is just sitting on their hands is probably wide of the mark (and I’m hoping it’s wide of the mark). But there is something wrong. There is a losing and defeatist mentality at the club.
I don’t care where Swansea are in the league, I don’t care how well they’re doing, I don’t care who their manager is. When you’re a club who boast profits, sit in a state of the art stadium, have the highest ticket prices in Europe, share a table at the very top of the European game alongside Barcelona, Manchester United and Bayern Munich, you can not be losing at home to Swansea.
The worrying thing is, it seems that no amount of decline can push the club into action. But a change is needed, and a significant one at that.
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In terms of Arsene Wenger, so much of his present and future at the club is based on what he did 10 years ago. People who say he’s the right man for the job and the only man for the job are those who don’t know any different. What kind of arrogance is it to suggest no one else could handle Arsenal’s current situation and get them into the Champions League every season other than Wenger? For starters, it only takes a manager with a good bit of tactical sense to see that playing a formation with the wrong players doesn’t work. It only takes someone with desire to try something new to play Andrey Arshavin through the middle – his natural position. A huge concern is that the manager and this Arsenal team are failing to get the best out of Santi Cazorla. I have no time for those who look down on La Liga and the small but tricky players. Cazorla is the best player at the club right now, and yet people are lumping him into a category of failed purchases.
The players keep changing every year but the results and defeats and the manner of the defeats remain the same. Who becomes accountable? No one, according to those who see nothing wrong with Wenger or the way the club is run. I’m not totally convinced that having Eden Hazard and Fernando Llorente in the team would make a whole lot of difference. Would Javier Hernandez have had the same debut season in the Premier League if he played for Arsenal? It’s not spiteful jabs at a manager, but it is questions that need to be raised, especially considering the way Arsenal are tumbling down the league.
Wenger looks tired, and not just from losing. He looks tired from losing his best players, from not having the adequate resources to keep the club at the top. I’m totally behind the idea that the board are starving the manager of the means to go out and properly revitalise the squad. However, I do believe the manager can be doing a lot more with what he has in terms of playing personnel.
People have rightly spoken about Gervinho as the worst signing under Arsene Wenger. That’s not knee-jerk and it’s certainly not a case of short term memory; everyone is fully aware of players like Mikael Silvestre, Igor Stepanovs and the pointlessness of Amaury Bischoff. But those players were cheap; Gervinho, on the other hand, was picked up for a fee which went into double figures.
With Arsenal, maybe it’s a case of the board and manager not complementing each other. Champions League football is achieved, yes, but how disappointing if you believe that to be the mark of success.
Wenger managed to get the best out of world class players during his successful years. Price isn’t the only measure of how good a player is or can be, but Robert Pires, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp were good footballers who were up to the standard of Arsenal and their demands. With the manner in which the market has morphed into this current monster, the Arsenal board simply aren’t giving the manager enough to go out and find these players any more.
Wenger has a responsibility to the new stadium, but Arsenal are not in poor financial health. I fail to believe that a busy and ambitious transfer window would cripple the club, as Ivan Gazidis has implied in the past. But if the board want to stand by Wenger and allow him to manage and eventually leave of his own accord, they must change their policy on running the club.
It never should have come to a point where Wenger would be forced out of the club. It hasn’t quite reached that extreme yet, but there are plenty who believe his time is up. Wenger can still offer much to Arsenal, but it will come with the altering of his managerial approach. It might be fair to say that most Arsenal supporters do not want a change in manager, but rather a change in his ways.
In terms of the board, they are the ones calling the shots but remaining hidden behind their man on the front lines. If the board are not taking money out of the club, what exactly is the reported £70 million doing just sitting in the vaults? Saving for a rainy day? It doesn’t get much rainier than this.