After a much publicised eight seasons without a trophy in which Arsenal have moved to a new state of the art home where the club has taken the approach of balancing the books rather than letting the debt fester could this transitional spell for the gunners be coming to an end?
Since May 2005 when Arsenal beat Manchester United in the FA Cup final on penalties it has been a painful time for Arsenal fans having to watch on as time and time again their side fell short having to look on as rival sides collected winners’ medals with gooners having to be content with fourth placed finishes and runners-up medals.
During these eight years the Wenger out brigade have become more and more vocal with the Frenchman’s inability to create a side capable of winning any of the four competitions they have regularly taken part in in each of these seasons having lost to smaller clubs such as Birmingham City in the 2011 League Cup Final and even last season being dumped out by lower league Bradford City and Blackburn Rovers in the League Cup and FA Cup respectively.
Give Arsenal and their manager Wenger credit though as he has still been able to achieve one thing, and that is to secure Champions League football.
A feat that is more commendable when you look at the amount of money spent by the clubs around them, especially with clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City with their foreign owners bankrolling them to success, Arsenal have done the job “properly” without spending huge amounts of money of transfer fees and wages, therefore helping them to generate a profit each season going towards paying off the debt of their divine Emirates Stadium.
However during this time the gulf in class between Arsenal and those right at the top of the league has become huge shown when Arsenal, albeit with a make-shift side were thumped 8-2 at Old Trafford at the beginning of the 2011/12 season and Manchester United were not even crowned League champions that season.
The mentality of the club due to this drop in standards has been questioned.
Do the players and the manager have the winning mentality needed to compete with those at the top?
With the defeats against the smaller clubs, especially highlighted in the League Cup final loss in 2011 at the hands of Birmingham City, a side later relegated, question marks have appeared over the players brought into the club and whether or not they can keep Arsenal at the top level the fans demand.
These players have shown they are capable of winning trophies however this has come away from Arsenal as with the club committed to balancing the books and paying off the cost of their stadium as quickly as possible many of the star players have been sold as they approach the final year of their contracts, with Arsene Wenger unwilling to break the club’s tight wage structure or when the right price has come for the player.
This has been the case with players such as Gael Clichy, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Alex Song and Robin van Persie all of which have gone on to win the domestic league with the club they have departed the Emirates for.
With this selling club mentality having developed at Arsenal it has prevented the club for building on any success they have been able to achieve with Fabregas and Nasri, two key players in the 2010/11 side leaving in the summer of 2011 and Alex Song and Robin van Persie, two more of the key players in the side that reached the League Cup final in 2011 departing last summer.
However after Arsenal were able to clinch fourth place on the final day of the season in a tense away game at Newcastle knowing they had to better rivals Tottenham’s result there seems to be a new air of optimism around the club.
With the club’s remarkable end of season form in which they were able to overtake rivals Tottenham in the race for Champions League football despite being seven points behind with just ten games remaining the squad began to show a togetherness and ability to grind out results formed off the back of a resolute and stubborn defence, something the gunners have lacked for many a season.
This summer seems to be Arsenal’s chance to prove they are ready to compete once more.
With no major stand out individuals Arsene Wenger is unlikely to be desperately trying to persuade his key players to stay like in previous years, in fact Arsenal are looking to be active in the window, as Wenger stated after securing Champions League football.
The club are now in a great financial position and having paid off the majority of the cost of the stadium and having announced a new kit deal that will kick in for the 2014/15 season with Puma as well as the boost to TV revenue all Premier League clubs have been given Arsenal are now in a position to put themselves back amongst those competing for trophies rather than watching on in despair.
Chief executive Ivan Gazidis has announced the club are capable of luring those right at the top of the market to the club and are capable of breaking their strict wage bill in order to take Arsenal back to the top, stating the funds are there for Wenger to spend and that he will have as much as he believes he needs to put the gunners back amongst the trophies.
This has lead to lots of paper talk with Arsenal being linked to players such as Wayne Rooney, who seems unsettled at Manchester United and Gazidis has already spoken saying the club could afford the England hitman’s wages, also the club have been linked with Real Madrid and Barcelona outcasts Gonzalo Higuain and David Villa as well as Fiorentina’s spearhead Stefan Jovetic.
Wenger knows the squad needs reshaping and has acted quickly with the club announcing Denilson, Squillaci and Andrei Arshavin will all be released at the end of June, by which time it is also believed the club want to have done the majority of their business in the transfer window.
Players such as Nicklas Bendtner, Park Chu-Young, Marouane Chamakh and Johan Djourou are also expected to leave with Lukas Fabianski and Gervinho also possibly leaving the Emirates whilst the Frenchman is believed to be close to agreeing a deal to bring in goalkeeper Julio Cesar from QPR.
Arsenal have also been reported with further transfer dealing having allegedly activating the £24 million release clause of Everton midfield Marouane Fellaini as well as Wenger having hinted at a move for Lyon playmaker Clement Grenier and some are even speculating about a sensational move to bring former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas back from Barcelona.
What is known is this summer is a massive summer for the club as they gear themselves up to challenge once more with not only the first team under going an overhaul but the youth side too with many departures and a couple of new signings already too with Dan Crowley from Aston Villa being brought in as well as Auxerre youngster Yaya Sanogo and with reports circulating the club have also agreed terms with Serbian youngster Alexsandar Mitrovic, with they latter two perhaps expected to have a slight impact on the first team.
This really could be the start of something new for Arsenal fans as with all the other clubs who finished in the top four changing their manager this summer Arsene Wenger’s experience could prove crucial to leading Arsenal back to competing and with all the changes that have happened perhaps the Frenchman will be able to fire the gunners to glory.