Arsenal fans have not had an easy summer.
The promise of Gonzalo Higuain, Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney, Luiz Gustavo and Stevan Jovetic arriving has come to nothing – the marquee signing has evaded them.
In a video that quickly went viral, one growling Arsenal fan summed up how many are feeling after a long summer of failures. His stirring attack on the board, Arsene Wenger and Mirror journalist John Cross eventually drew a crowd and won him applause from similarly disillusioned fans after Christian Benteke - incidentally another failed Arsenal signing - condemned the Gunners to a miserable opening day.
“You’ve taken the pride out of this club, Gazidis,” Hudson barked. “The board must shape up or get out because you’ve let all the fans down. You should be ashamed of yourself Gazidis!”
He couldn’t have said it better. Following a summer of big spending at Manchester City and Tottenham, Arsenal already have their work cut out to even get fourth again. They always seem to scrape through, but under Stan Kroenke, it would appear the Gunners are living on borrowed time.
Arsenal have lost more ground this summer than any other side in the top six. The squad is paper-thin and patience is running out. Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Fenerbache was a resounding victory, and one Wenger must take great credit for engineering amidst such hostility. But the anger won’t disappear unless Arsenal spend.
Wenger may have signed a few turkeys throughout the years – Francis Jeffers and Andre Santos spring to mind – but his dealings in the transfer market have generally been sound. The ‘Invincibles’ were a side assembled by Wenger and more recent acquisitions such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Cazorla prove Wenger can be trusted to identify and recruit the right personnel.
So what has gone so badly wrong in the market this summer? Poor planning? A lack of real transfer strategy?
Wenger suggested after the Villa defeat that Arsenal are finding it difficult to compete with the likes of Monaco, who are able to trump the offer of Champions League football with dizzying pay packets. The fact he mentioned Monaco and not, say Manchester City, perhaps indicates that Wenger’s preference is still to recruit from France – but surely there is someone Arsenal could have signed.
Take Etienne Capoue, for example: a long term Arsenal target and exactly the kind of powerful and combative midfielder they need, yet rivals Spurs picked him up for a very reasonable £9million. So yet again, Plan A becomes Plan C, and Arsenal have been forced to turn to re-sign Mathieu Flamini on a free. Hardly a signing to get the pulse racing.
There was a genuine belief that this summer was going to be different for Arsenal. Having watched Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie leave in each of the past two years, the early chase for Higuain and the interest in Rooney suggested a real shift in strategy. Arsenal fans were asked to be patient.
But the problem at Arsenal is a structural one. Gazidis appears powerless, Kroenke disinterested and Wenger stubborn. It’s certainly not a triangle of love.
In the United States, fans vote with their feet when things are going badly and perhaps that’s the only way for Arsenal’s irritated core to force Kroenke into action. A few thousand empty seats at the Emirates may just make him think. But most Arsenal fans turn up each week almost to sympathise with the players that are out there.
The impressive win in Turkey will have pacified the fans for now, but a tricky away game at Fulham awaits. Another defeat could spark real mutiny at the Emirates.
Read more articles by Michael.