Arsenal Football Club is a traditional “Big Six” team. They join the ranks of Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham. These clubs are the biggest clubs in England, mostly based on popularity.
However, Arsenal is missing a certain attribute those clubs share. For those clubs, title contention in the Premier League is the goal. Champions League qualification is the expectation.
These merits applied to the club not long ago. For 19 straight seasons, the Gunners qualified for the UEFA Champions League. Only twice in those 19 seasons did the team from the Emirates fail to make it out of their group in the competition.
Now, the Arsenal Football Club that Arsène Wenger and Thierry Henry developed is almost unrecognizable. Despite spending third-most on transfers among Premier League clubs over the last five years, the club sits outside the realm of competing for a Premier League title.
In 2021/22, pundits claim Arsenal have a slight chance to rebuild. There is no European competition, the squad is young and recent signings show some promise.
Still, Arsenal sits behind the pace. Other clubs in the big six continue to bring in high-quality talents. All the same, those clubs continue to compete domestically and in Europe. Meanwhile, after two games in 2021/22, Arsenal picked up no points with their next game coming against Manchester City.
Bad luck with COVID-19 never helps, but the club’s issues run deeper than that. Without fixing these problems, the prestige and power of Arsenal Football Club is at risk.
Arsenal Football Club’s fall from grace
Since winning the Premier League in 2003/04 as the Invincibles, the Gunners finished second twice. In 2004/05, Arsenal finished 12 points behind Chelsea. Then, in 2015/16, Cinderella-story Leicester City finished 10 points clear.
Still, the consistent point of pride for Arsenal was their Champions League qualification. Under Wenger, players came in and wanted to play for the Gunners knowing Champions League football was nearly a guarantee. The other clubs experienced brief stints falling out of the Champions League spots, notably Liverpool and Manchester United.
Now, it seems to be Arsenal’s turn. Wenger left after the 2017/18 season. This is the first time in over 20 years without European competition.
Perhaps that is for the best? Maybe, Arsenal preoccupied itself by trying to compete in too many things without a solid base squad.
Executives will assure fans that the lack of European competition is bad. Yes, the monetary benefits of the Europa League or Champions League are gone.
Gone are the days of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira or Robin van Persie playing on Tuesday or Wednesday nights to raucous crowds at the Emirates.
Everyone thinks the immediate solution to poor results exists in the transfer window.
Is the club struggling to score goals? Buy a striker.
Is the club conceding too many goals? Buy a defender.
Arsenal tried that. Over the last five years. Arsenal holds the third-largest transfer deficit. Arsenal spent almost $400 million more than they sold over the last five years.
This includes the incoming transfers of the 2021 summer window. Arsenal Football Club holds the distinction of spending the most among Premier League this summer. Arsenal’s net spending this summer is about $130 million. Center-back Ben White, midfielder Martin Ødegaard and goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale highlight the arrivals.
It is just two weeks in, but most, especially in the Arsenal camp, expected at least one point out of their opening two games. A dismal performance to open the season at Brentford preceded a drubbing at the hands of Chelsea. Nor is the grass greener on the other side, yet. Next up in the league is a trip to the Etihad to play Manchester City.
This is Arsenal’s worst start in 118 years to a season, and it will likely get worse before it gets better.
Cause for optimism
It may be hard to inspire Arsenal fans at the moment. However, take this as solace. Arsenal Football Club has the youngest squad in the Premier League this season.
All of Arsenal’s acquisitions this summer are under the age of 23. It is a squad built to develop. For example, many of the signings did not appear due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Still, the average age of Arsenal’s starting XI was just over 24. Once the signings break through, their exposure to consistent minutes will allow them to develop.
READ MORE: Schedule of Arsenal games on U.S. TV and streaming
Another reason to believe might be from Arteta’s run last year. Arsenal’s performance in the Europa League was not bad. In fact, some games even showed legitimate promise for the domestic side. While that never came, it provided the young players the chance to show what they can do.
Consistency has to be Arteta’s number one goal with the state of Arsenal Football Club. Victories against inferior teams in the league coupled with competitive games against the top teams would put Arsenal in good standing.
Yet, the message remains the same. If Arteta wanted certain players to compete, and he got them, Arsenal should be competing. Recent performances show that Arteta may be in over his head. Therefore, he must find successful form soon before the Arsenal faithful come knocking.
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