By 90Min
June 19, 2019

Following their 4-1 defeat in the Europa League final to Chelsea, Arsenal will play Europa League football next season for the third campaign running.

The Gunners not being an elite club playing in the Champions League is no longer a one-off, and they have the feel of a club who don't seem to know where they're going in the short or long term.

So how have a club who went an entire Premier League campaign unbeaten just 15 years ago, with a side that boasted the likes of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp, become a team that look a million miles off reaching those great heights once again?

Arsenal are, of course, not a bad team, and most other teams in the country would take their current position in a heartbeat, but it is incredibly frustrating seeing one of English football's great clubs constantly flatter to deceive. 

But how has it come to this? Well, we've analysed those 15 years since that great unbeaten team, and pinpointed ten incidents and factors that have led to Arsenal no longer being among Europe's elite.


10. Not Replacing Cesc Fabregas

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Arsenal signed a 16-year-old Cesc Fabregas in 2003 from the Barcelona youth academy, and the Spaniard's talent was immediately clear for all to see.

Following the departure of club legend Patrick Vieira, Fabregas was given the task of taking control of the midfield, and he excelled.

During his 303 appearances for the Gunners, the World Cup winner became an elite attacking midfielder, often carrying the side to respectable finishes and was clearly head and shoulders above his teammates.

He was eventually sold back to Barca in 2011, and despite knowing this would be happening months in advance, Arsenal didn't seem prepared in the slightest, and it could be argued that they haven't possessed a player of his ability ever since.


9. Not Winning the Premier League in 2016

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Following their historic title win in 2004, Arsenal made the grave mistake of standing still and not capitalising on their dominance.

While Arsenal stalled, Chelsea became a real force, Sir Alex Ferguson had put Manchester United back on the summit, and Manchester City became the richest club in the world.

However, in the 2015/16 season, all of those sides, for varying reasons, had fallen away from the title race, and the door was wide open for the north London club to reclaim their crown.

But in typical Arsenal fashion, they blew it, and amazingly ended up finishing ten points behind eventual winners Leicester City, who were 5000/1 outsiders to win the league at the start of the season.

This was by far Arsenal's best chance to win their 14th title for over a decade, and they may not get a better chance to do it for a number of years.


8. Selling All Those players to Manchester City

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Following numerous years of finishing way behind Chelsea and Man United, Arsenal's star players were starting to get restless, right as there became a new team on the block who weren't afraid to throw some serious money around.

Following Sheikh Mansour's takeover a year prior, the 2009 summer transfer window would be the first under the new Manchester City regime, and they immediately showed that they weren't messing around by going after some of their rival's biggest stars.

One such rival happened to be Arsenal, as Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor were sold to the Citizens for a combined £39m, before Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri followed them to the north west two years later, with Bacary Sagna also jumping ship in 2014.

Now selling your best players is one thing, but selling them all to a team who are specifically targeting to take your place at the top just seems extremely counter-productive.


7. Not Finding a Good Enough Replacement for David Dein

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Following Arsene Wenger's departure last summer, the Frenchman claimed that one of his biggest regrets as manager was not working with former vice-chairman David Dein for longer.

Dein, who appointed Wenger in 1996, shockingly resigned from the role in 2007 following a breakdown in communication with the board.

"He had a special vision for the future, for the Premier League and as well he gave me, a foreign manager, a chance when nobody knew me here," Wenger said to ESPN, while Cesc Fabregas claimed: "It wasn't the same once he left."

Dein was eventually replaced by Ivan Gazidis two years later, but the Englishman's ideas and way of thinking were ahead of its time, and once he left, the club had lost a supremely intelligent football man who could help Wenger in the transfer market. 


6. Giving Mesut Ozil THAT Contract

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At first glance, this didn't seem like too much of a disaster.

In January 2018, Arsenal had somehow allowed their two best players, Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, to have just six months left on their contracts, which meant they would be off for free in the summer.

Instead, they allowed Sanchez to join Man Utd, while Ozil signed a new three year deal at the club. Happy days...right?

Wrong. 

Because that contract meant that Ozil, a 29-year-old who has a low work-rate and often goes missing in big games, was now on more than £300,000 a week - which was more than double most of those playing at the Emirates.

Naturally, this ruined the wage structure at the club and made players unhappy, which has now of course led to Aaron Ramsey joining Juventus this summer, while the club seem stuck with Ozil's wages until 2021.

This is a prime example of Arsenal pressing the panic button, and it backfiring big time.


5. Being Too Tentative in the Transfer Market

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For years, it always seemed like Arsenal were just one or two signings away from being the force everyone knew they could be.

But it forever seemed that Wenger was far too stubborn and far too loyal to his players to plug the gaps, particularly in goal post Jens Lehmann and upfront following Robin van Persie's departure.

The most famous example of Arsenal not pulling the trigger on a major transfer was when they reportedly had the opportunity to sign Liverpool forward Luis Suarez for £40m, only for the club to pull the plug on the deal at the last minute.

The finger of blame was often pointed at Wenger, but it turns out that the board may have hung him out to dry on numerous occasions. By the time they finally signed a world class keeper in Petr Cech and a prolific striker in Alexandre Lacazette, they had fallen way behind the rest in the Premier League.


4. Not Fixing the Defence

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Here's a crazy thought: Arsenal haven't had a world class centre-back since Sol Campbell, who left the club in 2006.

Since then, they have brought in defenders ranging from good but injury prone (Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen), to down right disasters who make at least three errors a game (Shkodran Mustafi and Andre Santos).

Arsenal used to be famed for having a strong backline full of leaders, and even had the entire England back five in the late 90s, with the club boasting the likes of Ashley Cole, Martin Keown and Tony Adams pre-2004.

But now, they look like a side who simply cannot defend, having unbelievably only kept one league clean sheet away from home last season, and recent years have faced humiliations such as the 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford, the 6-0 hammering at Stamford Bridge, and a 10-2 humbling against Bayern Munich over two legs in the Champions League.

Those results are becoming worryingly common for the club, and Unai Emery will be probably be shopping for entirely new back four this summer.


3. Selling Robin van Persie to Manchester United

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You don't need hindsight to realise that this was a very dumb thing to do.

By the time 2012 had come round, Arsenal had become a selling club which was a level below the very top, but they at least had the English football's form striker in Robin van Persie.

Problem was, the Dutchman only had a year left on his contract (good thing they never let that happen again), and the then 28-year-old decided he wanted out of the Emirates after scoring 30 Premier League goals the previous campaign.

So rather than let him go for free the following year, they decided to sell him for £24m...to proverbial title rivals Manchester United.

With this sale, the Gunners might as well have wrapped up the Premier League title, tied a little bow, and written a good luck message to Sir Alex, as Van Persie was instrumental in delivering the Red Devils their 20th championship.


2. Keeping Arsene Wenger for Too Long

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Okay, this might be harsh, but think about it.

The fan base was totally divided on whether Wenger should be in charge of the club, half seemed to think he was doing a good job with what he had, and the other half thinking he had run his course.

However, as mentioned earlier, 2016 seemed like Arsenal's last big chance to really achieve something special, and by the time Arsenal had finished sixth in the league in 2018, most of the Emirates Stadium had come to the conclusion that the Frenchman's time was way up.

The club had needed a reboot for many years, and that simply wasn't going to happen while Wenger was still there.

Wenger had achieved some wonderful things while at the helm, and he is arguably one of the most important figures in the history of English football. But the club descended into mediocrity under his stewardship, and while that may not have been all his fault, he was never really going to realistically win back that fan base.


1. Selling the Club to Stan Kroenke

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While Wenger undoubtedly did his best in his time at the club, the same certainly cannot be said of American billionaire and now majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke.

His previous record of the way he had treated fans of certain US sports teams didn't make for encouraging reading for Gunners' supporters, and rumours of his impending takeover even led to the much loved David Dein leaving the club.

By 2008, Kroenke was a board member, and three years later, he had completed his takeover to become the majority shareholder.

Since then, he has done very little to help the Gunners get back to the top of the pyramid, and the club only winning not winning the league or Champions League in his time there is not a coincidence.

Similar to the Glazer family at Man United, Kroenke seems to take more money out of the club than he puts in, and it has left the club needed an overhaul of playing staff, with very little money to fix that problem.

It's not hard to see why the club's fans are so desperate for the American to get out of the club as soon as possible.

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