To many, the underlining success in football is to win trophies and Arsenal supporters are constantly reminded that the last time their famous club lifted one was in 2005, after a penalty shoot-out win over Manchester United in the FA Cup.
Due to this implausible fact, many fans from the faithful terraces at the Emirates Stadium have pointed the finger at the long-serving and masterful Frenchman that has turned Arsenal into one of the greatest teams in the world since his arrival in 1996, Arsène Wenger. His record at securing UEFA Champions League football has remained but having seen the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City flex their spending muscle to move ahead of Arsenal in challenging Manchester United for major honours, Wenger has come in for major criticism and his previous achievements have, unfairly, been ignored and forgotten.
But the upcoming 2013/14 Premier League campaign sees a new era in English football dawn, as Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea are all set to begin life under new managers. David Moyes, Manuel Pellegrini and even Jose Mourinho, will need time to bed-in and if Arsenal can step up the calibre of player they chase in the market this summer, married with Wenger’s 17-year experience in the league, it wouldn’t be too extreme to say Arsenal could exploit the change that beckons and be successful once more.
A 1-0 over Newcastle United on the final day of last season meant Arsenal had secured UEFA Champions League football once more and it could prove to be huge in trying to attract the players needed to help boost a challenge on all fronts next season. In the last two years in fact, Arsenal have been trailing North London rivals, Tottenham in the race for the bragging rights and have come out on top both times. Those comebacks from the seemingly dead highlight a unity within the squad, and the acumen of the manager, but it also points to a need of two or three key players to help kick Arsenal back to the level they were a few years ago. Some forget that it was only in the 2008/09 season that Arsenal reached the UEFA Champions League and FA Cup semi-finals.
Legends from past triumphs in the club’s history such as, Martin Keown and Tony Adams of late have spoken about the need to spend because the trophy drought is becoming embarrassing, but the change in the Premier League is also a key factor to why they should.
During Arsenal’s greatest days under Wenger, they were constantly battling with Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United for all honours in what was enthralling period of time in the Premier League’s history. Now that Ferguson has decided to step down, although David Moyes has done wonders with Everton for 11-years, the step up to United is enormous and his record against Arsenal isn’t the most impressive either. Moyes will be new to the mind games that can impact how a Premier League campaign can swing and with the challenge of trying to keep hold of the likes of Wayne Rooney imminent upon opening the front door at Old Trafford, Wenger can afford to sit back, keep building on the foundations already in place and focus on a good start to the season, in which Moyes must face Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City in his first six games.
Moyes is a shrewd appointment, as he is cut from the same cloth as previous United managers, but over the years, Sir Alex Ferguson’s management has been tested by Chelsea and Manchester City’s title wins but he has always managed to claw back the prize. The amount of comebacks United had under his tenure was no surprise and losing Ferguson could see United lose several points across the season, purely down to the absence of Fergie’s inspiring magic in the dressing room and Moyes’ inexperience at that level.
Although he remains one of the greatest managers in the world, and has been there and done it with Chelsea previously, Jose Mourinho’s arrival at Chelsea also has it’s doubts. He understands the club and was the fans number one choice, but whether the Portuguese fits in with the ‘current’ Chelsea remains to be seen. Since Mourinho departed in 2007, Chelsea have lifted seven honours, including one Premier League, one Champions League and Europa League respectively and three FA Cups. The club need Mourinho for stability, something not yet guaranteed on his glittering CV in management, and the current recruitment policy involves buying young, intricate and clever players such as, Juan Mata, Oscar, Eden Hazard, Andre Schürrle, Marko Marin, Victor Moses etc and it’s a test of Mourinho’s management to see if he can work with those type of players.
If Arsenal are to spend money in the market and challenge, Manchester City could be the biggest threat to overcome as they are many people’s favourites for the title but they themselves have a new manager with a new plan. Manuel Pellegrini is similar to Wenger in many ways. He is calm, plays fluid and attractive football and has faith in young players. He is inheriting the best squad in the league but although Pellegrini has a high reputation in Spain, his best work has come with smaller clubs such as, Villarreal and Málaga , thus moving to a club with the ambition of wanting to win five trophies in the next five years brings unnecessary pressure on the Chilean coach.
It may not be many people’s cup of tea but those who have stood by Arsenal’s recruitment policy can see that things have been getting better every year. The sales of Robin Van Persie, Samir Nasri, Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure, Alex Song, Cesc Fàbregas and many more over the last few campaigns has been detrimental to Arsenal’s chances of winning big trophies but apart from Van Persie and Fàbregas, the rest of the sales have debatably proved to be good business for the club. With the uncertainties over their rivals choices of manager, Arsenal are also in a stronger financial position, too. Manchester United’s debt is colossal and although they can still afford big signings (Van Persie 2012), it’s still a worrying statistic to try and live with. Chelsea and Manchester City are strong spenders every year but their overall profit is poor compared to Arsenal’s, with Man City’s overall loss in 2011/12 being £97.9m despite winning the much-coveted Premier League crown. It’s a myth that Wenger doesn’t spend any money and it’s more about finding the right man, for that right price, than paying over the odds and falling flat on your face.
Revenue data has probably driven Arsenal fans to tears over the last couple of years with the big question being, why isn’t big sums of money being invested to compete with the likes of Chelsea and both Manchester clubs? Although money is being spent by Wenger such as, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla, and the club model still has many admirers for their stubbornness to fight what is ruining the game – money – there is a firm feeling amongst the supporters that this summer is a big chance to slightly change the model of wanting to find bargains all the time and to buy proven quality for an affordable fee.
Wenger’s faith in youngsters is still at a high and even departures such as, Carlos Vela to Real Sociedad proved he still has the skill to find talented youngsters but just needed a bit more backing to let the grow into the team. Arsenal have a good crop of British talent in Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott, thus a few high profile additions can help Arsenal not miss out on a chance that will not come around too often, which is to catch their rivals in their transitional period.
Before Wojciech Szczęsny entered into the Arsenal first-team, the goalkeeping situation was one area that needed to be addressed. Manuel Almunia was your typical ‘cabbage and caviar’ shot-stopper and younger keepers such as, Lukasz Fabianski and Vito Mannone have never been able to nail down a starting place when given opportunities to do so. But Szczęsny, whose ability has been questioned by some parts of the media, some supporters feel the Poland international is being used as a scapegoat for Arsenal’s occasional defensive woes.
QPR and Brazil’s Confederations Cup winning goalkeeper, Júlio César has been linked with a move to the Emirates in the summer and the odds on the move happening have been slashed to 2/5 by Sky Bet. Although César is thought to be on big wages at the recently-relegated Hoops, the former Inter Milan man would provide good competition with Szczęsny and is almost a certainty to leave this summer. Arsenal’s Chief Executive, Ivan Gazidis believes the club will spend this summer and can afford to change their wage structure, so it all depends on whether Wenger would want César, rather than whether the Gunners would want to pay his wages and transfer fee.
Since the departure of much-loved captain Patrick Vieira in 2005, many believe Arsenal have yet to replace the Frenchman in the holding midfield role and it’s a position that Wenger has left unattended for years. Alex Song played there and his performances saw him move to FC Barcelona in 2012, thus Mikel Arteta was moved into the position and done a solid job. The Spaniard has impressed since joining Arsenal from Everton in 2011 but at the age of 31, Wenger might feel he needs a younger player who can play in that role and one man linked is Arteta’s old team-mate, Marouane Fellaini.
The 25-year-old impressed in a more attacking role for Everton in 2009 as they reached the FA Cup final and finished fifth but through a lack of options in that department, Fellaini was moved back there in the season just gone and scored 11 goals in all competitions. But the Belgian’s best role is in midfield, and showed that when the Toffees travelled to London to play Arsenal in April, as the game finished 0-0. Fellaini proved he can pull the strings, make challenges and also comes with an attacking option if things aren’t going so well in the game. His release clause is believed to be £23m, thus he would become the club’s record fee but having already proved himself in the Premier League, a midfield of Fellaini, Cazorla and Wilshere would be duly admired.
Olivier Giroud moved to Arsenal last summer alongside Lukas Podolski and although both impressed, many still feel the club are missing a 20-25 goals a season striker. Podolski (16) and Giroud (17) managed to scored 33 goals between themselves in all competitions last season but both couldn’t live up to the impact Robin Van Persie had in 2011/12. Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuaín wants to quit the Spanish capital this summer and has been heavily touted to be Wenger’s marquee signing this summer.
Higuaín has pace, brings others into play and above all, scores goals. He doesn’t have a selfish attitude and that would fit in well with the Arsenal way. The Argentine is thought to be available for around £22m and is waiting for the green light from Madrid to pursue a move away, with Arsenal understood to be his number one choice. As fantastic as he has been in Spain, only FC Barcelona and Real Madrid have a realistic chance at winning the title and a switch to Arsenal could see him be part of a potential four-way race for the Premier League next season.
Making It All Happen
After a tiresome 8-year spell, in which the fans have been taunted as well as the club for winning no silverware in that time, Arsenal have the chance this season to put a stop to that with devastating effect. The change in the Premier League next season gives the club a wonderful chance to utilize the transitional period at their rivals expense and end the long spell without winning what is considered the underlining success in football – trophies.