Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.
Some things in the world of football never change. The disproportionate ecstasy one feels when seeing an official plummet to the ground. The simple joy of an ill-advised post-match managerial rant when emotions override discretion. But not all footballing clichés carry such nostalgic charm. There’s the modern footballer’s propensity to defy gravity in an attempt to con a ref. And of course there’s the almost pathological obsession with the transfer window, temporarily reducing the game into an E! Entertainment special. But it is perhaps the activity, or inactivity, of Arsenal Football Club that is fast becoming one of the more frustrating trends in the pantheon of footballing clichés.
Fans undoubtedly remember the final day of last season as a glorious validation of Arsenal’s North London superiority, capturing the final Champions League position ahead of Spurs. True fans, however, are starting to see that finishing fifth last season could have been the best thing that happened to the club since Wenger’s arrival. Had Wenger’s Champions League mandate not been met, there might have been a restructuring of the club which could have facilitated success. The opening day home loss to Villa is merely the latest symptom of the doom and gloom mood that currently prevails at the Emirates. It was further proof of the disturbing lack of progression at a club assumed to be rolling in money. Acceptance of the club’s mediocre displays in recent seasons has hinged on the notion of a grander plan that the club was aspiring to. Fans dutifully sided with Wenger in hope of a silver lining, painfully experiencing the loss of star player after star player.
During the summer break, Arsenal fans were emboldened with news of financial abundance and a pursuit of the European elite. Higuain was reportedly an iron-cast certainty; now he is at Napoli. Luis Gustavo was bound to be the next Patrick Vieira; now he is at Wolfsburg. The Luis Suarez debacle has just further reflected Arsenal’s naivety in recent years. The home loss against Villa was painful enough, without the presence of Christian Benteke to further illuminate the problems at Arsenal. He was a player heavily linked with a move to the Emirates throughout the summer, a player who was lured back by Paul Lambert with a new contract. What? What this says is that either Arsenal never pursued Benteke strongly enough or that Villa just seemed a more viable option; and you cannot tell me that a club that struggled to avoid relegation last season is a more viable option compared to a team playing in the Champions League this season. At this point the young and talented Sanogo is the only new face at the club. A free transfer. Why do Arsenal fans pay more than any other fans in the league for their season tickets? Arsenal are being made to look extremely silly at the moment, especially considering the fact that they look hopelessly shy in resources compared to the likes of ostensible title rivals Spurs and City.
The AST (Arsenal Supporters Trust) have called for Arsenal to not offer Wenger a new contract at the end of the season when his current deal expires. They are imploring the club to rethink all their structures, including a remuneration policy that seems to operate according to contemporary socialist dogma. In the Arsenal wage structure, there is very little incentive for marquis players (possibly the reason for the implosion of the Higuain deal). A concern for the supporters is that their leading shareholder, Stan Kroenke, is very much a silent presence at the club. He seems to have little emotional investment in the footballing success of the club, treating the venture in purely business principles. So as long as Wenger keeps the club’s head above water financially, why on earth would Kroenke want to change anything? It is in stark contrast to the unstable yet successful model that Chelsea have adopted in recent years, with Roman Abramovich wildly hiring and firing in pursuit of constant success.
But this could be the season where everything changes for Arsenal. United, Chelsea and City look to be firmly entrenched as the three powerhouses of English football. And with the growth of Spurs (and Liverpool emerging as somewhat of a dark horse), Arsenal are going to struggle to capture that final Champions League spot; the emblem of success in the modern Wenger template. And although Arsenal fans would never admit it, many of them would be glad to be toppled by their North-London neighbours at the end of the year. It would be the final straw that could see a long overdue change for a club of Arsenal’s stature.