There’s a slight feeling of optimism around the Emirates at present, with the appointment of Unai Emery as the new manager for the Gunners and the possible acquisition of up to four new players.
After years of falling short, the obvious failures and a lack of cohesion, the path currently being plotted would seem to be one that could, potentially, put Arsenal back on track at a domestic level and in terms of Europe.
However, before we all get drunk in the excitement, it’s worth noting how we got in this desperate position in the first place and acknowledge that something was so badly broken, isn’t about to be fixed overnight. Arsenal’s real problems were and possibly still are, at the top. Owner Stan Kroenke and his henchman, Ivan Gazidis are the men who avoided the gallows at the expense of their former boss Arsene Wenger.
It’s clear that the Frenchman could not arrest the decline in his latter years but the fact that those in key positions of power avoided crucial decisions from the shadows, is something that still irks.
Wenger had been floundering since the departure of David Dein and the added burden of building the Emirates is recognized as the catalyst for seasons of abject failure. Yet, Wenger soldiered on, financially handicapped but with the full support of the board, with no changes in structure or personnel.
To say that this was negligent would be putting it mildly. The Frenchman had been a revelation since his arrival at Arsenal in 1996 but from 2006 onwards , things had begun to go horribly wrong. An exodus of key players, massive repayments on the £360 million stadium and lack of silverware was pushing Arsenal to levels where they could appear to threaten without actually achieving success.
In any other failing business , the accountability would have probably resulted in a drastic reshuffle of personnel but Arsenal being Arsenal, it was allowed to continue for too long.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) May 23, 2018
So, Wenger finally leaves and is replaced by Unai Emery, who, one has to say, was the least favoured choice of any of the candidates. However, Emery is no fool and the happy accident that eventually took him to the Emirates could be a move that pays dividends.
Unai Emery along with head of recruitment, Sven Mislintat have identified the weaknesses and are drafting in a number of experienced performers that have defensive credentials such as Lichtsteiner and others.
There are also a number of youngsters that Emery has witnessed first hand that have potential. If Wenger is to have any kind of legacy, it may not just be his first ten years in charge, it may be that he gave Arsenal the stars of the future. Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson, Alex Iwobi, Ben Sheaf, Eddie Nketiah, Chris Willock and Donyell Malen are just some of the names that the Spanish Coach may benefit from in the next two or three seasons.
Yet, it’s going to be difficult to blend youth and experience at the top level and Emery knows he has to change things quickly by installing a combative spine, before the youngsters become established.
Arsenal are still in the hunt for players that can stop them folding at key points of the season and will easily spend beyond the reported £50 million they have available. Sales of existing players will certainly balance the books, leaving cash to spare as the Spaniard prepares to clear the decks.
If Wilshere, Bellerin, Xhaka, Welbeck, Mustafi and Monreal moved on, Emery could have in excess of £100 million plus in sales. There’s even been talk that Lacazette may be moved on, but I find that difficult to believe and it would prove to be a risky strategy.
If that were to happen, you could easily add another £40 million plus to the war chest. Only Emery and Mislintat are aware of the direction in which the club is heading and it makes for an intriguing few weeks ahead, which will see Arsenal deconstructed and rebuilt to establish themselves as contenders.