Marina El Moufti
Historically speaking, Arsenal is quite a decorated team. Thirteen FA cups, most of them in English soccer, 15 league titles, and a record undefeated run across the 2003 and 2004 seasons; A feat that hasn’t been achieved since 1880.
In recent times, however, Arsenal has turned into one of football’s most inconsistent teams. But where exactly did this inconsistency begin? Fans agree that the team’s downfall began with the change of their stadium. The team’s shift from the legendary Highbury Stadium to their current Emirates Stadium proved to be detrimental.
Many believed that the move was fuelled by financial purposes, providing more of a gain to the team’s owners, which in turn fuelled the fans’ increasingly diminishing hope in the men behind Arsenal.
The stadium cost the club millions of dollars, leaving them financially unstable and shifting their status to becoming a “selling” club. They went on to sell the likes of Van Persie, Samir Nasri, and Cesc Fabregas, three of their biggest players over the years.
Arsenal did finally make an investment to bring in top tier players like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, giving fans something to look forward to, but their experiment quickly proved to be insufficient.
Arsenal’s biggest flaw seemed to be in its management. Good players are being sold and mediocre ones are being acquired with the aims of making profit. Profit-oriented teams who refuse to lose money by investing in the future of their club are bound to getting hurt.
Club manager Arsene Wenger has managed to guide the team to a Top 4 finish every season since taking over in 1996. Despite their somewhat impressive league performances, they have had quite the trophy drought. Many believed Wenger was on his way out of Arsenal after his lack of substantial achievements with the team, but they were mistaken.
The team finished fifth last season, missing the Champions League for the first time in over 20 seasons, yet Wenger still got a two-year extension, in addition to a £3,000,000 bonus, something that did not sit well with the fans.
This trend has carried on to the players. They have a type of assurance where they know that even if they perform poorly, they would still see regular playing times in all other games. They have no fear of losing their jobs, as the board does not seem to be too invested in the club’s success, choosing not to pay attention to the players’ performance.
This lack of fear has led to a lack of ambition. Arsenal is one of the world’s most expensive clubs, ticket-wise. They are worth $2,000,000,000 and are one of the only two British clubs to make profit in the transfer window, which is not necessarily a good thing.
Prior the the beginning of the season, Alexis Sanchez wanted a transfer, and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain declined a three-year £180,000 per week salary, agreeing to leave to Liverpool for a £120,000 per week salary instead. Sanchez had also declined a £350,000 per week salary, indicating his probable departure. Manchester City and Real Madrid have both been in talks with the forward.
It is clear that these players had had enough. Arsenal had gotten too comfortable with the idea of being an average club. Its players’ lack of effort makes it incapable of competing against the bigger clubs in Europe, and rather unadaptable to the challenges that come with the game, despite having an experienced manager.
The negativity surrounding the club is very demoralizing, something the fans believe the club brought onto themselves.
In reality, Arsenal is the fans’ club. Not Kroenke’s, not Gazidis’, and not Wenger’s. This downfall raises an interesting question: Why do fans still support this sinking club?
Omar Knio, an Arsenal fan, says: “I still like Arsenal because of who we are. The fans are nowhere near plastic. The fanbase is a family and our history is carved in stone. I support Arsenal, because I agree with the morals of the club.”
Arsenal’s two wins and two losses at the start of the Premier League campaign is another example of its inconsistency, but their 3-1 UEFA Europa League win against a strong FC Köln proved promising. For now, the fans must wait patiently and see whether or not Arsenal can salvage its reputation as one of Europe’s top clubs.