I support Aston Villa, and I troll Arsenal as often as misfortunes – in any form – happen to them; let’s get that out of the way. But this write up has nothing to do with this history of Arsenal trolling, it is a look at the gruesome facts that point to the slow evisceration of arguably the best football playing team England saw over the past 10 years. Arsenal are slowly becoming a mid-table club, and here are the reasons.
It all started with a ‘successful manager’ for Villa, the Gunners are in the same position. Believe it or not, the change of ownership and the appointment of Martin O’Neill spelt the beginning of the end of Aston Villa as a Premiership side, although the fans did not know it at the time. The Irishman was good for Villa; he took Villa to the highest position in the Premiership in 8 years within two seasons, but the club stagnated under him. For three years, O’Neill did the same thing over and again; so, while the team looked like it was making progress, Villa were actually sinking. Wenger has been doing the same at Arsenal: early success, followed by a period of stagnation, brought on by repeating the same mistakes every season.
Villa dramatically nosedived after the period of stagnation, Arsenal are sinking now. Villa were relegated within five years of O’Neill’s departure; Arsenal still have Wenger, but the club has been in decline for a while. The effect on Villa was lower league positions that eventually led to the team being relegated. For Arsenal, a team that used to be Premiership contenders, the fact that they have not been in the conversation for years, paints the picture. The decline had set in years ago, but has been covered by Cup successes. The exit from Champions League is a final confirmation of how far the Gunners have sunk. It may not stink as bad as the Villa decline, but it reeks all the same.
Villa sold off its best players when the rot started, Arsenal have been selling too. Star players know when a club is sinking; and they seek greener (trophy) pastures. When Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea at the end of the 2006 season, it was for money; by the time Thierry Henry left for Barcelona a year later, he was looking to win trophies. At least he wanted to win the Champions League. Arsenal have been selling their top players since then, and most left in search of trophies. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may be the latest, and Alexis Sanchez may be the next.
Managerial changes created a hard-to-fill vacuum for Villa, Arsenal may be heading for the same. The departure of Martin O’Neill threw Villa into a spin; just like the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson threw Manchester United into a free fall. Whenever Wenger leaves, Arsenal’s position will become more precarious. After results started going bad for Villa, the players became lackadaisical; Arsenal are displaying the same trait.
The Gunners are in for a bumpy ride, the fans better be prepared; rougher days may be ahead.
Picture Courtesy REUTERS