The hypothesis, and more or less general opinion, that only the small clubs are destined to compete for years without chances of winning the titles, was never quite true. Big clubs can end up in the same street. Sometimes it’s difficult to realize that the ship is sinking until the moment when it can’t be saved anymore. And as some may assume, it is not only about the finance. Money factor surely plays a huge role in defining the club’s status and positioning, but it doesn’t have to be the thing that will bring the success or prevent the failure. Arsenal fans know a thing or two about this.
Back in the days, it was quite surprising to see Internazionale – popular Inter – to struggle and go on a Scudetto-less run for as long as 16 seasons! After they won the title back in season 1988-89, they had to wait up until the season 2005-06, just to go on and win 5 consecutive titles! It was hard to comprehend the situation. Inter had seemingly unlimited financial resources. The club was in hands of Italian petroleum tycoon Massimo Moratti from 1995. He invested a lot of money, and even managed to land arguably the best player of his generation – Nazaio Da Lima Ronaldo – but nothing seemed to work. The quest for the title became an obsession for Inter and they had to go through the 16-season long period of drought to finally fulfill it.
Similar thing happened to another huge club, a powerhouse from England – Liverpool. This globally famous club, whose magnitude is difficult to assess, haven’t won the title since the season 1989-90! Yes, they quest lasts until today, without any success. This is even more outrageous considering that Liverpool are still ranked second according to the total number of titles won in England. And just as Inter, they have tried everything. Different managers, different boards, investing money, even went on to win couple of European trophies, but couldn’t become champions of England.
Cases of these 2 famous clubs are showing that titles are not guaranteed solely by invested money nor the names of players defending the club’s colors – it’s becomes way more complicated than that. These issues are so complex that they stretch up all the way to mentality. Once the winners stop believing that they can do it and lose their fear factor gained over the time with the accumulated titles – something we refer to as club’s history, created through the legacy – stagnation starts. And with stagnation mentality changes. Winners can become losers in an instant.
When Arsene Wenger firstly took Arsenal it appeared to be a perfect match. He was the manager who started creating the legacy overnight. Arsenal was always a good club, but never quite the best in England. They had their periods and titles won, but they never did it on a regular base. After the 5 titel-less seasons Arsene Wenger was brought in as a fresh face. In his first season he finished third, and the title came already in his second season.
Arsene Wenger deserves al the crdits for transforming Arsenal playing style and changing players mentality. He managed to introduce something new to English football, and most importantly he managed to create a counterbalance to Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, the dominant side of that period.
Wenger’s effect was very visible. In following 7 seasons he managed to guide his team to further 2 Premier League titles, while finishing second on another 5 occasions. They became a real force in English football.
And then the period of stagnation started!
This change didn’t happen overnight. It took years to develop. It coincide that Arsenal stagnation started when Mourinho arrived at England. Bask then, a young manager, Portuguese introduced new ways of playing football. He, actually returned to basics and followed the blueprint of Helenio Herrera’s ultra defensive tactics. Mr ”Park the buss” became famous for his instant success everywhere he goes. With the completely opposite approach to Wenger, he became the new Frenchmen in the league. He had a similar impact and ultimately marked the end of Wenge’s success with Arsenal.
Arsene Wenger failed to adapt. He remained stubborn in his approach and youth players promotion. He was developing superstars from talented players and big clubs from all over Europe (Premier League included) would buy them. It made financial sense, but in sports sense it was a policy destined for catastrophe.
At first it appeared that Wenger can develop a new superstar every single year. He was creating and club were selling. Supporters were fooled by the talk of financial restrictions for the sake of clubs facilities rebuilding. Arsenal did built a new stadium, and from a distance it looked as if all ingredients are there for success, but it was exactly – and the only thing – that was missing.
We will probably never know whether it was Wenger’s or the Stan Kroenke’s – owner – idea to go on with this senseless policy for so long. But from where we stand today it is clear that it wasn’t Wenger and Arsenal the perfect match – it was Wenger and Kroenke!
You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours!
Wenger silently (willingly or not is another question) approved the policy of selling – and ultimately deteriorating the club, while Kroenke tolerated, and even publicly defended his endless failures. It had to go hand in hand as surely one couldn’t function without the other!
Wenger felt in the comfortable zone, not forced to deliver, while Kroenke counted his revenue with great pleasure. Supporters were fooled by the prospects of club’s rebuilding, and left in the dark for too long.
Now supporters finally start to realize that they are in a one way street. Their club don’t belong to them. Arsenal are a club that belong to a happily married couple – Arsene Wenger & Stan Kroenke. This marriage was, is, and will keep preventing there club from getting anywhere above the forth position. What’s even worse is that after the period of stagnation, with all other clubs improving and a whole group of new young managers arriving to Premier League, Arsenal will start declining. There is no bright destiny for them under this conditions.
No more club rebuilding, no more selling players, and we even see some investment have been done recently, but many years of comfort zone have made Wenger bulletproof to pressure – he just doesn’t feel it and still has Kroenke’s public backing. No, this two characters couldn’t care less for Arsenal fans’s feelings and opinions.
Wenger and Kroenke changed Arsenal up to the point that first stars now want to leave the club, laughing from the bench while watching Champions League humiliation in matches vs. Bayern. This Arsenal became losers side. It’s a team without a soul. It’s a team that can’t challenge for titles.
When Wenger took the team over their initial goal was title challenge. Over the time the bar was dropped to being satisfied with top 4 finish, and now it looks like that bar will go further down.
When is enough?!
Fans are starting to speak louder and express their anger. It’s not culminating yet, but with the loss of that 4th place that’s been considered as a success, it could trigger a reaction that would force Wenger to leave his comfort zone. It is already too late for Arsenal, because he will leave the team in a need of complete overhaul. Good luck to any manager who comes after the Frenchmen.
When Wenger finally leaves Arsenal, we will see how deep the scars will remain.