Just like how Leicester City experienced a fairy tale season, Arsenal too witnessed something similar in the 2003/04 season. They achieved a milestone that no other team in English football were able to do before by becoming the first Premier League team to go unbeaten in the entire season.
They just had the perfect blend of players and were even hailed as one of the best teams to grace the football pitch. That season let expectations mount up among fans and set the bar for a higher standard. But since then the club hasn’t won a single Premier League trophy.
Every club has its bad days, but the scale of success has remained the same for them – winning silverware, bringing the best fans and making the fans proud. For everyone concerned with Arsenal, it was a classic case of same old mistakes, different year as the Gunners endured another fruitless campaign without clinching silverware of any sort. The club was keen on meeting expectations and not exceeding them.
There is no doubt that Arsene Wenger has been one of the most influential managers at Arsenal in the Premier League. However, over the past 10 years, things have not been the same as the fans would have wished. While it is indeed a feat to accomplish a top 4 spot every season, Wenger has repeated the same mistake over the course of time.
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After eight tough seasons struggling to make it in the top two, Arsenal were going nowhere. The summer of 2012/13 was the worst transfer window Arsenal have had in recent times. Other top teams were strengthening their squads massively, with Chelsea buying the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Oscar and Eden Hazard.
Arsene Wenger still had a lot of homework to do if he was to end his trophy drought. After conceding a whopping 49 goals last season, one of their worst ever, fans were expecting a huge improvement in the backline.
Robin van Persie’s move to rivals Manchester United left Arsenal fans completely devastated. Wenger soon acquired the services of the Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, before adding more force in the form of Santi Cazorla. Alex Song who also spent most of his time on the bench followed the footsteps of Cesc Fabregas by joining Barcelona.
The campaign for the Gunners started on a good note with some stellar defensive performances throughout August and September. Arsenal’s new-found stability at the back was thought to be inspired by the new assistant manager, Steve Bould, after the departure of Pat Rice. Bould was the man to have inspired the new dimension at the back line.
Problems right from the beginning
However, as the season went on, Arsenal’s defensive woes continued to show up. Early season injuries to Polish goalkeepers Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski meant that third-choice goalkeeper Vito Mannone had to step in. Arsenal were still experimenting in finding the right combinations at the back and failed to display good defensive performances when needed.
Wenger could not rely on the injury-prone Thomas Vermaelen, who was replaced by a sluggish Per Mertesacker. Koscielny had a decent season and even chipped in with a few goals when needed, but his contributions weren’t enough. Nacho Monreal was signed in the January Transfer Window, while Andre Santos was loaned out to Brazilian side Gremio.
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Despite that, Wenger’s poor decision making and tactical blunders kept repeating and is what cost him the silverware. Lukas Podolski was made to play on the left flank despite being a brilliant forward given his exquisite finishing. A top class central midfielder like Aaron Ramsey was deployed on the wings with full trust. Players were made to sacrifice their favoured positions to fit into Wenger’s 4-3-3 formation.
Jack Wilshere had a huge responsibility on his shoulders after being handed the number 10 jersey, but injuries kept him out of action. Wenger relied on Diaby for his defensive attributes but he too fell prey to injuries. Spaniard Mikel Arteta spent the rest of the season anchoring the entire midfield single-handedly.
Due to an uncertain back four, October was plagued by losses to Norwich and Schalke 04 respectively, and suddenly the Gunners looked unguarded both domestically and in the Champions League. The traditional November curse kept haunting them which saw them slip away from the title race.
Arsenal's season went into a further downfall, the Gunners were knocked out of the Capital One Cup despite playing with a full strength line up. But Wenger did not learn anything from there. He rested key players against Blackburn and Arsenal also let the FA Cup slip from their hands. Later, Arsenal were humiliated by Bayern Munich at the Emirates.
The top four looked all over for the Gunners by early March. Arsenal were seven points adrift from Tottenham after losing at White Hart Lane. Their form picked up after being knocked out of the Champions League on away goals despite a convincing 2-0 win against Bayern Munich.
Arsenal’s improving domestic form saw them catch up to their bitter North London rivals in the race for the fourth spot, dumping them with a nerve-racking win over Newcastle on the last day of the season.
Arsenal’s immaturity, lack of preparation, and complacency in the transfer window was largely responsible for another disappointing season they endured. A period of poor performances between October and February cost them the chance of getting anywhere near silverware for the ninth season in a row and almost cost them Champions League football next season.
The Gunners finished fourth, a massive 15 points behind winners Manchester United, and recorded 21 wins, the same as Spurs, who finished behind their rivals by one point.
The present transfer window will be one to look forward to for the Gunners.They have already brought in the likes of Rob Holding, Granit Xhaka and Takuma Asano. However Wenger’s search for a top class striker still continues and if he fails to do so, another woeful season would be in store for the London club.