Firstly, they’ve fallen behind their more illustrious rivals because they’ve been unwilling to bend their financial principles. They won’t pay over the odds for a player, which is admirable, though you have to accept it every now and then if you’re to maintain any serious ambition as a football club.
When Manchester City bought Sergio Aguero from Atletico Madrid, he wasn’t the beast he is now, but they still splashed £40m on him. Arsenal wouldn’t have done that. Admittedly, they’ve got better in recent seasons, where they’ve bought established names like Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil, but had they bought one or two more in that class, you suspect they could have won the title.
In a way, Arsenal have fleeced their fans. They ask them to pay the biggest prices for tickets, yet they’re unwilling to spend the biggest amounts on transfer fees. They’ve previously used the repayments owed to the construction of the Emirates Stadium as an excuse. But if you look, their statements have shown that they’ve had the money to spend on players if they’d really wanted to. Even when the stadium was paid off, they seemed unwilling to spend. As a result they’ve been left with too many average players who have been unable to win them the league.
There are other factors. It’s difficult to know how much blame should be apportioned to the club, but when the same players are being lost to injury for long periods, every season, questions have to be asked. The likes of Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Abou Diaby had a history of missing large chunks of a league campaign. Do Arsenal rush their key players back too quickly? There are lessons to be learned there.