The end of the season had brought about mixed feelings among Arsenal fans. While there is relief at a painful season coming to an end, a long summer of no football and transfer rumours is now underway.
Craven Cottage was ringing with chants from the Arsenal fans urging Wenger to spend money while at the same time there was a continuous 10 minutes of, “We love you Arsenal”, that left the Fulham fans bemused.
When Arsene Wenger emerged from the Fulham tunnel and jogged across to the dugout, chants of, “One Arsene Wenger”, was voiced by the Gooners. Althought faith in Wenger’s ability remains within the core support at Arsenal, there is a demand for a change in the club’s philosophy!
So what really has gone wrong in North London? The move to the Emirates Stadium has proved a financial master class considering the state of many clubs around the country. Yet, the trophies have come almost as rare as yellow cards for Barcelona players for simulation.
Despite 6 trophyless seasons, the real problems started in 2007 when David Dein departed the club. The Champions League Final and Carling Cup Final in 2006 and 2007 respectively were settled largely due to tactical flaws and at the time, Wenger was still accountable to Dein regarding the teams progress. However, since his departure, the Arsenal fans have only been “treated” to one final appearance.
Dein’s departure, on the back of some serious disagreements with the rest of the board members, was a pivotal moment in Arsenal’s history and the start of a series of board room mis-management by Chairman Peter Hill-Wood.
It is no secret that David Dein ran the show in North London for a while and had major influence on Wenger’s transfer targets. At one point, it even seemed no transfer was beyond Arsenal’s reach as Sol Campbell was convinced to move across North London to sign for Arsenal while rejecting big money offers from Manchester United and Bayern Munich. Such was Dein’s visionary characteristics, he consistently identified opportunities for Arsenal to move forward and compete along with Europe’s Elite Clubs.
Dein’s replacement was former MLS Deputy Commissioner Ivan Gazidis. At a crucial time when everyone at the club from boardroom members to stewards were working hard to complete a smooth transition to the new stadium, the higher powers at Arsenal decided to appoint a man with no relevant experience in the Premier League and has worked on the side of the Atlantic where rugby is played with padded protection and is called football.
Since his arrival, Gazidis seems to have largely concentrated his efforts on the ‘Arsenalisation’ of the stadium that has no doubt kept a small section at the Emirates happy while this season’s tour of China has been added to a long list of mistakes made by the club.
More worrying for Arsenal fans is that key transfer targets Wenger has identified returned no results. Xabi Alonso was not signed due to the Arsenal board refusing to meet the initial £14m demanded by Liverpool before Real Madrid swooped in the following season for the Spanish International’s signature.
Further errors have included the failure recruit Pepe Reina, Gary Cahill, Mark Schwarzer and Gokhan Inler, all of whom did not sign due to breakdown in transfer fee negotiations.
The fans are reassured every summer that cash is available to Wenger. Yet, despite cash in the region of £30m-£40m, the club refused to pay £3m asking price for Schwarzer.
Hill-Wood was rather outspoken on the issue with Mark Schwarzer and I wonder whether or not Wenger has been in complete control of how cash is spent. For a manager that spent £10.5 million for Thierry Henry, and £2m for Jens Lehmann, would an extra £1m to address a goalkeeping issue he has identified be regarded as paying over the odds? Or are we to believe that Wenger has become a very bad manager in a short space of time?
If Wenger is masking the problems at boardroom level as his own shortcomings, he will have to face the criticism levelled by those branded by Hill-Wood as “Silly”. Wenger must address the tactical mistakes he has made this season, especially the constant need to play Nasri out wide – a decision that backfired in the final following Rosicky’s below-par performance.
A very long summer awaits and over the next few weeks, I will look at every position in depth and the players that will help this Arsenal side move forward.