It’s been a decade since Arsenal competed in the Champions League final against Barcelona in 2006 but have the club gone backwards despite taking part in the competition every year since? Arsene Wenger has been praised for his management skills and has produced some of the world’s greatest players during his time as Arsenal boss. However, under the Frenchman, Arsenal recently endured a nine year spell without any silverware and despite performing in the Champions League for 17 seasons, they’ve failed to make it past the quarter-finals stage for the last six years.
In 2004, Arsenal created history when they lifted the Premier League title after remaining unbeaten for the entire season – a feat that had never and has never been achieved since. The ‘invicibles,’ as they were aptly named, consisted of some of Arsenal’s greatest ever players, some of which stayed with the club for a few years afterwards as the Gunners won an FA Cup trophy the year later, and competed for the Champions League in 2006. Theirry Henry, Patrick Viera, Robert Pires and Ashley Cole were just a few names which formed that formidable side and went on to build one of the strongest Gunners’ squads in their history. They played attractive, free-flowing football with flair but only added one more trophy between 2005 and 2014.
Despite an attractive footballing style; the production of a host of world stars and consistent European competition; Arsenal fans of the present generation have been largely deprived of silverware. And with deprivation comes impatience and that’s where many Arsenal fans find themselves now – in a state of increasing doubt over their managers’ ability to bring the best out of a potential title-winning squad. They’ve grown critical of Wenger despite his credentials and history with the club but it’s easy to understand why. Arsenal have finished in the top four of the Premier League consistently for over a decade now but their failure to secure another title hasn’t been over-looked. Consistency has maintained Arsenal’s threat to opponents but they’ve never been able to push on for an entire season and people have started to lose faith. Arsenal are rarely backed to win the title and when they are, they usually disappoint…
Recent criticisms of Wenger have risen this year after a campaign which mirrors the kind of season Arsenal fans have come to expect from their side. The Gunners were sat at the top of the table in October after a good start to the season and were still poised to be in the title race going into the New Year period when they returned to the top shortly after Christmas. However, defeats to Manchester United, Swansea City and Watford at the end of February and March were a catalyst for Arsenal’s familiar fall down the league and they now face a battle to protect their Champions League spot.
A lack of silverware has pushed some big names away from Arsenal and that’s reason in itself to make big changes to the management of the club. Former captains, Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie were big transfers away from the Emirates and both went in search for success at ‘bigger and better clubs.’ Fabregas went on to enjoy La Liga and Champions League success with Barcelona whilst Van Persie almost single-handedly gave Manchester United the edge to their Premier League glory during his first season with the squad. Fabregas’ controversial move to Chelsea was criticised by many Arsenal fans who felt angered by his disloyalty. However, what was probably more frustrating to the fans, was that his failure to return to the Gunners was an indication of their failure to attract top players due to a lack of success. Whilst their rival clubs continue to attract Europe’s elite, Arsenal are often left disappointed as yet another season passes without silverware and the lure for top players diminishes slightly with each empty season.
This season Arsenal will end the campaign empty handed yet again as failure to pick up any domestic cups have further dented their season. Instead, Arsenal’s season is once again a demonstration of stagnation under Arsene Wenger and it’s not surprising fans are calling for changes. There’s no denying the quality Wenger possesses as a manager but his squad his plateaued and either money needs to be spent in the summer or the manager’s tenure may have to come to an end. Either way, Arsenal fans’ patience is weary and it won’t be long before they voice their opinions more hastily.