The 3 major changes we need to stop Arsenal’s decline

2021:The Beginning of the End of Arsenal’s Decline? by Goonerboy

Happy New Year Gunners far and wide! What a rollercoaster year 2020 was, we can only hope 2021 is nice and we begin to experience more positive vibes as humans and as fans of Arsenal football club.

Last year, because of our struggles under Arteta, some of us have been able to realise that much of our struggles are due to the fact that Arsenal as a club has been declining over the years – some will tell you our decline started the day David Dein left our beloved club and that wouldn’t be wrong in my opinion, but in order not to bore you with a lengthy article, I would like to begin from the most recent years.

Firstly, what is a decline? “something regarded as good becomes smaller, fewer or less”- “politely refuse an offer or invitation” and “a gradual continuous loss of STRENGTH, numbers, QUALITY or VALUE”

You would see that the third definition is screaming Arsenal! Arsenal! Arsenal! like the Emirates crowd in such a way that you would think the word supports Arsenal.

You must have noticed how we have gradually been declining even when we constantly made the top four. Arsenal as a club never looks to build on success or achievement, (especially in the Emirates era) we are always content with doing the bare minimum and expect Wenger to work his magic. Well, that worked for 20 years as he made the top 4 working that way, but if you want to tell yourself the truth, you will agree that if Wenger were to try that in this era, he will fail woefully, why? Because the bar has been lofty raised, the competitiveness is crazy and unrelenting, Wenger could not even manage that in his last two years-this is not to undermine what the legend has done, it is just stating the facts.

Because Wenger always made the top 4, the club as a whole never deemed it fit to take that next leap to actually invest to challenge for the title or the champions league. We go into every season short in one position or the other but as long as we are challenging for TOP FOUR, all is well.

This quickly became a staunch mentality, a culture and the ambition of the club, promises after promises were made to the fans but the investments are saying otherwise, while we were at it, other clubs were gradually catching up and even leaving us behind.

Unai Emery

When Wenger left, Emery came in, new structure, but despite the change, we were still declining because there is no alignment between the coach and the executives in the area of player acquisition – leading to poor recruitments, bloated squad and followed by unfavourable results.

Despite the investments, we were declining in quality and value as a club, when we try to show ambition, we sabotage ourselves because of desperation borne out of being reactionary.

You know you are declining when you start clamouring for your old players who were deemed not good enough during their time at the club. I have seen people wish we had Walcott or Gervinho instead of Pepe, and Giroud instead of Lacazette to mention a few – there is a serious problem here.

How Do We Stop the Decline?

Stability At All levels:
Ivan and Wenger left, Mislintat and Emery came in, Mislintat resigned, Raul, Edu, Arteta, Raul now gone and all…… There is so much instability for a club in transition post Wenger.

My reason for wanting Arteta given time, apart from my belief that he is a smart coach, is because if a new coach comes in now, he will demand his own players and if things don’t change, we will keep changing managers. Stability and unity in key decision making is really important across all levels if we want to move forward as a club.

Smart Recruitment/Sales:
One of Wenger’s most admirable qualities was the ability to get gems on the cheap. Yes, he made some errors just as all managers and all clubs have done and will continue to do, but overall, he was very good in this department. We need to focus on this. Leicester and Liverpool are really good at this- Robertson- 8m, Matip -free, Arnold-free, Wijnaldum-8m Coutinho-7m to mention a few.

One of the many things I hate about the modern game is the belief that signing players for huge sums guarantees quality. Taking Arsenal as an example, we signed Holding for just 2m and Chambers for 16m but Holding has proven to be a better investment than Chambers in my opinion, he was a vital part of 3 FA cup triumphs. Saka, Martinelli despite being younger are far better than 72m Pepe. I could go on and on, but the point has been made.

We are where we are now because of some terrible recruitments over the years, we have a champions league wage bill, but we struggle to get Europa league. We need to stop signing old, washed up players who are no longer motivated, while also being very meticulous in extending the contracts of our older players.

We have lost and will still lose a lot of players for free which is not acceptable for a club like Arsenal, we need money from sales to improve the squad but if we keep losing players for free, how can we manage that? To be fair to the Kroenkes, they have tried in recent years, but those put in charge have mis-managed a lot of funds, let’s hope we can do better.

Change In Mentality and Culture:
Arsenal fans understand this better than anyone. It is no secret that we have to improve drastically in this department, even though it is not going to be easy, because how do you change a culture or behaviour of over 20 years in a year or two?

This mediocre mentality and laziness culture has eaten deep into the club and for us to compete with the best, we need to be ruthless and more demanding of ourselves as a club. We will start seeing changes from the summer as some of the players that represent this lazy and mediocre mentality and culture will be gone. We need to have a strong belief and progressive, positive mentality to stop this decline.

I believe Arsenal will be a force again, but we have to start getting things right as early as this new year, so we don’t slow down our progress.

You think I have missed something? Let’s know in the comments. Happy new year once again!



  1. You have said it all brother! Let’s start getting the players that are ready to make sacrifices for the club and not those that are only interested in high wages and become useless afterwards. Arteta must be able to harmonize and manage well, the present crops of tallents at his disposal. Because they weren’t as bad as the result they are getting if properly organized.

    1. You are right the board mismanaged funds Emery did not want Pepe but the board spent 72 million on him we should sell him it this window and if we have to take a hit so be it laziness in the team as been there for a long while now the youngsters are showing the senior pro’s up Abua is another one done nothing since he signed the new contract

      1. You are highly and rightly correct I wish our team,management and staff can read this post too and have a change of attitude

  2. – Stability at All Levels: Totally agreed. Arteta’s tactics are the best I’ve ever seen at Arsenal and we can’t afford another adaptation period from the new manager

    – Smart Recruitment/ Sales: Liverpool’s Moneyball player scouting system has proven to be much better than human scouts. Arsenal have laid off their scouts, so I hope they would create a better AI scouting system than Liverpool’s

    – Change in Mentality and Culture: Kroenke has to be more hands-on and set good examples for his subordinates. Arsenal shouldn’t allow any employee stay in his comfort zone without showing progress

  3. I concur with those above. I found myself nodding in agreement

    Kroenke and his son should be held accountable as the decline has happened during their ownership. They relied on Wenger to kept the club in the top 4 and employed executives to run the club whilst they concentrated on their American franchises.

    It is either down to their complete lack of understanding in what owning a club like Arsenal means to its legions of fans worldwide or it is a deliberate disinterest beyond the accumulation of wealth in asset they hold

    All of this has filtered downwards sadly

    1. SueP: You say “They relied on Wenger to kept the club in the top 4 and employed executives to run the club whilst they concentrated on their American franchises.”

      I promise you they run their American franchise the same way.

      One encouraging note though! The LA Rams become the youngest team in American Football. Let’s hope that’s the direction they take with Arsenal.
      Happy New Year.

      1. Thanks for that lcw
        I feel sorry for the fans in America then
        All I would add is that they – as in Kroenke – at least have an idea of the sports they have invested in, but it begs the question of his suitability as an owner from the outset
        How depressing

        1. SueP Young players cost a lot less in American Football and seldom require long term guaranteed contracts.

          It is even worse with Kroenke. The club was in a city where fans embraced him and tax payers build a beautiful stadium to show commitment and support. Despite that he moved the team to a different city and they are left with an empty stadium.

          So when people begrudge Arsenals players for making a lot of money, it does not jibe.

          1. The players have their contracts but when they have gone it is still the fans who are shortchanged (and I don’t mean monetarily)
            It’s a gloomy picture

      2. Unfortunately the Rams were left to fester and rot for too long until something drastic was needed which resulted in the move and youth policy. Could be similar to Arsenal but let’s not go to far with comparing us to Kroenkes other “franchise” sports enterprises. They are mostly soul less organisations without a passionate local fanbase and can easily be moved from one city to another.

        1. Geeze, learn your history, the Rams started in Philadelphia, moved to LA, then to St. Louis, and now back to LA. It is similar to many of the west coast teams in all US sports.

          1. From memory Kroenke bought the Rams from that woman,sorry I forgot her name, after they had moved from LA and won the title with a team that could have dominated. They then went into limbo post Kroenke and might be on the up again. Point I want to make there is that Arsenal should never have been allowed to be turned into a franchise team and thankfully in the UK as in Australia, grass roots and tribalism are important giving the sport some soul. This is the reason I respect Boston teams whatever the sport. They are rooted in the city and are part of its culture.

          2. Joe S: Good intentions but you are forgetting that money uproots and roots everything.

            The browns were an integral part of the city like no other city till the trucks come in at midnight. So were the Rams and the Raiders before them.

            If you read my previous posts I talked about the changes in EPL structure that mirror the NFL structure when the NFL become mostly about money. Arsenal, unfortunately, is the first team in the EPL heading that way.

            Judging from the change in operations, TV contracts and franchising , nothing you or I can do anything about it.

    2. Personally I feel the smart recruitment started in the Wenger Era, but it is mostly young 16 to 18 year olds with high potential, some how I think the club want to go the youth route, I mean why would we buy one or two youths in every window, this window it looks like Rekik so clearly there is a move in that direction, however I don’t know if the head coach/manager got the memo cause we still buying 30+ players which don’t make sense, the youth is the way to go groom them build them up if they don’t work out sell on for a decent example Iwobi and Walcott

  4. Spot on.

    Arsenal is really on a decline.
    Hopefully MA and team can challenge for top 6 at best if not stay in 10.
    Let MA stabalize more ground work n start having better results for next season.

    Some new players hopefully will joined and made a difference.
    Aub hopefully can in some scoring fun

  5. Nice article Goonerboy. Nice to see a well laid out argument that doesn’t start and end with ‘more investment’

    For me, an Arsenal that ticks your three boxes – stability, smart recruitment and positive, hard working mentality – is one I know I’d enjoy watching game in and game out.

  6. Good article. You have stated all problems we have and I agree changing the manager is not the solution rather it will add to the problems we have.

    However, your saying of the laziness and mediocrity culture of over 20 years make me wish this article was on paper so I could burn it to my satisfaction.

    The invincibles (the single greatest achievement in world football history) were in those 20 years you call of mediocrity and laziness. In those 20 years the Great Arsene Wenger achieved nothing sort of miracle by competing with the billionaires with non existent budget turning into kids and unknown players and make them into world beaters ( something he is so good at seeing that he made the premier League greatest player ever from scratch)

    Our real problems started after the great one left, not before.

    1. Correct that it wasn’t 20 years of decline, but it was something like 10. AW did push for a lot of the changes (inflated wages for younger unproven payers which definitely did lead to a culture of laziness, stadium move) and he did fail in his last 2 seasons realistically. You’re right though, that he performed admirably working with other issues that weren’t his fault, and against increasingly challenging competition.
      In any case, I guess it’s not the most important thing at this point. AW will always be remembered as a great manager but it is the past. As we agree, there are issues that were well addressed in the article.

      1. Yes it is a well written article with good and valid points about our current situation but completely ruined (in my opinion) by unnecessary dig to the great Arsene entire Arsenal career by calling it a culture of laziness and mediocrity.

        1. Admin Pat quite clearly stated out that he wasn’t aiming a dig at AW, whom he pointedly called “the Legend”. Aside from the 20 years, which I took as a little hyperbole or perhaps an unintentional error, it is a fairly presented overview and analysis, in my view.

        2. But there was a culture of laziness and over pampering that did creep into the club and it started from the wenger era. That is very accurate but like Davi said, it was mostly the last decade of the wenger era. Have you forgotten the accounts of van persie and fabregas?

          1. Good point Davi. Being mostly responsible for the “culture” and recruitment himself, Wegner would have known about all the cracks and weaknesses that he left behind. In retrospect you have to feel for Emery. On paper he had a decent playing list and Gazadis, Raul and Mislinat would have promised him the world as part of their recruiting pitch.. Huh! Little did he know the mess he had just walked into.

      2. Thanks Davi

        You have given a perfect response.

        @Highbury House

        I agree with your argument about the 20 years of laziness ,it was an error on my part. I will never ever undermine what Wenger has done for the club.

        1. I am glad to know you value the great Arsene contribution to the club. I am sensitive to criticism of him especially when some choose to ignore his achievements and selfless servitude to the club in favour of his shortcomings (if any).

          Regarding your 20 years culture of laziness and mediocrity I may have made a mountain out of molehill and in that case I apologize for my harsh response.

          Davi and Anders I appreciate your responses.

    2. Not quite true.
      There were plenty of investment in players in Wenger last few years. But he failed to make good use of it, and the decline did start under him.
      So Wenger was great for Arsenal, but it would have been better, if he hadn’t stayed too long.
      Even he has admitted that.

      1. But Anders have we progressed after the great Arsene left? Barely three years after his departure and there are talks of relegation already. Breaking unwanted records nearly every week with the worst results even some of our older fans haven’t seen in their days.

        Our current situation: does it support the notion that he should’ve left sooner or rather he left us too early without proper plan in place?

        We never finished 8th under him, there were never talks of relegation under him nor player politics. His reign was of piece and stability and always strived to ensure our club survival for many years to come.

        1. Were we on an upward trend, or even a plateau, when AW left? No, we were on a downward trend, clearly. Maybe the fact that Wenger fully understood the situation with the club was an advantage that Emery and Arteta couldn’t fully grasp when they started – they had/have to work against that culture (not just go along with it because it wasn’t working and still isn’t) and that takes time.

          1. Mikel spent 5 years at Arsenal and was a big part of what you call a downward trend as a captain so it’s fair to assume he understand a situation very well.

        2. @highbury Hero
          The decline started in Wenger last few years. We were overtaken not only by the couple of clubs, that spent more than us, but also by Spurs and Liverpool, who both have spent much less than us, but managed to do better. Wenger was given the chance to get us back on track and failed. Emery took over, and he didn’t manage to take us back to where our spending suggests, we should be.
          Arteta has the job now. In my opinions the jury i still out on whether, he is the right man to do it.

          1. Not correct Anders,

            As I replied before to Kstix who argued the same like you, from the last time we won the league to our FA Cup win after 9 years drought, Liverpool and Spurs (long before when top 4 was nothing more than a dream to them) spent nearly twice more than us. If I remember correctly the data Liverpool spent around 500M, Spurs around 450M and us around 290M-300M.

  7. Well Arteta got willan on high wages, Cedric who does not even feature in EPL and Mari who is only playing due to injuries.

    These guys are all Arteta buys and with us for 3 years, so i guess we start in 2024

    1. Mari and Cedric are fine. They are intentional squad players. Willian was brought in to be a reliable sub and has basically failed. Two out of three ain’t bad.

      1. Yeah I think the worry with Willian was the length of the contract, but he was great last season so most people were expecting he would at least be decent this year but not so far…

  8. As long as Arsenal keep having square pegs in round holes,the decline will continue. To achieve stability, you need competency, co-operation and cohesiveness in all areas, from the board down to the players. Arsenal must get rid of Edu to start with, as he has poor negotiation skills and very incompetent at his job. His arrogance does not bode well for good working relationship with others. His failure to offload fringe players has not helped Arsenal financially, as funds were needed to strengthen the team and the wage bill needed to be reduced. Although Arteta had sanctioned the acquisition of Houssem Aouar (creative midfielder )as his priority signing, Edu failed to seal the deal. Only now, he is saying that Arsenal needs a creative midfielder. Pathetic. Getting a loan deal for Kolasinac for the rest of the season and still paying the bulk of his salary before he leaves for free in the summer is such a horrible deal, that I would rather sell him for a cut price 9m pounds. Hope that Arsenal can earn cash sales for Mustafi, Ozil, Sokratis and Chambers, to raise the funds needed to strengthen team. Ceballos is not good enough and should be released. If possible, Willian should be sold too for anything. What a needless recruit and waste of funds. Arsenal must invest in younger quality players like Emiliano Buendia and Houssem Aouar.

  9. Some well put comments Goonerboy and many are true . But I have to challenge your excusing of the Kroenkes and ask you this question to which I would like your personal reply. Who was it who sanctioned the long and financial damaging tenure of Gazidis, AND Sanllehi and left both there to do huge damage ? Why Kroenke of course!

    As owner he MUST be and IS responsible for bad appointments and worse still, for not ending those bad appointments far sooner and thus at least limiting the damage they caused.

    Likewise, he left Wenger there too long, trading on past glories long behind him. That TOO was Kroenkes fault. Those are massive omissions on your part and spoilt what could and probably should have been a really good article.

    To miss or not recognise the PRIME and root cause of all our troubles as you have done and then to try defending the PRIME and absent and uninterested culprit is ,IMO, a bad mistake on your part, even though you made many other fair but lesser points than Kroenkes ultimate culpability!

    1. Lord Jon,
      Of course I didn’t leave out Kroenke- You may remember, before he became the sole owner of the club, decisions were made by the board as eventhough he was the majority shareholder, I am not sure he could make major decisions on his own.

      Since he became the sole owner, we have seen an improvement in investment/financing of the club albeit marginal but there has been a change.

      “Who was it who sanctioned the long and financial damaging tenure of Gazidis, AND Sanllehi and left both there to do huge damage ? Why Kroenke of course!”

      In my opinion, the tenure of Gazidis was not financially damaging as he alongside Wenger made a lot money for the club. We were always in the top 4 and to them there was no need to push on from there- for me, that’s what I will blame Kroenke for and not his absenteeism as that doesn’t really determine the ambition of the club.

      He could be sleeping in the Emirates and still have the Top 4 mentality, it’s no secret he said ““If you want to win championships then you would never get involved” – that is where the problem/decline started. The ambition has always been to make the Top4 which Wenger achieved for a long time.

      As for Sanllehi, at least he was realised or fired quickly and he wouldn’t have been appointed if Gazidis was staying.

      “Likewise, he left Wenger there too long, trading on past glories long behind him. That TOO was Kroenkes fault”

      Yes, he left Wenger there for long because he was making the Top 4 and like I said, I am not sure he would have been able to sack him as he was not the sole owner. To the fans, Wenger should have gone at least 5 years earlier but to Kroenke who was not interested in winning championships, Wenger was judged based on his last two years where he failed to make the Top4, had he made it, he would have at least completed his contract.

      Personally, I only blame Stan for the mentality and the ambition he has set for the club. It’s not every club owner that shows their faces at football matches, the most important thing is the goal, the ambition and the project he is set out to achieve and for that he receives all the blame.

      1. Look at City….they struggled to win the title last season and this year the are unlikely to win it….

        building a team needs time…

        both liverfool and Tottenham took quite a few seasons to build a strong squad and a spine/backbone of the team…

        with some minor additional and tactical changes, one can win the league….

        Liverfool has VAR and refs to assist them

        this year, Utd has the similar assistance to boost their momentum and form

    1. Very sound well written article, Goonerboy. I too take issue with the 20 year timeframe; however like you I also see the expulsion of David Dein as pivotal to the decline of the Arsenal. Secondly the premature breaking up of the Invincibles team resulted in a marked decline in the number of quality experienced players, rather than a more gradual transition with replacement of one or two players at a time. From that time on Arsenal always were two players away from having a team capable of competing for the EPL trophy, rather than making the Champions League places. In particular the failure to replace Gilberto Silva (a very underrated player IMHO) with a specialist DM, was paramount. In addition Arsene Wenger went for smaller more technical players in midfield, which reduced the physicality evident in successful winning Arsenal teams. The successful Arsenal teams I remember could either play you off the park or belt you off it, your choice. Unfortunately Arsenal has been bullied in midfield for years.
      The money coming into the EPL from the TV and commercial deals, as well as the purchase of some clubs by very wealthy owners prepared to invest, meant that many more clubs were financial able to compete at a higher level. No longer was there a big 4, but a big 10 or so, plus there is no game which is a turn up and win any more (eg West Bromwich Albion vs Liverpool).
      Arsenal unfortunately invested in a new stadium to boost matchday revenue at a time, when the above financial changes, meant that matchday revenue was a smaller component of club revenue. The ability of Arsenal to compete in the transfer market as a result of the Emirates construction financial constraints. Unfortunately this was exacerbated by poor scouting and recruitment and the overpaying of average players. Arsenal appeared to have lost the ability to identify lower cost potential options and failed to keep many of those it did develop.
      The promised success of competing with the best clubs in Europe has not been realize.
      With regard to the ownership of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, as jon fox states, an important criteria for successful business management is to select, engage and remunerate the best available. Under KSE the senior executive and Board, post David Dein have failed abjectly in supporting Arsene Wenger ( expecting him to do too much, spreading him too thin, with some poor decisions resulting) and as Joe. S states in the case of Unai Emery, expecting him to coach players, in whom he had no say in their purchase by the Club. And people wonder why a coach/manager cannot implement a style of play!
      Kroenke and son know very little if anything about Association Football; therefore it is critical that they bring to the Board expertise in specialist financial and player management consistent with the aims and ambitions of this great Club. As the late great Ken Thomas, who started with one truck and built TNT (Thomas Nationwide Transport): I have seen more businesses sent broke by MBA’s not understanding the business they are in, than any other cause.
      Hands off management only works if you employ very competent people. KSE have failed, to their financial detriment and failure of Arsenal FC to reach its potential and meet the ambition of supporters.

  10. Emery actually didn’t want Pepe but he was forced into it by the higher ups. He wanted Zaha.

    Kroenke & Co need to interfere less

  11. I usually applaud anyone who attempts to speak to the systemic failings of this club, but I do have some concerns with the substantive value of your attempts to solve the 3 issues you’ve raised…

    “stability at all levels” well, firstly, who doesn’t want that…no one…wishful thinking or “pie in the sky” come to mind…stability for stability’s sake means nothing, in fact it could make matters worse, like when we allowed Wenger to stay WAY too long, which is one of the major reasons why we’re where we are presently…the bigger question is how do we establish a more functional and productive environment for long-term success with such a relatively disinterested owner…some might say you certainly don’t create that environmen tby bringing in totally inexperienced individuals who are already prone to make mistakes, as they learn on the job, and who don’t possess the pedigree usually associated with being given a long leash…all that said, Arteta might be the one, but it’s an incredibly big ask, maybe too big

    “poor recruitment” now how does one solve this problem when we chase Diamond Eye from the club then we summarily fire our scouting staff…I’m not sure if I want to leave that task to MA, albeit he should definitely have a seat at the table, or Edu, who seems to have gotten his position largely because he helped to secure Martinelli, which is notable but not enough to justify such a lofty position within the organization and especially not to Kia, or any other “super” agent…so it does make one wonder how this can logically be achieved…if we want to create a team with a healthy balance of youth and experience, you need to have proven individuals on staff that can properly identify prospects/players that fit our clearly defined plans…I don’t think we presently have either…long gone are days when Wenger found hidden gem, in fact those days ended long before he ultimately made way…as we know, the whole footballing landscape has changed drastically, from a recruitment standpoint, as no rock is left unturned in the cutthroat world of talent evaluation and acquisition, so just as things got exponentially more complicated, we got way shittier at navigating our way through that world

    “mentality” as for your talk of reinvented the cultural wheel at our club, I actually agree in principle with most of your points…of course that’s always easier said than done, especially with our current ownership…I think this mentality metamorphosis needs to start at the top or it puts too much pressure on an already overburdened manager…there’s no doubt this has to change but I think it’s more likely through recruitment…we need to bring in someone with the necessary traits, who is on the same page as the manager and who is willing to devote the time and energy required for just such an undertaking…we’ve been so devoid of those traits that we’ve had 47 Captains over the last 10 years…what successful team has ever had a revolving door policy when it comes to naming’s an outright embarrassment of epic proportions

  12. Excellent, thought-provoking article Goonerboy. It is followed by some of the most intelligent and eloquent replies I have seen on any Arsenal fansite in a long time. In addition it has refreshingly also remained respectful throughout, without the many petulant personal gibes that are nowadays so prevalent.
    Thanks to all contributors – here’s hoping for more articles and threads like this one!

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