Speaking as a Chelsea fan who grew up during the years of the invincibles and Arsenal being the dominant London team, including time under Wenger, seeing them struggling so badly and stagnating is nothing short of hilarious.
The two big areas in which I believe Wenger has failed in recent years are transfers and player development.
Looking at transfers specifically for a moment. This year alone Arsenal have missed out on Gonzalo Higuain, Luis Gustavo, Bernard, and Stevan Jovetic. In the past two years they have also missed out of Juan Mata who has been Chelsea`s best player in each of those previous two seasons. They’ve sold Robin Van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Alex Song. The reason that Arsenal have missed out on players of such quality is because they run a sound financial ship. Genuine congratulations on that but there are no trophies for turning profits or finishing 4th in the EPL despite what many seem to believe.
The best way of putting this is to draw up a mock eleven of players Arsenal have not been willing to pay the money for as a team.
Firstly looking at the team yesterday against Aston Villa: Szczesney, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertersacker, Gibbs, Wilshere, Rosicky, Ramsey, Walcott, Oxlade Chamberlain, Giroud. Quite frankly a team that strikes fear into who? Hull? Crystal Palace? Maybe a Sunderland.
Alternative eleven (players either missed out on or sold since they last won anything of note): Martin Stekelenburg (Dutch No.1 who signed for Fulham for £3 Million!) Adil Rami, Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole, Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song, Gareth Bale, Juan Mata, Bernard, Stevan Jovetic, Gonzalo Higuain. I appreciate this side is a little attack heavy but its just a comparison with the side that turned out yesterday afternoon. Never mind the fact that Song and Fabregas were sold to Barcelona and RVP was sold to Manchester United.
By player development I simply ask. Other than Jack Wilshere (who is being massively hyped up far too early) and Kierion Gibbs (who is nowhere near international standard) who is clearly an exception which is the last player to genuinely progress through the ranks of Arsenal and become a truly top player? I appreciate this is rich coming from a Chelsea fan but we as a club have not spent the last five years talking about the “potential of your young players”.
As an example I looked into what has become of the team that reached the Carling cup final of 2006 which was hailed as a team that would go on to win the Premier league in the near future.
GK: Manuel Almunia – Now in goal for Watford having been one of the more average Premiership Goalkeepers
RB: Justin Hoyte – Went on to become one of the better Championship right backs with Middlesbrough
CB: Kolo Toure – Now at Liverpool after a successful spell with Manchester City
CB: Phillipe Senderos – Reserve at Fulham
LB: Armand Traore – Laughable left back for QPR
CM: Fabregas – Plying his trade with Barcelona as backup for Xavi and Iniesta
CM: Denilson – Left for his native Brazil having failed to win a medal or come close to fulfilling the potential he once had
CM: Diaby – Still at Arsenal constantly on the treatment table. To be honest it seems to be his best position. Has more presence there than he does on the pitch
RF: Theo Walcott – Once hailed as the greatest product of the Southampton academy. In seven years at Arsenal has been over taken by Gareth Bale at Tottenham as one of the leading lights of the Premiership
LF: Jeremie Aliadiere – Went onto Middlesbrough fame and now back in his native France.
CF: Julio Baptista – Last I heard playing for Malaga
Only two players from this team are still with the club. The likes of Carlos Vela, Nicklas Bendtner, Johan Djorou, And Francis Coquelin are all players that have come to and left Arsenal during the Wenger years without ever cementing a place in the first team, all of whom were great prospects for the future whom under the leadership of the professor would become world class players.
All I can say is this. If Arsene Wenger continues to not spend money, and develop players in the same way he has done in the past ten years. Then please Ivan Gazidis PLEASE give him a lifetime contract to manage Arsenal Football Club.