Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis was right when he said Arsenal have improved their squad depth from last season. Two new summer signings in Sead Kolasinac and Alexandre Lacazette were acquired in positions the Gunners desperately needed to strengthen, and keeping hold of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez provided a boost to a supporter base who faced Europa League football for the first time in almost two decades.
Gazidis’ comments are largely worded in a way to get everyone on side and it’s understandable that the former MLS chief wouldn’t want a repeat of last season’s negativity, which saw the campaign clouded in questions over manager Arsene Wenger’s future and protests surrounding the Frenchman’s contract situation that the man himself described as a “distraction”.
Pessimism, however, is always bubbling away on the surface and the reaction after Arsenal’s recent 4-0 defeat against Liverpool certainly wasn’t unprecedented. As they string together an early run of positive results in all competitions, a familiar theme appears to be playing out, in which the Gunners bounce back from an early-season loss to put on an impressive spurt of form.
Cynics would argue that the annual Arsenal collapse won’t get into full throttle until a tricky set of fixtures present themselves at the turn of February.
But one positive to come out of the club’s Europa League campaign is that the squad depth is shown in such a way that an entire second string are getting competitive games and pushing for regular starting spots.
“We have at least two teams, two good teams,” said striker Olivier Giroud.
“We’ve got a lot of competition in the team. It’s nice for everybody because we need to be focused and competitive. It keeps the focus high and always improves us.
“It’s always nice to have good players alongside you and to push you forward. Trust me, we’ve a very good team on paper tomorrow.”
Four first-team players left the club over the summer but all departures were ones that Wenger sanctioned. The likes of Jack Wilshere remained and now he is one of several fringe players benefiting from Arsenal’s participation in the Europa League – and the Englishman is beginning to look like the midfield maestro who ran the show against Barcelona six years ago.
The recent clean sheet away to Chelsea proved that Arsenal are capable of putting in a different type of performance when required. However, the main problem with Wenger’s sides over the years has always been consistency and being able to maintain their level during key periods in the season.
Ultimately, though, Arsenal’s issues run much deeper than squad depth.
The results since moving to the Emirates Stadium both at home and abroad point to a lack of organisation and strategy at board level, with little to no culpability on the head of a manager who has failed to mount a genuine title challenge for the best part of a decade.
Wenger would have been hard placed to find a supporter who didn’t want him to sign a central midfielder over the summer, but Arsenal’s transfer business proved fruitful overall. The incomings were of the highest quality and the outgoings were the right ones. It’s at board level where things really need changing and supporters should be concerned that majority shareholder Stan Kroenke has made an offer for Alisher Usmanov’s shares in the club.
If Usmanov accepts, the American will own over 97% of the shares and would then be able to register Arsenal in the US. It would mean no more Annual General Meeting – where fans can voice their concerns – and a decreased transparency in the financial affairs. Kroenke owning the entirety of Arsenal Football Club could prove the final nail in the coffin for the north London side.
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