Imagine it’s the 2003/04 season, imagine you’re an Arsenal fan that has witnessed ‘The Invincibles‘ winning the league in spectacular fashion, remaining unbeaten for the entirety of the season where they would later eclipse the record of 42 matches without a loss previously set by Nottingham Forest.
Now imagine someone telling you that a little over a decade later the club wouldn’t be competing in Europe’s elite top. That Wenger would still be in charge – but much to the dismay of fans. That an enormous amount of this culpability would rest on his shoulders. You’d laugh me out of the room.
But unfortunately, we live in a time where this once considered fictional nightmare has become a reality.
Who or what is to blame for this demise?
Well, there are several factors.
Let’s start with Arsene Wenger himself. The man behind Arsenal’s most successful years. It’s difficult for the neutral to watch the collapse of a once-great manager as he desperately hangs on to salvage the bitterly disappointing nosedive that his managerial career has taken.
This can mostly be attributed to his stubbornness. It’s amazing to consider that this was someone who had the perfect balance in an Arsenal side when you look at the current state of affairs. Arsenal’s team are a mess. They are comprised of several impressive individuals but without the unity, the understanding or the tenacity that his 2003/04 side possessed.
Wenger’s refusal to consolidate key areas in his team have cost them dearly. Lacazaette’s signing came two or three seasons too late, Xhaka‘s purchase has left fans wholly underwhelmed and neither Mertesacker nor Koscielny have been able to fill the void left by Sol Campbell’s departure a decade ago.
Which brings me to another factor that has drastically altered Arsenal’s position: the board and general running of the club. Ivan Gazidis and Stan Kroenke’s abject tactics have left Wenger down river without a paddle for the most part. Arsenal fans are no strangers to the toxic contributions these two figures have made.
But this structure is sadly a model that is being increasingly employed by new investors. So long as football’s dominance remains and its popularity grows globally, entrepreneurs will see worthy investment opportunities to make a quick buck at the expense of the club.
Cue this summer’s transfer window antics where the club’s best players expressed their desire to leave the Emirates – most notably Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. The two surprisingly remained put but what proves more worrying is that both could leave without Arsenal receiving any money for their moves. Sanchez becomes a free agent next summer and Ozil’s contract disputes have left his future hanging in the balance.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain secured his switch to Liverpool which only further highlights the appeal of other clubs comparatively to Arsenal. Couple this with the rise of Tottenham over the course of the last two seasons as well as Everton’s long-term strategy under Ronald Koeman and Manchester United’s strengthening this window; even Swansea have massively bolstered their options. Arsenal are being left to gather proverbial dust in comparison to their rivals.
Jack Wilshere, once considered the key for Arsenal’s future success has great amounts of uncertainty surrounding his future. After an incident whilst playing for the U23s squad, it’s believed that Wenger has given up on looking to include the English midfielder in his plans. And judging by their 4-0 defeat at the hands of Liverpool a couple of weeks ago, they could sure use some of the passion he displays. It was a performance devoid of all the characteristics that a player like Wilshere can and does infuse when wearing an Arsenal shirt when fit.
The future doesn’t look like letting up anytime soon for this once great club. It will require wholesale changes from top to bottom to rid them of the horrible stench that recent seasons have brought but a club of this magnitude can and will fight back.
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