In the last few years, there have been calls for Arsene Wenger to leave the club. Revered as one of the greatest managers in the club’s history, it would have been unthinkable a few years ago to see Wenger being pushed out by the club’s own supporters. Even though it may have been only a small section of the supporters, it was a change nonetheless. It was after almost a decade of not winning any titles and Wenger seemingly blind towards this fact. After the club’s FA Cup success last season, Betfair now backs the gunners at 4/5 to successfully defend the title in the latest FA Cup odds.
Some may point to the fact that Arsenal had an easy run towards the FA Cup success last season, but the club clearly won the title by merit and not luck. Crucially, last season’s title success was a culmination of a decade of hard work by Wenger. The hard work may not be quantifiable in terms of trophies, but it can certainly be done with regard to finances.
Arsenal’s lack of titles coincided with a time when clubs were going down the route of having a rich benefactor helping the club on several fronts. Wenger knew that this was something that cannot be completely trusted, as the likes of Blackburn Rovers have shown. Blackburn were successful in the 1990s when they were backed by Jack Walker and the club’s slow decline into the Championship since the demise of the millionaire is a perfect example.
Now club is immune from falling into bad times, but it can certainly be prevented by putting together a strong infrastructure. Wenger ensured that this was the case by building the club once again starting with the Emirates stadium. One of the finest examples of great architecture, the Emirates stadium will have the ability to sustain the club for several decades going forward. The investment into this mega project – without the support from rich benefactors – meant that Arsenal were not able to flex their muscles in the transfer window.
A decade-long wait for top names resulted in huge frustration for Arsenal fans, who witnessed names like Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, and Samir Nasri moving onto pastures new. Arsenal, it seemed, were no longer in the consideration of top names. Not many had the patience to embrace Wenger’s long-term vision.
The signing of Mesut Ozil in 2013 for a whopping £42 million finally heralded Arsenal’s arrival back to the big game. Since then, Arsenal have shown an appetite for signing top quality names. The tendency to feature never-before-heard names from the youth squad in the first-team has been slowly diminishing. Arsenal’s ambition in the transfer window has seen them sign players like Alexis Sanchez – players who are at the peak of their careers and who may not have the resale value of a young talent.
Chris Smalling is the latest player to be linked with a move to the Emirates stadium. The 25-year-old is close to featuring in 150 appearances and is probably at the start of his best period. United signed him from Fulham as a 20-year-old when he was yet to prove his potential. Previously, this used to be the kind of player Arsenal used to go for, but the club are now in a position to invest in ready-made talent.
It is no wonder that Wenger has criticised the English FA’s plan to introduce more homegrown players in the team.
The average Arsenal starting line-up this season is much better than what the club used to have five years ago. Players like Olivier Giroud, Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, and Santi Cazorla provide a range of qualities that will help the club win different kind of matches. These qualities will undoubtedly be needed when Arsenal take on Liverpool at the Emirates after the international break. Arsene Wenger has tried to downplay the possibility of a Premier League title this season, but the fact that Arsenal have the momentum and a potentially easy finish mean that it is tough to overlook them.
A victory against Liverpool on April 4 will be the seventh consecutive league victory for the gunners. Arsenal are backed at 5/6 to continue this amazing run, while it remains a must win game for Liverpool. The Merseyside outfit suffered a defeat against Manchester United in their last league outing. They are backed at 3/1 to get an away victory or at 27/10 to avoid defeat. Liverpool are yet to suffer an away league defeat in 2015.
Wenger may be in his last few years at Arsenal. The Frenchman will remain one the club’s greatest ever managers no matter what happens from now, but maybe it is time to appreciate his work before he is gone.