If anything, Arsenal are entering this summer on the back of their most successful season in a while. This past campaign promised little but gave a little bit more; as opposed to their usual promising a lot and delivering very little. Arsenal fans could declare themselves on something of a high with a third place finish and automatic qualification into the Champions League group stages after their terrible start to the campaign.
Arsenal fans probably went into this summer somewhat content. Well, until this past week anyway.
Robin Van Persie this week announced that he will not sign a new contract at the club as he enters the final season of his current deal. Club captain, talisman, highest paid player, top goal scorer and the Gunners current longest serving player has no desire to commit his future to Arsenal, sighting disagreements over how to move the club forward.
This seems logical, as Arsenal have been stuck in the very definition of rut for the last 7 years, or it could be that he has fallen foul to the curse of the modern day footballer and the wage structure at Arsenal wouldn’t allow what he would get from the likes of Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus.
Worse too has come the news that England winger Theo Walcott, only 23 and not yet close to his peak, is also refusing to sign a new contract extension on his Emirates deal that also expires in 12 months time. Walcott has said that his future relied on the club securing Van Persie’s contract and now the announcement has come that they failed on that, Walcott will likely need to be sold to potential suitors Juventus or Chelsea for fear of losing him for free in 12 months time.
This leaves Arsenal in the same place it was in this time 12 months ago when top players Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas (also then captain) left after seasons of not winning anything and for the pursuit of earning more money elsewhere with Arsene Wenger once again losing the battle to motivate and inspire his players in to believing that his ‘project’ at the Emirates isn’t one that will never reach completion.
If the players start to believe this maybe it’s time for the board and fans to face the tough reality that maybe it’s never going to happen under the long-serving French boss; and if Wenger fails to command the respect and loyalty of players he reared and trusted how long until he can’t bring any big names to the club to rebuild? How long until others get sick of the static nature of Arsenal’s non-progression and we are here in a year talking about Alexandre Song? Wojciech Szczęsny? Thomas Vermaelen? Or even Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain? Players want to prove themselves with trophies and success, and that isn’t at Arsenal, and with another captain and top player leaving them behind it doesn’t look to be coming any time soon.
The seeming desperate nature of Arsenal’s inability to maintain the key players of their squad each summer leads them needing to rebuild constantly, and with Wenger seemingly unable to do this or get loyalty from his star players it begs the question: should Arsenal find someone else to lead them on?
This isn’t the first time this has been talked about, last summer saw the lowest approval rating from the fans since Arsene took over the job and many were thinking they needed someone fresh to inspire faith and progression in a club stagnating; treating Champions League Qualification as a trophy when it isn’t…Even Tottenham can do it.
It’s difficult to right off a man who led Arsenal to 3 Premier League trophies, invented the invincible and has won 4 FA Cups…But that success ended a long time ago. There’s only so much loyalty a club can give a man who used to succeed before they need to cut the cord; Liverpool proved that earlier in the summer and maybe it’s time for Arsenal to do the same to progress.
Arsene Wenger has been a great servant to Arsenal Football Club and has inspired some of the best football and players we have ever seen in the Premier League, but with trophies not inbound, key players outbound and a seeming never ending stream of ‘transition seasons’, maybe this is time to say thank you and goodbye; and then move on in to an era where success isn’t a memory, it’s an incoming reality.
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