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The problem with having a philosophy is that, when it is clearly not working, there comes a time when you have to recognise the fatal flaw and for Arsène Wenger and Arsenal, that time is now.We have been here before with Arsenal, of course. When their trophy drought stretched to three years, the club’s approach was questioned. The same happened after five years and now, when we are approaching an eighth year without a trophy, fingers are being pointed again.
The supporters who became accustomed to winning Premier League titles, FA Cups and playing in the latter stages of the Champions League have now lost patience with the lack of success and the annual departure of their best players.
That is why there were protests outside the Emirates following Saturday’s defeat against Swansea and why they will only become more regular unless there is a fundamental change in the way Arsenal and Wenger do business.
From a business sense, you have to admire Arsenal’s approach. They are well run, they do not pay over the odds for players and the club are clearly not prepared to risk their financial well-being by attempting to compete with Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United in the transfer market.
But if Arsenal ever want to get back to the top tier of English football, as a club capable of winning the title again, they have to draw a line under their prudent philosophy and start spending money on better players.
I do not know who holds the levers of power at Arsenal, but after 16 years as manager, I am sure that Wenger will be a powerful figure within the club.
And after eight barren years, he has to persuade the senior figures at the Emirates that Arsenal have to stop being a selling club and go back to being what they were.
He is as culpable as anybody at the club, though. He has been at Arsenal for so long that it is his club, his players and his philosophy.
It was a tried-and-tested approach which enabled him to produce some of the teams the Premier League has seen, with some of the best players, but the major flaw in Arsenal’s philosophy has been exposed since Roman Abramovich came along at Chelsea in 2003 and blew everybody out of the water.
Abramovich changed English football forever and ensured that, to be successful in the Premier League, clubs have to spend big money.
United kept pace with Chelsea by doing that, City have come along and done the same, but Arsenal have failed to move with the times and that is why they have reached another December with little or no hope of winning the league.
Arsenal are miles short of the top teams. Chelsea are having their problems, but you look at their squad and realise that a tweak here and there will make them a quality team again, yet you cannot say that about Arsenal.
If they had genuine prospects, they would not have lost players such as Robin van Persie.
Footballers basically want money first and then trophies, but Van Persie obviously looked at the situation at Arsenal and decided that he was not going to win anything with them, so he moved to United instead.
It is no good having a chief executive in Ivan Gazidis saying that Arsenal will be able to compete with any club in the world within two years because the reality is that it will be too late then.
If Arsenal fail to qualify for the Champions League, which is a possibility, then none of the top players will want to sign for them, so what is the point in saying they will compete in two years’ time?
The problem for Wenger and Arsenal is that supporters are not interested in being a well-run club who do not win anything.
If you offered them a badly run club who win trophies every year, they would take that every time.
It is a paradox of Arsenal’s approach that being well run as a business does not mean they are being well run from a football perspective.
To succeed in football, you have to speculate to accumulate, otherwise you fall away – and that is what Arsenal are in danger of doing.
But if the fans’ protests grow and Arsène finds himself under more pressure, will he start to ask himself whether he needs it?
He has built the club up and, by qualifying year after year for the Champions League, has delivered success during the eight year barren run.
But things seem to be going downhill and the only way to arrest the slide is to accept the reality that you now have to spend to compete.
Wenger’s record 15 games in
Year Pts Finished
97/98 27 (4th) 1st
98/99 25 (4th) 2nd
99/00 29 (4th) 2nd
00/01 8 (2nd) 2nd
01/02 29 (2nd) 1st
02/03 32 (1st) 2nd
03/04 35 (2nd) 1st
04/05 31 (2nd) 2nd
05/06 26 (6th) 4th
06/07 25 (7th) 4th
07/08 37 (1st) 3rd
08/09 26 4th) 4th
09/10 31 (3rd) 3rd
10/11 29 (3rd) 4th
11/12 29 (4th) 3rd
12/13 21 (10th) –
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