Arsenal’s demise from the “Invincibles” is a reoccurring problem which has not been solved by Arsene Wenger. You could point to several reasons for Arsenal’s trophy drought, which has overshadowed the clubs recent success; did they became a victim of the emergence of the “billionaire” owners in football meaning they could no longer compete financially, with the likes of Man City and Chelsea? Did Wenger make an error of judgment by never replacing Arsenal’s talisman captain Patrick Vieira? That in itself is only scratch on the surface and just part of the real answer to the underling problem for Arsenal in the last seven years. The real reasoning lies deep in the centre of the club and the role to which the board is playing in the sale of Arsenal best players, which seen their team slowly fall apart from greatness with the Invincibles to a team who now competes for top 4.
Arsenal in 2003-04 seasons changed the footballing philosophy of the Premier League, they brought an attacking style to the league which had never been seen before. They were hailed; “Invincibles” by winning the Premier League without losing a single game. Still eight years on we look back at this remarkable football achievement and with the emergence of billionaire owners and the oil money of Chelsea and Man City no one has matched or come close to eliminating this achievement. Wenger alone had created something unique and had revolutionised the way football was played with the “Invincibles”. Wenger was hailed as a “genius” and many thought that season Arsenal would go on and rule football for years to come but the strength and talent of the Invincibles faded and deported. The foundations of which Wenger’s empire had been built was slowly falling part as the end of an era was drawing close at the historical Highbury Stadium.
This sudden demise of the “Invincibles” in 2006 is an underling reason why Arsenal have not won a trophy since they left Highbury. It’s become more obvious now, that Wenger made an error of judgement by never replacing the club’s talisman captain; Patrick Vieira, Arsenal have never had a captain and leader like the talisman player since, as result Arsenal’s midfield still lacks any “steel” and is too “brittle”. A host of players have played a part in trying to fill the void left by Vieira in the team such as Flamini, Denilson, Alex Song and Diaby in recent seasons but all of them have fallen short of filling the boots of Patrick Vieira and providing the presence in midfield. At the time of losing the captain, no one foresaw the consequences it would have and Arsenal are still waiting for a trophy. It was an end of an era which seemed to start the exodus at the club like many other players after him which is a worrying continued trend still. Somehow Vieira, seemed to foresee the fall and demise of such a great club and team when he left for Juventus in 2005. The demise of the Invincibles continued with Ashley Cole’s move to Chelsea a year later in 2006 and then the departure of Arsenal’s all time top scorer; Thierry Henry in 2007 to Barcelona. The walls of the “Invincibles” were crumbling down around Wenger.
The sale of Arsenal’s “crown jewels”, with the cream of the best players being sold season after season, has been a worrying continued trend at the club and has been a major factor for the trophy drought in recent seasons. There only the board who can answer to that and why they allowed Arsenal’s important players like; Nasri, RVP and more recently Walcott and Sagna contract run to their final year. Under, David Dein’s thumb, this kind of thing would have been unheard off, which why Arsenal were the “Invincibles” and why they won trophies because they kept their best players; Thierry Henry, Pires, Viera, under long contracts and saw a decade of success nearly. Worryingly it doesn’t seem to be halting any time soon, with Theo Walcott and Bacary Sagna looking destined for the Arsenal exit with their contracts running down. Its problem which should never happen at a top club, to allow players contracts such as Van Persie and Theo Walcott run down to their last 12 months is a trend which would have never happened under the years of David Dein who always ensured players contracts were never left to their final 12 months.
As result of this incompetence from the board which seem to be more interested in money than success, Arsenal saw one of the clubs best players that season; Samir Nasri leave to Man City and go on to win the Premier League, along with Gael Clichy who was the last surviving squad player of the Invincible era. This
trend carried on with Arsenal’s best player and captain; Van Persie with a year left on his contract rightly questioning the clubs ambition and signing for, Man United, who were once Arsenal’s competitive enemies.
This trend is not new either with Kolo Toure another key player during the Invincibles, leaving for Man City in 2009 following the trend set by Adebayor who signed for Man City in £25m deal on 18th July 2009. If Arsenal are going to win trophies consistently again, it’s paramount that Wenger keeps a core squad of players together. Arsenal can’t possibly continue to competitively compete for Champions League football and honours, let alone compete with Manchester City and Man United for the title, if season after season, they sell the likes of Samir Nasri and Robin Van Persie to their fierce rivals. Wenger is not to be blamed as such, the real blame lies with the board who system of allowing players to run down their contracts to their final year and force a sale from the club. Arsene Wenger has not received the praise he deserves for doing a remarkable job in itself to just keep Arsenal afloat and in the top four.
Football is in an era now which is dictated by money, which sees the ugly side of football rear its head with the greed of players and now clubs, this is something without doubt Arsenal have become the victim to because they are unable to financially compete in the market with teams such as Man City and Chelsea. I believe the game has sold its soul money and with everyone spending more than they have, there come a time it will destroy the beautiful game. Arsenal are an example of being one of the only clubs that are run properly and rarely spends what it can’t instead its criticised and ridiculed. The board run the club financially as business but don’t invest and show any ambition in winning trophies and competing for the world class players, instead Wenger forced to buy players cheaply and young like he done countless times in the past and turn them into world class stars.
This very fact of this lavish spending in this age of football, slips many people’s minds that we are in era of spending giants in football now, where Man City and Chelsea have blown everyone else out of the water. The goal posts have moved in football, sadly it’s not about the prestige of winning the FA Cup or League Cup, the now so called minor cups but the value financially of winning cups. The FA Cup is now only worth £1.8m and the League Cup is worth even less financially, at £100,000 which is why Arsenal have not prioritised them ahead of a top four place and one reason Arsenal not won a trophy for seven years.
Another problem which is often ignored by Arsene Wenger, with regards to Arsenal’s demise in recent seasons is the lack of winning mentality in the squad. Wenger’s recent teams have lacked that “winning mentality” and “fight” of previous Arsenal teams, to win those gritty games on a rainy Tuesday night in Stoke for example. That “winning mentality” is not bought it’s coached into teams. The Invincibles, had the “winning mentality” running through the team with Vieira, Campbell, Bergkamp and Henry all wanting to win. The cup winning teams before them had the same “winning mentality” at the core with Tony Adams and Steve Bould who all had the same desire and fight to win! You can have the most talented players but without any winning mentality or fight you win nothing which has been the problem with the more recent Arsenal teams.
Wenger knows Arsenal’s ability and its resources available to the club, better than anyone, especially those who fans who are acting like the’ wolves in sheep clothing’ and forget that this is the very man who won the Premier League three times and the FA Cup 4 times during his current 16 year tenure at the London club, whilst also managing to win the Premier League without a single defeat during the 2003-2004 season. It’s the very fact that Wenger is a puppet on a lonely string being controlled by the board but some sections of the fans at Arsenal’s hierarchy forget about this success and are too short sighted at times and forget what Wenger done and what he developed with Arsenal.
But fans always expect immediate success in this day and age in football, when you tasted the success Arsenal have and a club of that statue, continued success is expected every season, that understandable but also important that fans realise the restrictions to Arsene and don’t reap what they sown now in the future.
In theory, there are a contribution of reasons which varies from; Arsenal becoming a victim of the “billionaire owners” to the worrying trend of selling their best players season after season. Wenger is still the right man for the job at Arsenal, he is the only man who can lead Arsenal back to the glory years of the Invincibles and Double team because they were of his own creation but above all else its important all Arsenal fans pull in the same direction, as legend Herbert Chapman who once said; “A football club should be like a great big family with all members of it sticking and pulling together in the same direction”.