Even since Mikel Arteta took over the reins from Unai Emery Arsenal’s transformation has been nothing short of incredible.
Sunday, 15 December. A dark day for Arsenal Football Club.
Coincidentally that day is also my birthday, and as a gift the Gunners lost 3-0 to Manchester City, leaving a trail of destruction, disappointment and broken dreams in their wake. An air of frustration is rife outside the Emirates after the game.
That day revealed the club’s worst secret. As of that loss, Arsenal were not a big club anymore. They have no right to be a big club. The City game showed Arsenal are miles off even coming close to competing with those at the top, with an even greater gap to competing with clubs such as Liverpool and City for major honours.
Arsenal. The only club in England to have gone an entire Premier League season without defeat.
It’s evident that the board and owners are the biggest problems at Arsenal. Every football fan worth their salt knows this. Stan and Josh Kroenke evidently don’t care, with the former not even attempting to hide that – the last game Stan Kroenke attended is reportedly the 2017 FA Cup final – and the latter being labelled a fraud by the Arsenal faithful following comments that the club was moving forward under KSE.
When Kroenke Sports and Entertainment purchased Arsenal in 2011 they promised their “ambitions for the club are to see it competing consistently to win the Premier League and the Champions League”. We are now approaching nine years since that statement was made, and this looks as far away from the current situation as ever.
Then we move onto the board. Raul Sanllehi, Edu Gaspar and Vinai Venkatesham were supposed to be the saviours following the off-season transfer business. However, the blame for the rut we’re in falls at their feet as well. Sanllehi and Gaspar attended several Arsenal games towards the end of Unai Emery’s tenure. They saw the negativity first hand. But their reluctance to act and sack Emery has backfired.
If they had made the decision to relieve Emery of his duties, the club could’ve ended up with Jose Mourinho, a man who has won multiple league titles in England as well as two Champions League trophies. Instead Arsenal is likely to end up with Mikel Arteta, a man plucked from the Manchester City coach bench with no experience as a manager whatsoever. This shows that instead of getting a proven name, the Arsenal board don’t care, just get an ex-player based on a recommendation from Pep Guardiola.
One can’t simply talk about matters at Arsenal without mentioning what is happening on the pitch. This was the season Arsenal kicked on following a good off-season. However, it is now evident that most of the current group of players either don’t care enough, are too inexperienced or are not good enough to make a difference.
Recently Thierry Henry spoke about “the cannon on the shirt”. How players such as Lee Dixon, Tony Adams, Nigel Winterburn and Ray Parlour would make sure every player was pulling their weight. If they didn’t think you were giving everything for The Arsenal, you were gone. Not fit to wear the shirt. Conversely, only a handful of players have seemingly been playing for the badge this season, while the rest don’t seem to care.
Despite all this negativity, there have been some positives to come out of this season. Some of the youth players have taken their opportunity in the first team with both hands. While Edu may also have his faults, he seems to have found a star in Gabriel Martinelli, who has scored on his EFL Cup and Europa League debuts and on his Premier League starting debut.
Bernd Leno has also established himself as a top-class goalkeeper despite the shambolic defence in front of him. If he isn’t at least in contention to win Arsenal’s player of the season award, questions need to be asked.
Being a fan on the other side of the world gives you a different view on things. For a start, you can’t attend games without spending vast amounts of money. It also means you to wake up at ungodly hours of the morning just to watch your team play. When they win, you are happier than most. When they lose or put in a bad performance, you are one of the ones to feel it the most.
As this piece continues, it seems like less of an article and more of a letter from the Western Front. Because that’s how it generally feels to be an Arsenal fan right now. You feel like you’re fighting a battle in the middle of a warzone. Unfortunately this battle doesn’t look like letting up any time soon.