Not long after the Emirates stadium opened I was told by a person I met in the Tollington that Arsenal were set to spend the next ten years severely shackled.
I didn’t believe it, because the club told us the move wouldn’t impact any of that. Plus, it was a randomer in a pub who didn’t even bring me a Betchain bonus code 2018.
Arsenal had it sorted. We were sweet.
But as the years rolled on and the players and trophies left, it became clear that what the board and Wenger were saying did not line up at all with what they were actually doing.
Only when the shackles were finally released did they even admit they had existed in the first place.
Now, however, the Emirates dream is supposed to be in full flow with Arsenal challenging the best in the world. Yet we can’t even challenge Brighton.
Free of those shackles, the club broke transfer record after transfer record in recent windows, but many of their decisions have seemed downright bizarre.
There were gaping holes in the squad, areas that went unaddressed for years.
These weren’t small glitches that only the most obsessed fan noticed, these were problems so big children were asking about them.
It all culminated in the most recent set of windows which have been as confusing as they have been exciting.
So desperately in need of an exceptional goalkeeper, we brought in Petr Cech, deemed no longer good enough for our rivals. It made sense because, already at the club, we had a young keeper oozing talent who just needed competent guidance and direction, something he could get from Cech.
The chance to learn from the title-winning veteran was something Wojciech Szczesny admitted he was also looking forward to.
But instead of allowing that to happen, Arsenal sent him on loan.
When Woj improved to such a level that he was both considerably better than any options at Arsenal and seen as a possible replacement for the best goalkeeper football has seen in generations, we sold him to Juventus for a sum so insulting you’d think he was Manuel Almunia.
We have desperately needed experienced central defenders for years, with Wenger saying he likes to have four senior centrebacks at the club and then counting Nacho Monreal as one of them. We bought talented kids and then played them too quickly and too much until they broke.
We needed a defensive midfielder but we got attacking instead.
We turned down Cesc Fabregas despite having no fit midfield to speak of.
When we finally lucked upon Coquelin, recalling him from his loan, we played him when he was rubbish and then binned him when he was needed.
It was the same with Theo Walcott.
He spoke out of turn and was hardly seen again. Wenger, the club and the player can say what they want about what happened, but any fool who can count can see how Walcott was exiled from the first team after his Crystal Palace comments.
Even when the team needed him – and make no mistake they have needed him plenty this season, no matter how much we all got on his back for not reaching the expectations we formed for him when he was 16 – Wenger ignored him while telling us there was no issue.
Granit Xhaka seems to be a player brought in even though Wenger didn’t even seem to know what position he played or what type of midfielder he was.
Shkodran Mustafi arrived one year and wanted out the next and Lee Dixon recently admitted that Gary Neville told him Valencia couldn’t give Mustafi away before Arsenal arrived with an offer closer to £40m than £30m.
Gabriel lasted 18 months before being allowed to leave because he wasn’t happy.
Refusing to just take Manchester City’s money for Alexis Sanchez when it was clear the little brat wanted out was another blunder.
Admittedly, this worked out well as we got Mkhitaryan, a player we would never have bought with money we’d have wasted elsewhere. Alexis being made to look like a money-grabbing little twat and Pep being annoyed were two lovely little cherries.
But I hardly think that outcome was the grand plan all along. They just got lucky.
And that’s the thing. For so long there doesn’t seem to have been a plan.
If there was, for it to match up with what we’ve witnessed this season, it would have to read something like:
Arsenal’s 2017/18 master plan
1Sell all the players
…who scored the most goals last season.
2Break your transfer record on a forward to replace those goals
…but don’t play him for a while. When you do eventually use him, be sure to take him off in every game, especially if you need a goal, to ensure his confidence is crushed properly.
3To ensure the above
…break your transfer record on another forward who can’t even play in the Europa League, our one chance of getting into the Champions League. Do it in a way that makes the aforementioned striker know that he has been reduced to the status of backup just months after being sold the dream of playing with Alexis Sanchez in an harmonious squad.
4Sell the club’s only defensive midfielder
5Buy a defender
…then tell fans he is too good to be sent on loan but never use him, no matter how many mistakes the first-choice defence make.
6Keep David Ospina
…sell Wojciech Szczesny, loan out Emiliano Martinez and make no attempt to find a competent goalkeeper above the standard of average.
7Keep Danny Welbeck
…sell Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud, loan out Lucas.
8Ensure players’ ambitions of going to the World Cup are met…
…even if that means selling them to a rival so they are happy.
9Shatter the wage structure
…by paying Mesut Ozil a ridiculous salary out of desperation thus ensuring every player now knows how to ensure a massive payday. New streams of revenue will have to be sought to offset this additional expense. Ticket prices will, of course, have to be increased.
10Give in to Manchester City
…as late as possible in the transfer window.
11Give in to Manchester City
…as soon as possible when playing them.
12Gift every manager three points
…as a farewell present from Wenger.
13Ensure a record number of smaller clubs
…enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience by outplaying and beating Arsenal
If that was the plan then congratulations, Arsenal, you nailed it!
If it wasn’t, does anyone have a clue what it actually was?