After an eight year trophy drought, the Arsenal team of today couldn’t be any further away from the team that once won 49 consecutive Premier League games. Crashing out of the FA Cup 5th round on Saturday and sitting 5th in the Premier League, four points behind rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
Arsene Wenger has been a credit to the Premier League and he is undoubtedly one of the greatest ever managers but after a string of poor form from his team and the departure of several key players, it seems Arsene’s legacy is slowly diminishing.
Where did it all go wrong?
The 2003-2004 Premier League season saw Arsenal win the Premier League without losing a single game. Arsene Wenger’s men became known as the “Invincible’s” and their achievement has gone down in footballing history.
After this glorious season, Arsenal saw their perfect jigsaw begin to break as more than half of their winning team left the club before the end of 2006. Team captain Patrick Vieira sparked the chain of unfortunate events when he left in 2005 and his departure was followed by the likes of Robert Pires, Ashely Cole, Gilberto Silva, Lauren and Kolo Toure. Sol Campbell also departed in 2006 but returned for one season in 2010. Dennis Bergkamp retired in 2006.
Since these key placers have left Arsenal, they have never been replaced. Patrick Vieira was known for having fire in his belly. He was passionate, helped drive the team forward and he complimented the stylish attacking style of football that Wenger liked his men to play. Dennis Bergkamp had the ability to read the game and his silky finishing skills made him a perfect link between starting and finishing a move. These two key players, along with the most lethal combination of defenders: Ashley Cole, Lauren, Kolo Toure and Sol Campbell made Arsenal unstoppable. Players have since come and gone and the team has been rebuilt, but they have never jelled together in the way that the Invincible’s did.
The question that must be asked is why did Arsene Wenger let more than half of his prodigy leave within two years after he achieved greatness with them. Ashley Cole was said to be unhappy at the club but the vast majority of the remaining players, still to this day, speak highly of Arsene as a manger and the club including its fans but this still didn’t prevent them from leaving. Money could have also been a contributing factor to the clubs downfall and it may have been the motivation behind so many Arsenal players leaving as it is no secret that Arsenal refuse to pay out unnecessary high wages. Or maybe it was simply because of that fact that many of the players regarded as the Invincible’s had been playing for Arsenal for a considerable amount of time and they may have just wanted to experience something new.
Despite losing half the team, Arsenal managed to put up a brave fight against Barcelona in their 2-1 defeat in the 2006 Champion’s League Final. Many Arsenal fans saw this loss as a victory as it showed that even though the team was going through a time of change, they were still one of the best teams in the world.
2007 saw the inevitable departure of captain and Arsenal legend Thierry Henry. After spending the season carrying the team, Henry moved to Barcelona and hearts turned to Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie who were quickly becoming recognised as world class players.
During Cesc Fabregas’ captaincy (2008-2011), many people believed that through Cesc, Arsenal would be champions again. Cesc lifted the spirits of broken hearted Arsenal fans as he had the ability to create goal assists amongst some of the tightest defences and he could also provide the perfect goal scoring finish. Robin Van Persie rose to fame during this time as he became one of the best strikers in the world and to Arsenal, the new Thierry Henry.
Beautiful football and a never ending trophy drought. It was the same old Arsenal and in true Arsenal fashion, once again their best players were sold. Cesc went to Barcelona in 2011 and Van Perise went to Rivals Manchester United in 2012. Key players Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy were also sold to Manchester City leaving Arsenal fans feeling deflated and Arsene Wenger under pressure.
Where Are Arsenal Now?
A mid table team are the words every football team doesn’t want to be described as but this seems to be the direction in which Arsenal could be heading. Arsenal haven’t come close to challenging the Premier League title since 2006 and their once solid defense still remains shaky which has seen them throw away points when they needed them the most.
Young guns Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere have the ability to bring Arsenal back life but there is always the chance that they will be sold on to rival teams before they are allowed to reach their full potential.
Only time will tell if Arsenal will ever be crowned champions again.