Forget these transfer war chest stories – Arsenal fans don’t buy it anymore

Being an Arsenal fan is uniquely repetitious. Their seasons seem to follow an uncannily similar pattern—the Gunners start well, briefly threaten to challenge for major trophies, then are ultimately forced to scale back their ambitions to cup runs and Champions League qualification. 

Another eerily familiar aspect of supporting Arsenal is the series of stories that seem to accompany each annual collapse—promises of transfer war-chests and radical reinvention. The problem is that fans simply aren’t buying it anymore.

It happens like clockwork. When Arsenal’s season begins to collapse, usually in the spring, we suddenly hear reports that Arsene Wenger is going to be handed an ‘unprecedented’ transfer budget in order to overhaul the squad.

This season, that’s come in tandem with enticing tales of a prospective revamp of the club’s off-field staff. Ivan Gazidis has spoken publicly of the need for a “catalyst for change” and it sounds as if neither the coaching staff nor the board members will be exempt from this purgative revolution.

Of course, it’s impossible to say definitively whether or not these stories have emerged from within the club—but it certainly feels like it. After all, Arsenal have an increasingly disaffected fanbase who urgently need to be won round. 

Every year, the Gunners need to ensure they’ve got the supporters onside by the time season ticket renewals come around. In the past, they’ve made sure to make early moves in the transfer market to engender excitement about the forthcoming campaign—the signings of Lukas Podolski and Granit Xhaka were both made before June even began.

This year, the Arsenal board’s task is greater than ever. Not only do they have to re-convince Arsenal fans to part with thousands of pounds to watch a team who seem locked in an inexorable decline—they may have to do so having handed a new contract to a manager many fans want gone.

Right now, it seems as if Arsenal and Wenger are simply waiting for an opportune moment to announce a contract extension. If Wenger was minded to go, he would surely have admitted as much before now. The benefits are too obvious to ignore: not only would it put an end to the constant speculation, but it would also shift the mood at Arsenal to one of catharsis and nostalgia—surely a better environment for the team to try and salvage their season.

No, Wenger wants to stay, and the board most likely want him to stay too—the problem is those pesky results. With each defeat the ‘Wenger Out’ movement grows, and it’s becoming more and more difficult for Arsenal to sell fans on another two years with this embattled boss.

So in order to provide some counter-balance, Arsenal fans are being bombarded with stories suggesting every other element of the club is open to change. The transfer budgets are going to be bigger, with reports of £200million at Wenger’s disposal. There’s even talk that he could be open to accepting working alongside a new Director of Football, with Marc Overmars and Patrick Vieira among the names mentioned. 

Quite why it’s Wenger’s choice is another thing. It’s also entirely valid to ask why Arsenal are asking one of the most infamously intransigent managers in football to change his spots, when they could simply appoint a guy with a new and radical approach.

The latest ‘good news’ to emerge from Arsenal is a report from James Olley of the Evening Standard stating that the club are now prepared to offer Alexis Sanchez a record-breaking salary of £300,000 per week. 

Given that they’ve had all season to do that, this sounds a little like locking the stable door after the horse has bolted. Most fans have grown so cynical that they’ll interpret this as posturing by the club having accepted Alexis is likely to leave.

Sadly, Arsenal have lost the trust of their fans. It will take more than a few well-timed press briefings to win that back.