By Vegard Lilleas
I have always admired the philosopher, player developer and the person Arsène Wenger. Arsenal has never been more successful than under the Frenchman’s reign – every “Gooner” are forever in his debt. He’s brought glory, success and last but not least beautiful football to the club. However, the magic seems to have disappeared. The question is: Is it time for “Le Professeur” to resign?
There are many indications that the answer to that question should be yes.
Arsenal hasn’t won a trophy since 2005, nor been in the top two in the Premier League. There’s been overwhelming majority of letdowns the last seven years. Arsenal hasn’t begun a season (2012-2013) this poor since 1982, grabbing only 21 points after 15 games so far.
Arsenal can be considered a falling giant at the moment. Why is this happening? I think the answer is simple: Year after year the club sells their best players.
Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Fredrik Ljungberg, Alexander Hleb, Gilberto Silva, Jens Lehmann, Mathieu Flamini, Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Touré, William Gallas, Eduardo, Gaël Clichy, Samir Nasri, Alexandre Song, Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie are the biggest names that have left the club since 2005. In my opinion it’s only Thomas Vermaelen, Wojciech Szczesny and Kieran Gibbs that have strengthened the team compared to those who have left the club.
So why did all these great players leave?
Of course they wanted to win something, but at the same time as players started to flee, Arsenal built a big, modern stadium in 2006 with money they didn’t really have. Wenger’s plan was to build his team, in the following years, around players they had bought cheap and developed into world class players. Meanwhile, whilst Arsenal was struggling with the financial aftershocks after building “The Emirates”, sheikhs and oligarchs entered the English, and European, football scene and started building powerful teams with, what seemed like, unlimited funds. Arsenal didn’t have the financial strength to fight for the big players, for that the transfer fees and wages were too high. Thus, Arsenal’s biggest talents were easy targets for the wealthiest teams.
It’s a paradox that Wenger himself, as of 2012, makes €9.2 million, which makes him the fifth best paid manager in the world, says reports from the Brazilian finance website Pluri Consultoria. Arsenal’s best paid player, Lukas Podolski, is supposedly making approximately €6.4 million.
Still, it was Van Persie’s transfer to Manchester United that made me lose faith in how Arsenal is governed. With Ivan Gazidis at the helm, Arsenal has become a club with a main focus on profit, not success, and is at the moment on the path to mediocrity.
Arsenal is the club that has the lowest “net spend” in the Premier League, Manchester City is, of course, the biggest spender. One can only hope that Arsenal’s sobriety will pay off in the end. With the so-called Financial Fair Play, hopefully, just around the corner, clubs like Arsenal can again compete against the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea.
Nevertheless, at the moment Arsenal can’t. They lack the quality and confidence that’s required to be successful in 38 games in the toughest league in the world.
Furthermore, Arsenal’s style of play has in the last 6-8 years effectively been stopped by teams with some quality. Now it seems like “The Gunners” lack creativity, breakthrough power and flair. I’m sad to say, but it seems like “Le Proffeseur” has run out of ideas.
Comments like: “Fourth place is just as good as a trophy” makes me question Wenger’s ambitions. Yes, a place in the Champions League is an achievement, but a club of Arsenal’s stature, shouldn’t and can’t settle for fourth places.