Our history continued- 2006-2016: Farewell to Highbury, Hello Emirates and a few FA Cup triumphs!
Once the Amazing Dennis Bergkamp testimonial was out the way, the real football would begin and the Emirates was acknowledged as one of the finest football stadiums in the world and it was sold out for every first-team game in its opening season.
As the then Managing Director Keith Edelman explained before the move, the financial benefits of the club’s historic move would allow Arsenal to sustain their competitiveness at the highest level, stating: “Our aim is to be a leading European club and, once we get into the new stadium, we will be in that position. It is very income-generous to us.”
After not winning a trophy since 2005, the move to the Emirates seemed to have shown that the winning mentality was still present at Arsenal after we reached the final of the 2007 League Cup, yet we lost 2-1 to Chelsea and so the trend of not winning a trophy since 2005 would continue.
And it seemed that things would go from bad to worse as Legendary chairman David Dein, who was responsible for bringing in the likes of some of the world’s biggest talents to the club such as Ian Wright from Crystal Palace for £2.5 million, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit, Marc Overmars, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Sol Campbell, Gilberto Silva, Kolo Touré, Cesc Fàbregas and Robin van Persie to name a few, had left the club with immediate effect after apparent “irreconcilable differences” between himself and the rest of the board.
It is thought that he was in favour of a possible takeover of Arsenal by an external benefactor seeking to invest money into the club, as Arsenal had invested heavily in the development of their new stadium which forced the club to take on heavy debts, which in turn meant the club needed new revenue.
And so in August 2007, Dein sold his 9,072 shares (14.58%) in the club for £75 million to Red & White Holdings, an investment vehicle of Russian metal billionaire Alisher Usmanov and his business partner Farhad Moshiri. Dein was appointed as chairman of Red & White, which was at the time the largest shareholder in the club outside of members of the board of directors.
In September 2008, he resigned as chairman of Red & White, with The Times suggesting it was to improve relations between Arsenal and Red & White. Dein was replaced as G-14 chairman by Olympique Lyonnais chairman Jean-Michel Aulas the following month, but it seemed as though things would never be the same again!
Dein’s departure from Arsenal was met with a strong reaction from key figures at the club as well as fans and so it should have!
Arsène Wenger described his departure “as a sad day for the club.” And having had an insight into Arsene Wenger and David Dein’s relationship it seemed as though Wenger would be lost without his right-hand man and vice versa.
Following his departure, Wenger asked Dein whether he wished him to resign from the post of manager in support for his friend and Dein told Wenger that he should not leave Arsenal as the club would suffer greatly from his loss as manager. I believe that would have been the case, although the period after Dein left wasn’t that successful, it would’ve been worse no doubt had Wenger left too!
Wenger stated, “It is a huge disappointment because we worked very closely together, David has contributed highly to the success of the club in the last 10 years and even before that as well. Red and white are the colours of his heart. David Dein is needed in football because this guy has revolutionised this club [Arsenal] and also English football. He is top quality.”
Ian Wright also had his say on the departure of Dein stating: “I know the players aren’t happy. I know Thierry Henry’s not happy. We’re talking about a man [David Dein] who goes into the dressing room after every single game, shakes every player by the hand and who knows all the youth team players. I know this for a fact that the manager and the players are 100% behind David Dein and I can see real repercussions coming off the back of this.”
And Wrighty was not wrong.
Because in 2007, Legendary striker Thierry Henry also walked out the door and went on his way to Barcelona. He cited the departure of Dein and continued uncertainty over Wenger’s future as reasons for leaving, yet he said: “I always said that if I ever left Arsenal it would be to play for Barcelona.”
Henry left Arsenal as the club’s leading all-time league goalscorer with 174 goals and leading all-time goalscorer in European competitions with 42 goals, and in July 2008 Arsenal fans voted him as Arsenal’s greatest player ever in the website’s poll of the Gunners’ Greatest 50 Players.
The next few season would see us fluctuate between third and fourth position in the league without a trophy to show for it..
The 2007–08 season saw us finish in third position, despite leading the table for two-thirds of the season. We made it into the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League, but were eliminated on a 5-3 aggregate score against Liverpool. The team also exited the FA Cup in the fifth round after a 4-0 loss to Manchester United and lost in the semi-finals of the League Cup to rivals Tottenham Hotspur 6-2 on aggregate.
After losing Henry, other departures included first team players Freddie Ljungberg and José Antonio Reyes, yet incomings saw defender Bacary Sagna and striker Eduardo who came from Auxerre and Dinamo Zagreb, respectively.
A strong start to the season saw Arsenal top the league table by September. Defeat against Sevilla in November ended a run of 28 matches undefeated and it was not until a month after did the team lose in the league for the first time, away at Middlesbrough. Arsenal extended their league lead to five points in February, but a career-threatening injury to Eduardo against Birmingham City, along with a strop from defender and captain at the time William Gallas all coinciding with the team going on a run of four draws in the Premier League, all but let Manchester United overtake us in first.
Defeat to Chelsea in March moved Arsenal down to third place, where we remained to the end of the season. However, our points tally of 83 remains as the highest in the Premier League for a third-placed team under the 38-game format. Emmanuel Adebayor was Arsenal’s top goalscorer in that season, scoring 30 goals in 48 appearances.
The 2008–09 season saw us end trophy-less again, but in fourth place in the league. However, there were some positives from that season, Jack Wilshere signed a professional contract with the club, Aaron Ramsey signed for us from Cardiff, a man of the match performance from Little Russian Andrei Arshavin saw Arsenal draw 4-4 at Anfield and this all but dented Liverpool’s title hopes, yet we lost Jens Lehmann on a free transfer.
The next few seasons were pretty much the same as we did little business, with our only signing in 2009-10 coming in the shape of defender Thomas Vermaelen from Ajax.
Several players however left the club before the campaign got under way, including Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Touré in separate deals to Manchester City.
Wenger at this point was surely looking for ways to revive and bolster the team and he tried to find ways to benefit from the creativity that Cesc Fàbregas possessed. By doing so he introduced a fluid 4–3–3 formation and the team seemed to have benefitted from the new formation and made an impressive start to the campaign.
By November the team had scored 36 goals in 11 league games and qualified for the Champions League knockout stage with a game to spare in a season where 41 different players represented us in four competitions with 14 different goal scorers. Top goalscorer of the season, was Fàbregas, who scored 19 goals in 36 appearances in another third-place finish.
Arsenal’s lack of trophies could have been down to the fact the board became tighter with money hence lack of transfers and also the fact that David Dein wasn’t around to be able to influence signings for the club. It was clear to see that there were issues behind the scenes that were affecting the team and club as a whole.
The 2010-11 season saw us finish fourth yet we came close to our first trophy in six years, but a last-minute goal after a mix up and a lack of communication between defender Laurent Koscielny and Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, saw us lose 2–1 to Birmingham City, another loss, in a league cup final, with the same score line, five years after reaching the final against Chelsea.
The clubs 125th anniversary came in the 2011–12 season and was our 20th season in the Premier League. Despite being trophy-less we finished the season in third, maintaining those top four finishes over the years!
It wouldn’t be until 2014 that we would get another shot at winning a trophy though.
The team spearheaded by a club record transfer in 2013, Mesut Özil, would take to the Wembley pitches to face Hull City.
It wasn’t the best of starts though as we were 2-0 down within eight minutes and looked to be falling to another loss in a final. Yet one of the greatest comebacks in a final was on the way after Spanish Magician Santi Cazorla pulled a goal back on the 17th minute but it wouldn’t be until the second half that the comeback was really on, and on the 71st minute Koscielny got the equaliser, but it was down to Welsh starlet Aaron Ramsey who got the winner in the 109th minute of extra time.
The Arsenal fans went wild and finally Wenger had another trophy to his name nine years after his last one, he lifted the clubs 11th FA Cup.
This seemed to wake Arsenal up and a year later, we completed another victorious FA Cup campaign beating Aston Villa rather easier than we did Hull, in a 4-0 win and the final whistle brought scenes of unconfined joy as Wenger joined George Ramsay on six FA Cup wins, while the Gunners’ emphatic victory put them out on their own with a record 12 triumphs in the competition.
We would soon break another record as we bagged our third FA Cup in three years after reaching the 2016-17 FA Cup final where we deservedly beat Chelsea 2-1 to become the most successful club in the tournament’s history by winning our 13th FA Cup.
However, in that same season, we finished fifth in the league, the first time we had finished outside the top four since before Wenger arrived in 1996.
And at that point it seemed the Wenger era and magic was coming to an end!
To be continued…
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