Story by Ryan Howden
Eight years ago Arsenal went an entire league season without losing a game, and were one of the best football teams I have ever had the pleasure of watching. These ‘invincibles’ should have formed the bedrock around which Arsenal would dominate English football, but as it stands they have not won a major trophy since the 2005 FA Cup. Something has gone terribly wrong.
When Robin Van Persie refused to sign a new contract with the club last week it seemed to come as a shock to many but it is the latest in a long line of departures. Van Persie’s decision to leave seems to stem from a disagreement with chief executive Ivan Gazidis and manager Arsene Wenger over how the club can challange for titles in the future.
The striker said on his official website that ‘This was a meeting about the club’s future strategy and their policy. Financial terms or a contract have not been discussed, since this is not my priority at all. I personally have had a great season but my goal has been to win trophies with the team and to bring the club back to its glory days. Out of my huge respect for Mr Wenger, the players and the fans I don’t want to go into any details, but unfortunately in this meeting it has again become clear to me that we in many aspects disagree on the way Arsenal FC should move forward.’
This is a story seen time and time again at Arsenal as while you can play well, in the end what people will remember is trophies, they are your legacy. Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri left for Manchester City last season, the former clearly stating a lack of ambition to win trophies as his reason for leaving. Fabregas also left London for Barcelona, though I will concede this was not due to Arsenal, he was always going to leave if his boyhood club came calling.
The list of high profile players that have left Arsenal since the ‘invincibles’ season is mind boggling, including names like Thierry Henry, Patrick Vierra, Robert Pires, Ashley Cole, Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure and William Gallas. While some of these left due to age or money (*cough* cashley *cough*), they were all a massive loss to the club and their replacements were just not up to scratch. Examples include Eduardo for the great Henry and while having a great season Arteta lacks the technical skill and future of Fabregas.
I am however a big fan of Arsenals recent summer signings Oliver Giroud and Lukas Podolski, though I believe they were signed to support Van Persie not to replace him, something I think they will struggle to do. Arsenal have always been promising with some great youth buys, but they have never looked real contenders recently and to keep players of Van Persies calibre they need to look like they can really challenge for titles on all fronts.
Van Persies decision to leave though does not just affect his standing at the club, but also Arsenals current batch of youthful talent. Theo Walcott also only has a year left on hos contract and European champions Chelsea have shown interest, so if Arsenal show no sign of building a title winning side why wouldn’t he and Jack Wilshere, one of they mist exciting prospects in English football, begin to look away from the Emirates for success, like their captain is.
In 2005 Arsenal looked to be a team ready to build a footballing dynasty that would last years, now it seems a place destined to suffer yearly raids from Manchester. Things need to change.