Despite a successful stint of six years with three league titles and later a Champions League final appearance, Arsene Wenger has failed to turn Arsenal into a prominent European club. All the impressive youngsters he has helped developed, all the profit lines the owners love to see, can’t change the fact that Arsenal are on a steep decline for the past six-seven years.
Between 1998 and 2005, Arsenal finished either first or second in the Premier League. In 2006, they reached the Champions League final. Since then, they’ve been past the quarterfinal only once, and haven’t finished above third place. They haven’t been past the knockout stage in the last two seasons in Europe’s premier competition, and while Arsenal view themselves as a big club on a European scale, mostly because of the number of fans they have and their ability to generate cash through their relatively news stadium, they’re light years behind plenty of clubs in terms of current ability and their past achievement and trophies.
This past year was another demonstration of how Arsene Wenger, who seemed to be on the right path in 2007-2008 with a young team that led the league for a stretch before collapsing late in the season, hasn’t been able to take advantage of the talent at his disposal, and even hang on to it.
Arsenal are somewhat of a feeder club. The only thing that has changed over the past few years is the excuses he uses, in his complete loyalty to the man above him, regarding why things aren’t working out. Sometimes it’s the stadium they’ve built that supposedly held them back when competing for big signings. Other times it’s his financial vision, which will keep Arsenal as the only club left standing in a few years. Keeps asking for patience, time and more patience. There’s also the occasional “if I only had Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas…”. Money has been an issue for some of the departures, but the culture and route Arsenal have been taking has also been a problem for the departing players.
This season has been somewhat of a colossal collision of lows. Not just the terrible start, that included Arsenal hitting a new low in the Wenger era, the 10th position after the 2-0 home defeat to Swansea; not just the league cup exit against Bradford, a division 2 side while Arsenal fielded something very close to their strongest lineup. The AGM at the Emirates Stadium in October was a vicious scene where chief executive Ivan Gazidis, chairman Peter Hill-Wood and majority shareholder Stan Kroenke were all heckled over the club’s financial strategy and failure to win a trophy since 2005.
Arsene Wenger opened his part of the meeting with a speech about apologizing to the fans and shareholders, who didn’t seem too pleased about the profits. He also said that Arsenal are no considering qualifying to the Champions League a trophy. Nothing about winning, only about money and finance. That is Arsenal, and that is Wenger. A club not willing to take any sort of financial risk, but still refusing to acknowledge they’re no longer a big club and a major player in the market. There’s no reason for Wenger to stay such a high paid employee, one of the top 5 best earning managers in the world, when all the owners care about is making money.