Reasons for Arsenal’s Trophy Drought part 1

The Mighty Transition: Why Arsenal Haven’t Won Anything In 7 Years by Ix Techau

How We Got Here

In 1993, Highbury became an all-seater stadium, reducing its capacity from 57,000 to roughly 38,500, with even less capacity for Champions League fixtures. This meant a huge reduction in ticket sales, and the club could only watch as tens of thousands of supporters were unable to attend matches. With the season ticket waiting list growing rapidly every year, the club decided to look at alternatives.

In 1999, the club announced the plans of building a new 60,000+ capacity stadium, initially intended to open in 2003. Even if the average ticket price would only be around £10, the increased capacity would mean an extra £6.5m per year, so the financial boost was huge. In reality the average ticket price is more than four times higher, meaning an estimated £20m-£30m extra revenue per year in comparison to Highbury.

But it also meant having to spend money to make money, £470m in total to be exact, and even though large chunks of the cost was made back through sponsorship deals, player sales and clever investments like the Highbury Square development, a big portion of the debt remained.

While all this was going on, Arsene Wenger had arrived at the club with a somewhat unique mindset when it came to transfers. Always a financially sensible man, it went against his philosophy to buy expensive ready-made Premier League stars, and instead realised he could buy younger or overlooked talent from abroad, without lowering the quality of the team. Players like Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Nicolas Anelka, Kolo Toure, Fredrik Ljungberg, Robert Pires, etc, were all products of this ideology.

With Wenger’s nose for bargain players, and the increasingly tight budgets from building a new stadium, the club decided to create a long-term plan for the future of the club. The plan was to create a financially stable situation where new players would mostly come from within the club, as opposed to being bought into it. With a good academy in place, the squad would ideally be filled with young players coming through the ranks as soon as older players needed to be replaced.

2002-2003: The First Wave
Slightly before the Invincibles were tearing up the Premier League, Wenger and the board were putting together their 10-year plan of turning Arsenal into a self-sustaining modern club that shouldn’t have to rely on buying expensive players to compete at the highest level. The first stage of the plan was to get a crop of 16-18 year olds into the club that would take over for when the current first team was in decline. The first wave of this new generation included Cesc Fabregas (16), Johan Djourou (16), Gael Clichy (18) and Nicklas Bendtner (16) – and also included the signing of 9-year old Emmanuel Frimpong and Jack Wilshere.

A couple of years later even more teenagers were brought into the club in a second wave, like Alex Song (18), Theo Walcott (17), Abou Diaby (19), Carlos Vela (16), Vito Mannone (17) and Denilson (18). With these players in the academy, Arsenal finally had a strong foundation for the future. But the problem was that the gap between the experienced older players and the new era youngsters was too big, and a period of inconsistency started shortly after the Invincibles season.

Arsenal celebrated winning the Premier League in 2004, with players like Vieira, Henry, Keown, Pires and Bergkamp When Jose Mourinho took over Chelsea, he changed the dynamic of the Premier League – what had been viewed as a two-horse race was now a three-horse race, and with Liverpool slowly becoming a threat again, the competitive level of the domestic league increased tenfold in a couple of years. And with the loss of players like Dennis Bergkamp, Martin Keown, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Patrick Vieira within a three year period – and the move to a new stadium in that timeframe as well – the new wave of players were too young to carry the expectations of the club on their shoulders.

The ideal set-up at a top club is to have a sensible balance between older/experienced and younger/energetic players. The older players will usher the younger ones into the philosophy of the club, and bear the majority of the responsibilities on the pitch while the younger ones learn and develop their talents. Without the older players in this system, the younger players are exposed for their flaws, and carry too much responsibility.

Somewhat unexpectedly the transition was forced upon Wenger sooner than what was planned, and as the club wouldn’t start becoming self-sustained until the third or even fourth wave of youngsters started coming through the club structure, instability ensued. In the next part we look at what effect this has had in recent years.

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51 thoughts on “Reasons for Arsenal’s Trophy Drought part 1

  1. leo

    i will give you 1 reason silent stan & his ivan gassdis
    usmanov & david dein in stan & co out

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  2. Graham

    Well written Bob…..I’ll await the second installment.

    As the article points out, Wenger had to sell his experienced players (class of 2004) much sooner than he would have liked.

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  3. johnverdal

    who is the man incharge of contract situations at arsenal?
    that fu##ing person is messing with our best players every season. walcott not signed yet

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  4. k

    @DrPepper
    I think we have reached the point where it doesn’t matter who it is, if they are willing to buy, we want them.

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  5. DrPepper

    The only reason we haven’t won a trophy is because 2 teams have been allowed to spend nearly a billion to build teams.

    Look back through the years, if everyone was only allowed to spend within our means – we would still be the top team a long with united.

    We wouldn’t have been forced into selling Nasri, Adebayor, RVP, Clichey, Cole or others – as we paid a reasonable amount and they were brought inflated.

    Prices for players and wages wouldn’t have been inflated to the level they are now, nor would the wages.

    We would have been able to Move to the emirates and retain a spending power, as it is we have had to forgo our spending power in place of the stadium.

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  6. Karan

    steve bould effect ? my a**..
    our defending is getting worse day by day..

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  7. johnverdal

    yanga mbiwa
    david villa
    yann m’vila
    leighton baines
    iker casillas

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  8. johnverdal

    i think wnenger is not allowing bould to do his job. wenger in the training session does attacking football only therefore we are so poor defensively.

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  9. Joe

    Good article may open some of the fans eye’s on here that dont really understand whats going on at arsenal for the last 8 years and why we dont compete with the other clubs and why they seem to think the board and the owner pocket all the money for themselves which for anyone who has a reasonable understanding of whats happening at this club will tell you they are not.

    When the shareholders eventually come to sell there shares they will make a lot of money of them because the club they own will also own its own 60,000 capacity stadium and will have no debt which will most likely increase there shares by 10x what they brought them for. The shareholders will make a shit load of money when they eventually sell but they will have also ensured Arsenal compete with the best for 100 years or more.

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  10. Bonnie

    Sounds reasonable but we need our pride back. How else if not by winning?
    Plan is overtaken by EPL competition where all clubs are inventing new winning ways, players who took years to model are becoming impatient. Modify strategy if not change altogether.

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  11. Gunnerineverylife

    @johnverdal Casillas wont qualify for Wenger’s socialist wage structure.

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  12. Arsenal till I die

    The reason why arsenal fail to win anything for the past 7 years is, arsenal is no longer a football club but instead it has become a business model. Obviously the clowns only using the Arsenal brand for marketing purpose to invest in their own pocket. If it wasn’t because arsenal’s prolific background and wonderful history, we would be just another mid table ordinary team in the bpl. It’s sad to see our club being treated this way. Doesn’t show real heart and ambition for the club. The reason why cazorla podolski and giroud join us this season is clearly what they see about our past. Deadwoods loves to stay put and won’t move anywhere else is because they know, the board won’t invest in for some true talent who could make a difference into the squad and their place won’t be jeopardize. So they are not worried. The reason whilshere willing to stay is only because of his LOVE and HOPE.

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  13. arie

    good opinions
    you want sugar daddy?
    just pick mu,chelse,city or liverpool, and be fan one of them.
    in arsen we trust, in money we greed.

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  14. AmericanGooner

    #1 reason:

    Every year, we sell some of our best players. And on top of it, don’t replace them. And on top of that, we sell them to our rivals! He who will not be named last summer to MUFC, Song to the hated(at least for me) Barca, Na$ri to City, Clichy to City, Cesc(while a different circumstance but still) to Barca. And this is just the last two summers! We need to keep our best players! Most fans are excited for the summer window to see who we get, I dread it in fear of who the board will sell off!

    Enough already! Keep top players, and if you must sell them , buy quality replacements in the same window, not a year or so later. It took us 12 months to replace Cesc sort of with Cazorla. We still have not replaced Song. That dutch traitor has not been replaced. Giroud is good and all, but if you let a player like that leave, then a player of his quality should be brought in.

    The board of this club really anger me. Stop being cheap and invest in the club!

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  15. george bush

    ARSENAL FOOTBALL CLUB IS A BIGGER CONSPIRACY THAN 9/11. AND I WOULD KNOW!

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  16. Arsenal till I die

    @Arie It’s not about greed. It’s about ambition and determination to go head to head among the elite football club throughout Europe. What usmanov show is desire and love for arsenal. He vision himself that arsenal will be fear once more by other clubs. What has Ivan and Stan really gave us? They sure gave us False Hopes and Fake Promises. Isn’t about having a sugar daddy in our club, if you want to talk about greed, ask the board members.

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  17. santi lev

    because….we sell r best players and buy shitter ones….1 or 2 exceptions…

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  18. AmericanGooner

    @Arie

    I don’t want to be Chelsea by any means. I would like to see Usmanov have more involvement with the club, but not a 100% ownership of it. I don’t trust him fully. But I can’t stand Kroenke. The man has spread himself too thin. Owning teams in the NFL, NBA, MLS, and Arsenal is too much. He doesn’t care about the club, we are his cash cow. The team he cares about is the Rams(NFL). We need a different person running the show before we go the way of Newcastle and Leeds.

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  19. Doc

    Looks like we can forget David Villa as he has a baby on way in February and wants to wait to the summer.

    Lopez looks to be our best and only option if you ask me the way things are going were going to be disappointed again in transfer market. It’s slipping away and were haggling away for another cheapo and of course someone else comes in and does the deal.

    Pity they weren’t as concerned with the ticket prices when they are marketing them.

    I hope im wrong but that’s the way im feeling we waited for January and the way were going it will be the summer martket next.

    Why hasn’t there been a d/m at least lined up.

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  20. johnverdal

    wenger out guardioala in
    i heard a news today that guardiola is avaiable to become manager next season. i just hope wenger resigns after taking us to 4th at the end of the season.

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  21. johnverdal

    adrian lopez isnt that good. i dont know why people saying we need adrian lopez. if he was that good he would have scored many goals this season. we need a world class striker not a player for the future.

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  22. GUN

    @DrPepper Do you think FFP can control the spending of clubs like Man city, PSG, Chelsea etc? And then Arsenal will be winning titles after FFP is introduced?

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  23. arsehry

    But, we do have a very strong academy which can only be good for the future

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  24. sollygunner

    fu”kin shalke offerd spuds holtby this month for 1.6 mill instead off end of season surley he would of been handy for us to have around at that price with our heavy month and big games + would be good business as youd get alot more than that in 2-3 years for him thought wenger liked young talent ??

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  25. Bring back bergkamp

    I don’t see the need for a massive sugar daddy to come in and save us! We already have one one the board already!! Usmanov is an arsenal fan through and through. He doesn’t want to run the club out n out, he just wants to be able to help out in the transfer windows like now to improve the squad. But they won’t have it!!!! What club would turn down a billionaire who’s a fan of the club to just come in and help with the improvement of the squad. He doesn’t wana break even and make money, he wants the club to be the best! Like it was in the bergkamp days!!

    With his money, we could realistically go for David villa, Leighton Baines, fellaini, m’vila! The list goes on. All at once!!! These are the experienced players needed to help the young prospects through to reach their full potential. Why sit back and pay out for budget players all the time. The likes of eboue, djourou ad co aren’t guna make us what we once were. Wasted money on squad players who will never push players for their shirts. Happy to sit on the bench and take the fans money. It’s about time we started buying players with abit of fight, people who will run around for 90 minutes and die for the shirt. We have all the technique in the world. So why keep buying the same type. We aren’t Barcelona, so stop trying to copy. Our league is tougher, so we have to buy players to suit.

    I want butland, lescott, Baines, m’vila and David villa.
    I know that’s unrealistic as an arsenal fan, but this is what we need!!!!!

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  26. David

    The only problem we av r those fans buying tickets 2 watch arsenal.. Arsenal FC was turn to business club and stupid America man Kroke are make the profile every year and Wenger also make the good profile.. Wenger won’t pay a player above 100K, but he earns more than Fergusson.Guardiola won 2 CL titles in a space of four years, Wenger always act on the field anytime Arsenal loose the Match… Why the loose of match will pain Wenger when he collect 7millon per year and he can’t pay player 100k per week, that is bad to hear.. my follow Arsenal fans, i want you to know that Wenger was change to businessman and Board can not sack him because they are sharing the money together and fans was pay them like mugu.. Wenger and Board will perish and Arsenal FC will turn to world best team like Barca by the grace of God… Wenger you will share in fans pain by the grace of God, we are always feel bad every weeks. Gunners for life till i die

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  27. Hass

    When Rosicky and Diaby can get a whole game without an injury there is a big big chance of us winning that game, hope its against City this week.

    Early in the season Wenger uses Rosicky injury as one of ‘we have many players out’ but now he is fit, Rosicky isn’t even used. Did he keep him for the big games this month? I don’t think so.

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  28. Schafberg

    What the hell arsenal and arsene are Wartung for??? Why they dont bring in New Players???

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  29. true goon

    @DrPepper
    You say the only reason we havent won a trophy is because 2 teams have been financial doping,is that why Birmingham beat us in the league cup final?

    Alot of if,buts and maybes.Stop making excuses which are not relevant in the world we live in,its a capitalist society not a socialist one.You can’t stand around moaning about Chelsea an City you have to adapt your plan an compete.

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  30. PatLloyd

    all you fans out there asking for dein back but wenger to get sacked clearly know little, Dein was a huge supporter of arsene and always backed him up, if he returned he would want wenger to stay

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  31. ks-gunner

    Dont mind dr pepper he is a akb member …these deluded fools sweared blind faith to wenger and will not accept criticism of Wenger or the board whatsoever ….but questionion are neccecary to bee made when things are not going well… people should

    1…stop moaning and accept that we are taken for a ride and just pay the most expensive tickes prices to watch a mediocre team week and week out and be fine with it lol….or

    2….stop paying the most expensive ticked prices …ask to lower the ticket prices to match our clubs second rate standarts consider we aint a big club anymore….and be fine with it lol pathetic…or

    3….protest and declare war and try to get rid off the cancer called Stan Kroenke and his minions make pressure and try to save this club from greed and capitalisem….

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  32. Allan Michaud

    Good article. I have been saying this for years. Losing a whole generation of older players was a huge mistake as you lose so much of the real heart of the club as well as a wining mentality. The 30 year age policy of 1 year extensions led to this. Look at Utd with Giggs and Scholes, or Chelsea with Lampard and Terry. We should have had a Vieira, a Pires, a Ljunberg or an Henry urging the youngsters on over the past few years. Instead we had the likes of journeyman William Gallas for them to look up to.

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  33. Ergs

    Good article bob!
    I actually think the only thing stopping us now is our wage structure I don’t think transfer fees are an issue as we have never spent big the socialist wage structure just doesn’t work!!!
    Arsene is the clubs manager not the players dad making sure they are all happy with their wages!!
    He’s needs to get tough and use the hairdryer on some off our little boys.
    You play well consistently you get top money you don’t you get a low wage In comparison.
    sort it out WENGER!!

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  34. Haxxxan

    the reason for our decline is simple

    we are too busy maintaining and balancing our books rather than balancing the the attack and defense on the pitch!

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  35. davidrusa

    This is a very brave act by Bob i.e. to be objective and analytical before a very sujective and sometimes unguided readership. You can even see it in some of the responses. Some people have sworn not to see sense and reason but rather persist in their mistaken perceptions. There is no way a board of directors in an open democratic society like the UK would award themselves outrageous allowances and get away with it! Perhaps the problem with some of our writers could be twofold: firstly, those from the third world think things in the west are done as in their own countries. Secondly therising levels of indifference in the western world where people are more concerned about daily bread and no longer have time to reflect on issues. The end result of this is the high level of subjectivity and at times irrationality that we see in the papers and other media. If people could follow the arguments of people like Bob and respond to them on their merits it would very helpful for all of us.

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  36. Salvage

    Its such a major cop-out for some people to be waiting for Financial fair play to come in and rescue us so that we start winning things. Are you not ashamed? Did the big-money spending by other clubs stop Dortmund from winning the league back to back? Did it stop Montpelier from winning the league last season?
    Wenger has so influenced so many Arsenal fans and is fast moulding people’s mindsets into that of failures.
    Waiting for Financial Fair play is just like some kid waiting for his parents to come take away another kids nicer looking boots(which was intimidating him) so that he can play.
    Well, Hello!! A kid that can play, will play with rubber stitched soles and wont be intimidated by any fancy boots(Go look at them in South America and Africa).

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  37. NIKK

    Trying to analysis past failures and putting everthing in perpective is load of bull! The fact is that the socialist model imposed on the club was never going to be compatible with fast changing market economy in the football world.
    Hence it was not possible to keep likes of Viera Henry etc etc nor was it possible to replace them like for like due higher wages and transfer fee paid by nouveau riche clubs.

    Nothing will change until this socialist model is discarded and the club joins the real football world!

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  38. true goon

    @davidrusa

    “There is no way a board of directors in an open democratic society like the UK would award themselves outrageous allowances and get away with it! ”

    Are you for real?Where have you been for the last 20 years bankers and board have been awarding themselves unwarranted bonuses for years.Wake up!didn’t u hear about the credit crunch caused by banks.
    Its amazing the stupid arguments you AKB guys come up with.

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  39. Des

    Kroenke and Ivan out! Usmanov and dein in!!
    Love you wenger but please hand over the job to guardiola at the end of the season.
    But you’ve got to spend big in jan arsene or we risk not getting top four, try signing someone I’ve actually heard of for once! Some big names need to come in to send out a message, villa would be ok for now but he’s 31 and will only help us for this season and next. Why not try signing some proven prem players, fellaini, Micah Richards, Baines, ba before he went Chelsea, etc. then add a few overseas players. Not unknowns for once! Cavani, falcao, isco will do :)

    Oh, and play pod through the middle!!!!! He’d be prolific! F@£king luv that boy, he’s a grafter!

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  40. Charlie

    This is excellent Bob, it’s like a breath of fresh air. We have reasoned arguments about the predicament that Arsenal find themselves in rather than the emotionally guided misleading rants that we find littering the blogosphere.

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  41. Charlie

    Adam Kemp could learn a thing or two by reading this, with his emotional rants posessing very few actual facts. It’s not kissing up to the Arsenal philosophy but it is a summary of what has actually happenned from a neutral standpoint.

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  42. Big Gun

    @Dr Pepper All if’s and maybe’s. The point is IT DIDN’T HAPPEN THAT WAY. Mutlti billion dollar owner and investors have taken over the EPL and UEFA has not done a damn thing about it. We either get with the times, or remain a mid table team. Arsenal are playing the socialist in a capitalist game – AND IT IS NOT WORKING. We have one of the richest men in the world willing to back our club. He has more Arsenal blood in his left pinky toe than Kroenke has in his whole body. In fact, Kroenke is no fan at all. His distance and lack of hands on commitment is testament to this. I would rather have someone owning our club who 1.) LOVES ARSENAL and is a supporter 2.) Willing to pay market related salaries to our best players, in turn keeping them 3.) Bolster and strengthen our squad when needed by buying top class players. Tired of hearing rumours of players like Mata, Hazard etc coming to Arsenal, only to be hijacked by Chelsea or Spurs.

    So what if Usmanov has a shady past! He was never ever convicted of those crimes and was given full pardon. Please get up off your high horse and realize that no man with that amount of money has been a saint all their lives. Arsenal need a saviour and his name is Usmanov. Kroenke is a greedy yank who does not give two sh*ts about my Arsenal.

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  43. 2gunsUp

    Arsenals problem is they can’t problem solve. Wheather is be tactics on the pitch or its behind the scene with contracts,wages or signings. Its like there blind to the problems that are right in front of there eyes. I feel that a lot of problems could have been avoided.

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  44. davidrusa

    Somebody cited the credit crunch as a way of discrediting my argument but he either forgot or ignored the core words ” and get away with it”. This is what I have all along been saying,i.e. lack of proper analysis and digestion of somebody’s arguments before responding to them. I didn’t say it can’t be done. My point is if it is done it will be uncovered and those involved will be accordingly punished as happened with those who caused the credit crunch. Let us fans learn to digest arguments before responding just for the sake of satisfying our emotions! All contributions should be aimed at enhancing our club’s performance not exposing our lack of depth of issues!

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