Decline is a long slow process or a quick return to form
Interesting to see a non-Arsenal fan’s thoughts on whether we are still a big club or not and it’s hard to disagree with a lot of his points. I guess it depends on hope you view a “big club”.
Is it in terms of the calibre of player you can bring in and attract? 9 months ago we signed a world-class midfielder who nobody thought we could get, our world-class striker, who consistently competed for the golden boot, signed a new contract with us effectively securing him until retirement. 3 months ago we secured the loan signing of one of the most talented young midfielders in Europe (I know it’s a loan but he still came here). Problem is, as our reputation falls, so do the young players who dream of wearing the Arsenal badge. For the last 15-20 years, young players talked to the press about dreaming of playing alongside Thierry Henry and Bergkamp, don’t think the same will be said of Xhaka and Giroud.
Do we have the financial clout to be a “big team”? This is especially hard to judge given the current global situation but we are probably still up there with the teams able to spend big money and pay big wages to players. This probably depends on continued European football but we could still outbid all but the top Premier League teams for players.
Do we currently have top players? Not really. Auba is but he is woefully out of form, Saka probably is just about a “star” player, Tierney and Partey just behind but I don’t think many people are out there buying Arsenal shirts these days for the player on the back. Problem is, we don’t play great football anymore that Arsenal are known for so there isn’t the excitement you get from watching these players that you did during the Invincibles or even towards the end of the Wenger years so none of these players are elevated beyond their standing.
Are we as relevant as we used to be? No, obviously not but neither were Liverpool in 2010-2013 (7th, 6th. 7th) or 2014-2016 (6th, 8th) who then went on to win the Premier League and Champions League. Major clubs can be cyclical just to the sheer draw and money they can generate. Well managed, they can come fighting back. Arsenal have been appallingly managed since Wenger left, dealing with bad owners, executives and more. Even the hiring of Arteta (who has until December for me to be able to prove hes got what it takes), all point towards general mismanagement and maybe even arrogance.
For many fans who only watch us in the big games, i can see why its confusing that Arsenal fans have hope. But if you have watched every game, you can see genuine progress. Then next game it’s 2 steps back. We are so wildly inconsistent it’s difficult to make valuable insights into us and this is probably why the press isn’t pushing an agenda (also because as stated above we aren’t as relevant). How can you push an agenda on a team that doesn’t follow any logic or sense? When we commit to and play out from the back with ESR, Saka and Odegaard, we play nice progressive passing football. One cog falls, the system fails. This is why Klopp and Pep are elite managers and where Arteta is falling way short.
By the end of this season, Arsenal will have either Champions League through Europa win or nothing which is quite the difference. Either way we are likely to attempt to sell Willock (5), Nkteiah (10), Torreira (5), AMN (5), Guandouzi (10), Laca (20), Bellerin (20), Nelson (5) and Kolasinac (0). So that is 80m coming in but that leaves us with a first XI:
Chambers, Saliba, Gabriel, Tierney
Saka, ESR, Martinelli
Subs: Willian, El Neny, Mavropanos, Pepe, Mari, Cedric, Holding, Runnarson
That team doesn’t bounce back to Europa League unless Saliba is the new Van Dijk. So Arteta needs Champions League football otherwise Arsenal will be sat at mid-table for quite a while as we continue to pay huge wages on underperforming 30+ players (Auba, Laca, Willian) whilst we wait for academy players to fill some gaps (Patino, Azeez, Flores, John-Jules).
Every match in the Europa league now defines the club for the next 5+ years, hopefully, the players feel that way too.
Rob A (we have no left back cover for Tierney, how does this happen at a club like Arsenal) AFC