Have Arsenal Become A Feeder Club For The Big Boys?

 

With a new Premier League season only a matter of weeks away, the merry-go-round known as the Transfer Window, is well under way. As has become customary over the last few years, the comings and (especially the) goings to and away from Arsenal FC are grabbing the lion’s share of the headlines. In particular, Robin Van Persie’s recent revelation that he would not be extending his contract, caused shockwaves that continue to reverberate at The Emirates Stadium.

 
EXODUS

There’s no doubt that many Gooners will and have accused Van Persie of disloyalty and betrayal amongst other things, as well as being a mercenary out for more money. Such accusations however, cannot cover up the reality that when (as he surely will) Van Persie leaves Arsenal, he will be joining a long line of high profile Gunners stars who have departed the club in recent seasons. That list of names includes Henry, Flamini, Cole, Toure, Fabregas, Nasri and Clichy.

This rather predictable turn of events is indicative of Arsenal’s increasing inability to hold onto their best players, due in large part, to their perennial failure to win trophies. With the new season fast approaching, this state of affairs (no silverware in 7 years) shows no sign of being rectified. In fact, it is looking increasingly as though the Arsenal board (much to the chagrin of shareholders Alisher Usmanov and Farhad Moshiri) are perfectly content to remain also rans, as long as the revenue that comes with qualification for the Champions League keeps coming into the club.

If this remains the case, then Arsenal fans should expect that not only will they lose the ability to attract big name players to the club. They will continue to lose their best players just as they reach their prime, to rival clubs with ambitions to win trophies. Certainly, last season’s “deserters” Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri won’t regret their decisions to join Manchester City, after having dramatically won the Premier League title. Something they couldn’t have hoped to achieve with the Gunners, who once again were happy to simply secure a lucrative UEFA Champions League place.

 
WHERE’S THE MONEY?

Whilst one would naturally expect that the large sums of money that is generated from Champion’s League football would be invested – at least in part – into strengthening the Gunners’ limited squad, that has clearly not been the case. As clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, and even Liverpool have spent heavily on marquee signings over the last few seasons, Arsenal have not made any attempts to keep pace with the spending of their rivals.

Some Arsenal fans will no doubt respond to this by pointing out that the club still has to payoff the debts incurred by the construction of the Emirates Stadium. Which in turn leads to questions as to why there have been conflicting stories from various sources at the club about the transfer funds allegedly available for signings on the one hand, and reports of there being no funds available on the other.

Given the fact that Arsenal fans have being paying for the Premier League’s most expensive season tickets, since their move to the Emirates Stadium, suggestions that the club lacks the financial clout to compete in the transfer market don’t seem credible.

This confusion could have easily been laid to rest by manager Arsene Wenger, by simply stating one way or another what the situation is with regard to the Gunners’ finances. Instead Wenger has consistently refrained from signing high profile established star players to the club, insisting rather, that his policy of nurturing and bringing through young (mostly foreign) talent will lead to success on the pitch. A policy that has clearly been a failure, and caused many observers to regard the Gunners’ boss as a delusional and stubborn has-been.

 
IN WENGER WE TRUST!

For a football club of Arsenal’s stature and history, one would assume that after seven seasons of continuous failure to win a trophy, the fans would be calling for the head of the manager, and hounding him out of the club. However, this is clearly not the case. Arsene Wenger, as Arsenal manager remains the second longest serving current manager in the Premier league, after Sir Alex Ferguson.

While a very small minority of Gooners have expressed dissatisfaction with both Wenger’s transfer policy and footballing philosophy, the Arsenal boss has managed to escape the blame for the clubs lack of success with the overwhelming majority of the clubs’ supporters. Indeed, the faith that most fans have in their manager remains undiminished, as is evidenced by the oft-repeated mantra, “In Wenger We Trust!

 
A SELLING CLUB?

As a new season looms, Arsenal’s prospects in both league and cup competitions seem even more remote than at any time during the previous seven. In fact, the now familiar sight of the Gunners losing another top player before a new campaign, has lead some observers to wonder if Arsenal are now a selling club. A suggestion that most Gooners will no doubt consider to be laughable.

Whilst the idea of Arsenal being a selling club is unlikely to gain traction among their own supporters. To impartial football fans, the North London giants are looking increasingly like a feeder club who nurture young talent to sell to the big boys of European football. Certainly, there is no question that those players who chose to leave the club, did indeed move on to bigger and better things, winning league and cup titles, both in England and on the Continent.

 
FAILURE IS THE NEW SUCCESS

As an impartial observer, I have no vested interest in the success or otherwise of Arsenal football club. However, if I put myself in the shoes of an Arsenal fan, I like Robin Van Persie, would not be happy with the direction of the club. The Arsenal board have made it abundantly clear that their criteria for success is qualification for the Champions League. So finishing in third or fourth place in the league, is deemed perfectly acceptable. Actually winning trophies is no longer on the agenda.

The only hope that Arsenal fans (who want to win things) have that this attitude can be changed, is if the Gunners fail to qualify for next season’s Champions League. This should in theory force the Arsenal board into opening the purse strings and competing in the transfer market.

Whether or not this sequence of events would actually bring silverware to the Emirates, is open to debate. My own personal view, which I have held for the last five or six years, is that Arsenal will never win another trophy while Arsene Wenger is still the manager. He has remained willfully oblivious to the shortcomings of his squad defensively and in midfield. His tactical inflexibility has been a liability, as his unwillingness to sign established big name stars, and his baffling reluctance to sign British players.

Unfortunately for Arsenal supporters, it seems unlikely that the Frenchman will ever be sacked by the board of directors. So maybe all the Gooners of this world will have to accept the new reality, that Arsenal are now little more than a feeder club for the big boys.

 
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