Arsenal: A selling club?
Arsenal opinion: Arsene Wenger has become accustomed to losing his top talent
There is no doubt that no trophy in eight years just doesn’t sit right with the red half of north London.
A move to a brand new multi-million pound stadium - in the form of the Emirates Stadium - at the beginning of the 2006/07 season was meant to kick-start the next era of success and trophies for the Gunners.
The move was signalled as an opportunity to compete with the major players of European football and whilst Arsenal have continued to qualify for the Champions League each season they have failed to emulate the final years at Highbury.
Arsene Wenger joined the club in October 1996 and was the club's first manager from outside of the UK. He came with new ideas about training, diet and lifestyle. Between 1996 and 2005 he led his team to three Premier League titles, four FA Cup successes and four Community Shields. This included two double-winning seasons in 1997/98 and 2001/02, and the "Invincibles" of 2003/04.
There is no doubt that Wenger brought to England some of the greatest players to grace British soil: Freddie Ljungberg, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires, Emmanuel Petit and not to forget the great Thierry Henry. However, since the move away from Highbury and the departure of these fantastic footballers Arsenal have found themselves in a rut.
Since their last FA Cup success in 2005 Arsenal have allowed a whole host of players to leave the club, including Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Patrick Vieira (Juventus), Thierry Henry (Barcelona), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Kolo Toure (Manchester City), Gael Clichy (Manchester City), Samir Nasri (Manchester City) and Robin van Persie (Manchester United).
If you total the number of medals won by players who have left Arsenal since 2005 you reach the astounding figure of 67. Cole alone has won eight major trophies with Chelsea since 2005.
Arsenal are now a selling club. Allowing one or two of your best players to move to European rivals such as Juventus and Barcelona is part and parcel of the modern game and, in the early Emirates years, moves for Henry and Vieira were untimely but not terminal. Unfortunately the trend has continued with players now leaving for destinations closer to home - in particular Manchester City and in the case of Van Persie, Manchester United.
If Arsenal hope to continue at the highest level of the English and European game this habit needs to stop. Allowing your top goalscorer and world-class international to move to one of your closest rivals signifies a shift in power. For all Wenger's bullish rebukes that Arsenal can still challenge for the Premier League title the evidence is there to see. Players are leaving to win medals, to play with better players and if Arsenal finish outside the top four, to continue to play at the highest level in the Champions League.
In the early 2000s, Arsenal were to be feared. They played some of the best football seen in the modern era and counter attacked with incredible pace with some of the world's most talented players. Now plain and simple they don't. Santi Cazorla is a fantastic player but he is no David Silva and arguably not even at the level of Juan Mata at Chelsea. Olivier Giroud is no Ian Wright, Dennis Bergkamp, Henry or Van Persie, and Mikel Arteta is no Vieira or Fabregas.
If Spurs do finish fourth and pip Arsenal into the Champions League, Arsenal will be in a serious downward spiral. If they manage to save their season and finish third or fourth it has to be time to change, radically.
Rip up the wage structure, consider the make-up of the board, sign a number of established top-class players and perhaps consider the introduction of a new manager to take them forward.
Wenger has been a great manager but in recent years he has been part of a progressively weaker Arsenal team; the worst part being that nothing has been done to solve the situation.
If they take the opportunity they may be able to move onwards and upwards - if they don’t they may find themselves back in the wilderness, as they were when Wenger took over the club in the mid 1990s.
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