Unlike most fans of other London clubs, I take no pleasure in seeing Arsenal 10th in the Premier League, five points off the top four and dwelling on a 2-0 loss at home to Swansea. Having grown up with several of my friends being Gooners and my girlfriend’s family being Arsenal supporters, it is a club I have always liked to see doing well, apart from when they’re playing West Ham, of course.
But this current bout of unrest at the Emirates has got me wondering why Arsene Wenger has struggled to keep Arsenal challenging for trophies.
It’s hard to pin point the exact moment where it all started going wrong for Wenger and Arsenal. Some would argue it is down to the sale of the club’s best players ever since they won their last piece of silverware in the shape of the FA Cup in 2005. Others just put it down to Arsene Wenger hitting a brick wall in what he is capable of achieving at The Emirates.
Since that FA Cup win in 2005, the like of Ashley Cole, Thierry Henry, Mathieu Flamini, Emmanuel Adebayor, Patrick Vieira, Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie have left North London for pastures new, winning a combined total of 37 trophies while Arsenal’s baron run continues.
Allowing such players to leave is seen as Arsene Wenger’s ultimate crime, as well as not spending the estimated £165million he sold the above players for to adequately replace the talent he had allowed to walk out of the Emirates.
However, despite not winning anything for seven years, the Frenchman has still been relatively successful in ensuring Arsenal are still a formidable force in the Premier League and the Champions League, but recent weeks have shown worrying signs that such an achievement may be coming to an abrupt end.
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But why? With a midfield consisting of Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere, Arsenal have one of the most talented midfields in the Premier League at the moment. Add the undoubted talent of Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott on the wings and the improving Olivier Giroud up front and you’ve got a pretty impressive attacking basis upon which success should be imminent.
But my main concern for Arsenal, as I am sure it is for all Arsenal fans across the globe, is the defence and the absence of a deadly goal scorer since van Persie left in the summer. There is no doubting the talent of the defence, but the lack of consistency is worrying, especially with the likes of 20-year-old Carl Jenkinson only having 19 Premier League appearances on his CV, despite showing signs of promise in the early stages of the season.
The current spine of the Arsenal side has enough about it to return to the good old days when they were challenging for league titles and regularly winning domestic cup competitions. However, what Arsene Wenger needs to do is spend the money he has been sitting on for several years now and bring in players who are capable of making an immediate impact on the Premier League, while also making his current players happy.
The constant dithering over offering Theo Walcott a new contract cannot be doing the player or the squad any good. There will be several players at the club becoming increasingly worried that yet another one of the club’s best players is edging closer and closer out of the door.
Despite this, Wenger has shown throughout the 16 years of his Arsenal tenure that he can be a very shrewd businessman in the transfer window, making a healthy profit on several of Arsenal’s best players. He has an eye for a good player, there is no doubting that, but what he has failed to do is adapt to the rapid change in how transfer markets work.
With the prices of good players ever increasing, it is now a rare sight to see the likes of an 18-year-old Nicolas Anelka sign for a club for half a million pounds and go on to be as world class as he once was. And this is ultimately what I believe has been Wenger’s stumbling block at Arsenal. He has failed to see the shift in players’ values and that has prevented him from bringing in the players that he may have seen as bargains about 10 years ago.
Every one knows it, but he is unwilling to spend large amounts of money on the quality that will re-ignite Arsenal’s top-flight dominance. That probably comes with the fact that the likes of Toure, Petit, Ljungberg, Anelka, Overmars, Fabregas, Pires, van Persie and Henry cost him a combined total of just over £36 million, all players who went on to have very successful playing days under him at Arsenal.
Wenger needs to realise that such deals are a rarity in modern football and big money must be spent to acquire the best players in the sport. With the January transfer window just a month away, Arsenal fans are probably dreading what Wenger has up his sleeve, and rightly so. He might be bringing back Thierry Henry on a loan deal, but that isn’t going to help the club in the long term. But if he can finally bring himself to fork out some good money on a couple of world class players then we will no doubt begin to see the Arsenal of old.
We keep hearing the age-old cliché that ‘It’s a results business’ and it’s a cliché could that not be further from the truth, but results only come with good players who can play together and who are confident they are at a club that can be successful. That doesn’t seem to be the case at the moment and, until this is addressed, we will continue seeing Arsenal in the shape they are today.
Personally I believe Arsene Wenger is still capable of returning Arsenal to the good old days. He just needs to bring himself a little more up to date with the modern game to end what I think is just a blip in Arsenal’s successful history.
It’s all very well maintaining a profitable football club as a business, but the focus needs to be on the field of play right here, right now.
What do you think? Is it solely Wenger’s transfer policy that is the reason behind Arsenal’s failure to win anything in the last seven years? Or do you think there is more to it? Leave your comments below.