Arsenal fans and the media seem to view Arsene Wenger’s side with only profound disappointment these days. They bemoan the Frenchman’s seeming unwillingness to spend money, his side’s inability to keep star players, and seeming inability to beat the league’s scrappier teams on anything like a consistent basis. They continually gripe about the fact that Arsenal haven’t won a trophy since 2005 – and let’s face it, they were incredibly lucky to win that FA Cup final (on penalties) – whilst taunts that the team is now a feeder club for free-spending Manchester City, once meant in jest, now seem dispiritingly accurate. Yet there is much to be proud of for fans who are willing to adjust their expectations and really take stock of where the club stands.
Call it stingy, call it “running the club as a business” (which it is), but Arsenal is the only team near the summit of the Premier League – well, perhaps along with the vindicated Ashley regime at Newcastle – not busily building a house of cards. The people running it seem to behave responsibly and with the club’s long-term interests at heart, focusing on the redevelopment of the training ground and construction of the new stadium – as opposed to signing players for tens of millions: something Wenger has never done, even during periods of on-field success. Arsenal might not win the league again any time soon. But there’s a good chance they’ll still be third when one of the current big boys has long since imploded.
It’s worth considering: what will happen to Man City or Chelsea when their sugar-daddies eventually lose interest in their expensive executive toys? What does the future hold for a Manchester United crippled by debt? Can Spurs realistically keep spending if they can’t reliably reach the Champions League each year? And what of Liverpool? Arsenal are often labelled ”a side in transition”, but under Wenger’s stewardship the team has never finished lower than fourth. Certainly they haven’t ever looked like finishing down in eighth.
Popular logic runs that Arsenal have been underachieving. I say they’ve been overachieving of late – and never more so than in 2011/12. Here’s why:
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