What has gone wrong at Arsenal?

Updated: August 23, 2011

Not since Arsene Wenger’s first game in charge of the Gunners has the French mastermind been under so much pressure but it is the sign of the times at the Emirates Stadium. Just one point from two games in the League, the loss of big players and unrest in the stands has all led to the hefty pressure that Wenger finds himself under. He has now got just seven days to improve his depleted squad and drastically improve the Gunners’ fortunes ahead of this season which could be a very long one if things don’t improve.

There is no doubt that Wenger is the best manager that Arsenal have ever had but despite his record and impressive trophy count, the former Monaco boss is facing critics from all angles including the fans. He has always adapted the policy of buying youth or buying players who are yet to develop. No one can criticise that policy up to now after Wenger has seen some of the best players that have ever graced Europe climb through the ranks in North London. The names just flow off the tongue- Henry, Petit, Overmars, Vieira, Bergkamp, Pires, Ashley Cole and now Fabregas. Yes, he has bought and nurtured them all and they have gone on to perform for Arsenal at the highest level, helping the club win trophies but there is a familiar story to each player. They left Arsenal for big money in perhaps their prime. Does that suggest that under Wenger, Arsenal have become a very successful feeder club? Of course, they aren’t in the same category as some clubs like Sporting Lisbon who simply coach young players in an attempt to sell them on for millions. Arsenal buy youngsters and coach them to win trophies but all of the players mentioned above left Arsenal in their prime or still with plenty to offer. The likes of Henry, Vieira and Overmars all left the club for big money seeking a new challenge. You don’t seem to see this with Manchester United. Giggs, Neville and Scholes all came up through the United ranks but stayed with the one club their entire career. The one exception was David Beckham, who infamously had a row with Fergie. This though is a worrying trend for Arsenal and that trend continued this summer with the sale of Clichy, Fabregas and now Samir Nasri. Who is next? Van Persie?

There is no doubting the quality which the Arsenal squad possesses but Wenger’s men simply do not have the experience to compete at the top level it seems. Trophy less in six years can back this up and now the loss of three of their most experienced or better players, Arsenal can expect a long season ahead. The money is there for Wenger, £35 million for Fabregas, £8 million for Clichy and now £24 million for Nasri but yet Wenger hasn’t bought a big name player in years. The last one which I can remember is Arshavin but even then he paid £16 million for him, not something like £30 million that United or City have paid for their star names. Fans could not criticise Wenger’s transfer policy because it was working, trophies were coming thick and fast and in 2004-05, Wenger’s biggest achievement came when he assembled the “unbeatables” They went through a whole season unbeaten and Wenger was awarded with the “coach of the decade” in 2011 for this achievement.
When that squad began to move on then Wenger once again rebuilt his side and the likes of Fabregas, Reyes, Ashley Cole, Toure and Gilberto all stared for the Gunners as they won the FA Cup. That was their last trophy though, so what has gone wrong since 2005?

The sale of players season after season is probably the nucleus of the problem. Each summer it seems that a player that has a big influence the previous year, leaves North London for some reason. If we think back to recent times, Flamini, Adebayor, Toure and Hleb have all left Arsenal. This must be the stem of the problem surely? So why is it that these players leave such a big club? It couldn’t be because the trophy drought as every club goes through a period of not winning a trophy. It must be the fact that Wenger will not budge on his wage policy. He has a transfer policy, which he does not spend ridiculous amounts of cash in order to bring players in and he also has a wage restriction. In this day in age, Arsenal are not offering wages that other clubs can give. Wenger got away with it in his first ten years or so in England but football has drastically changed and money is now key. Players have left the Emirates and indeed Highbury in the last six or so years because other clubs can offer them better wages. No matter how happy you are if you are offered more money, most people would not reject the move and that is what has affected Arsenal and Wenger does not seem even now he will budge. It is ridiculous really, if you have to pay your best players a few extra grand a week to stay then surely it has to be done in order to be successful. For example the Rooney situation back in December. United knew he was a key player and were prepared to up his wages in order to sway the United striker from moving to money bags Man City. He did of course stay and United won their nineteenth League title. That is what Arsenal have to do but it is a bit late now, Fabregas and Nasri have both left already this season and if Arsenal fail to take off in the next few months, then some more of their players might be heading for the Emirates exit in January.

Wenger can not look back on past glories though and he know has to focus on the job in hand and it certainly is a tough one. He has been left with a squad of relatively inexperienced players but without doubt they have quality. Their squad is bare enough as it is but injuries and suspensions have added to the gaffer’s problems. If all his players can stay fit throughout the season then Arsenal should be ok and challenge for a top fourth position but football is not as straight forward as that. Injuries and suspensions happen and therefore he will need a couple of new signings at least in the next week and a half. He has plenty of cash to buy and he needs to stop messing about with his transfer and wage policy and just buy some top quality players, even if they cost £25 million. A poor season will mean more exits next summer and Robin van Persie is probably favourite to be next to leave the Emirates.

It is a massive few weeks ahead for Wenger and Arsenal and the next period in his long reign in North London could just determine the legacy he leaves behind.

Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanbaileysport

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