Things Fall Apart: The Regression of Arsenal Football Club

The Gunners were the English game’s pre-eminent force, blazing a trail that nobody had previously thought possible, at least not in the modern era. They were The Invincible, winning the 2003/04 title by going the entire league season unbeaten. The first club to do so since Preston North End in 1889 when there were just 22 games to contend with.

Forty-nine league matches unbeaten is no mean feat. And despite redefining the levels of quality and consistency needed to claim a Premier League title in recent years, it’s a bar even Manchester City and Liverpool have yet to jump.

Arsenal is a club with problems that go far beyond some bad results on the pitch, as they had been suffering from winning mentality capacity in recent years. The Gunners have been having a series of issues on and off the pitch. Even under the tutelage of tactician supremo Arsene Wenger, the club had been on a receiving end of embarrassments defeat in which he had presided over during his last decade.

However, Wenger started his career with the Gunners by not only revolutionizing the club’s operations, but English football as a whole through his knowledge of tactics, foreign scouting, fitness, nutrition, and the economics of the global transfer market. He won the Premier League three times — once undefeated and made a Champions League final during his first ten-year stretch and that was it.

From the following season, it was a clear-cut decline in fortunes. Between 2005 to 2014, Arsenal had their worst run. The main problem was economical. In 2001, when the club announced its intention to leave its Highbury home (capacity: 38,400) and build a modern stadium with 60,000 seats, costing £400 million, it set about a downturn in Arsenal’s fortunes on the pitch. Having dual responsibilities of being the accountant as well as the team manager, Wenger’s post-Emirates era was overshadowed by his side’s lack of competitiveness. Summer window-shoppings were ruined by the departures of his best troopers.

By the end of 2006, half of “The Invincibles” left the club. Patrick Vieira sparked the chain of unfortunate events when he departed the club in 2005. No club is built around one player, but when a world-class player like Vieira leaves the gap was always going to be felt. Names like Robert Pires, Ashley Cole, and Gilberto Silva followed the leaving queue. The last nail in the coffin was Bergkamp’s retirement. The biggest problem when players leave, especially all in a short time, is the need to replace them.

The change in the ideology of trusting youngsters rather than coughing out some cash on established players to alleviate the hole left behind by their departed predecessors. The hole left behind to foster the beginning of a footballing powerhouse in the North London club.

It took some time for the team to have chemistry, but then history began to repeat itself as the stars began to leave which was spearheaded by Mathiew Flamini’s departure to AC Millan, Cesc to Barcelona in 2011 and Van Persie to Manchester Utd in 2012. Key players Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy were also sold to Manchester City. These palpable departures left the Arsenal board and fans feeling deflated, laying the rail for Arsenal’s decline in financial and footballing achievement. 

In his last years as Arsenal manager, beautiful football and a never-ending trophy drought are all that Arsenal had achieved. It had been the same old Arsenal that the world continued to see in the true Arsenal manner.

Time and time again they sold their best troopers and today, Arsenal’s decline has never been so obvious, but climbing back to be the forefront of European football could prove to be even more difficult, as the financial power of Manchester clubs and the nearly completed acquisition of Newcastle could spell the end of Arsenal’s enriched history for good.