Gradual Decline into Obscurity
Over the past two years, I found myself writing more about Arsenal than any other football club. Sometimes I ask myself why this is so. The answer lays in the fact that I have consistently followed the club since the mid-1990s and the transformation from a hard kick forward type of football to the exciting continental flair brought to prominence by Wenger cemented my love for the team.
Initially, I was enthralled by the pure confidence and elegance of Tony Adams. Add to this the raw power of Martin Keown and the impregnability of David Seaman; you had a team both rich in character and winning mentality.
After Wenger arrived in the summer of 1996, he quickly added the steely and mercurial Patrick Viera. Others like Nicholas Anelka, Mark Overmars, Emmanuel Petit and Kano Nwankwo came into the team. Before long, the cliché associated with the Gunners as the ‘boring’ team of London flew out of the window.
The combination of these tall, skillful and powerful individual players established Arsenal as a force in the EPL. And in his second full season as Manager, Wenger lifted high the EPL trophy as champion. Other successes came and consistently too. The team was established as a perennial favourite to win the league alongside Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea.
In the UEFA Champions League, Arsenal held one hand to the trophy until the 79th minute when things went bad for them. This was in 2006 a clear year after they won their last trophy; an FA cup against Manchester United.
However, that was then!
Things had changed and are changing at the club. The first change was a positive one.
They moved from Highbury to the magnificent Emirates stadium. However, that positive change happened to be the beginning of the rot now evident at Arsenal. As the board is obsessed about paying off the loan they took in erecting the edifice, the best players at the club are sold each year to balance the book. The team became weakened and less competitive than major rivals in the league and Europe.
Arsenal (by selling its best players) had strengthened the likes of Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United. As at today and bearing in mind the last five matches played, the team has become a ghost of its former self. As if dropping crucial points against Aston Villa and Everton is not bad enough, the Gunners failed to create any clear cut chance at home against Swansea. Arsenal occupies a dismal tenth position on the league table with 15 matches played. If this is not a poor reality I wonder what is.
Whatever the argument may be in favour of Wenger and the management of the club, the truth is that Arsenal is now a second rate team in Europe. Under Wenger’s watch, the lofty heights attained in the past seem like distant dreams never to become realities again.