The Truth About Arsenal’s Trophy Drought

by Stefan Vasilev

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

For the sixth year in a row, Arsenal are struggling to win trophies. Three chances of doing so were wasted in a matter of two weeks. Who is to blame?

Anyone but Arsene Wenger.

In 15 years, Arsenal have achieved just enough to match the famous Herbert Chapman side of the 1930s that dominated England. Seven trophies won under Wenger, just the same amount as the 30s teams.

Yet, six years of trophy drought stand like a gaping wound in the heart of anyone who cares about Arsenal, a club that has won the Premier League 13 times and many other trophies, including the European Cup Winners Cup and the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, but not the most prestigious one: the Champions League, the tournament that grants clubs the permit to call themselves giants of football.

For many years Arsene Wenger has failed to secure the trophy that could signify the real growth of the North London club. In fact, he has not won anything for six years, despite being close on several occasions.

What is wrong with the Arsenal?

Simple: It’s financial. It’s a business.

While the FA is concerned about spreading the popularity of the English Premier League, the clubs are left to do similar tasks themselves.

In 1999, following a spectacular double the year before, the administrative board made a decision to build a new venue capable of hosting over 60,000 people—a stadium that would bring Arsenal closer to the image of a big club, closer to the biggest clubs on the football stage.

It was a clear signal that work is being done to ensure Arsenal become one of the best, if not the best, in the world.

In 2004, construction of the stadium situated at Ashburton Grove began. 390 million pounds were needed to fulfill the immense project, and most of the money was borrowed from banks.

In 2006, the Emirates Stadium was built and its naming rights sold for 100 million pounds for the next 15 years. On top of that, business spread its hands from football and to property development in the place of the old iconic stadium Highbury.

The total cost of both projects amounted to an astounding 470 million pounds.

To make matters worse, the credit crunch gave birth to the economic crisis in 2007.

Despite all the obstacles, by means of rigid savings which have annoyed fans on countless occasions—inactivity on the transfer market, low players’ wages and others—the club has unbelievably managed to reduce its enormous debt to peanuts.

It now has no property debt, and the debt still looming for the Emirates project was cut to 203.6 million by February 2010.

The debt is continuing to diminish and, at the current rate, it will be fully repaid in a couple of years, with the new stadium left to generate clear profit.

With the Emirates business move, Arsenal have become the best-run club in England and are financially rivaling giants like Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Arsene Wenger has been a key figure in that transition becoming possible.

Frugal, he’s been called, stubborn for refusing to buy expensive new players, and other epithets derived from the frustration of fans who only see results on the field.

As teams like Barcelona, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City sink into more debt, Arsenal are on their way up and out of it.

The French manager has managed to keep the team title-competitive in times of financial crisis. It’s undoubtedly a big achievement and its long-term effects should not be underestimated.

Despite selling key players throughout the years, despite living through hard times of trophy drought, Wenger is on the right track.

The squad looks much closer to completion than it did last year. Yes, great disappointments were suffered in a matter of two weeks this season, but what should not be forgotten is that Arsenal is on a road to join the biggest football clubs in the world.

It’s funny how the club is already considered to be in the top 10, despite not winning anything for six years.
This year, although the nightmare of injuries in crucial times is beginning to affect performance, Wenger’s men have been consistent enough to have the chance to battle for the Premier League title once again.

Wenger is a man on a mission to help transform the club for the better and to leave it in a completed state before his departure.

Doubts dispersed, he should not be relieved of his post before he completes his mission. Fans should not overlook his work behind the scene.

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  • billy

    interesting blog, but the truth is we should of signed a center back in Jan, we could of got Samba or Cahill for 10 million. Both of those players will go for double that in the summer.

    There’s no denying Wenger is a brilliant manager, but he is to loyal to poor players who offer the club nothing. Denilson, Bendtner for example

  • Qudzy


  • Stefan Vasilev

    What do you mean? 🙂

  • Stefan Vasilev

    Billy, it’s a question of do Arsenal want to win trophies now and become more indebted or clear the debt and then complete the team. It’s not as bad as many people think. They are getting impatient. I guess this summer may be turning point in the transfer market policy.

  • Enfield Gooner

    I agree with your points completely!

    Yes it is frustrating not winning the CC or the league when realistically we could have with a few better players BUT we are again going to finish in the top four with meagre spending and a stadium debt now down to £135 Million… look at the spuds and liverpool – what have they won recently and where is their new stadiums?

    One word for them – fantasy and unrealistic expectation only used in the hope of keeping their fans hopeful for the future. Honestly, who is going to spend £300 Million now? More likely they will not build a stadium in the next ten years due to the financial situation and for all that time our revenue is increasing….

    Arsene Wenger built the Invincibles and my word was that a team! One word: History makers. Give him time and it will happen again.

    He will buy, I am sure he is as disappointed as we all are and has seen the light with players like Denilson, Diaby, Rosicky, Bendtner, Alumina who are NOT GOOD ENOUGH for Arsenal.
    Personally, Clichy, Eboue, Squillachi are not good enough either and ship out anyone with a poor attitude as well.

    Look at it this way, Wilshere is now a regular and more valuable (To me anyway) than Cesc. The spuds used to laugh at us about Almunia but who is better: Gomes or Szczesny?
    Nasri has come of age as have other youngsters.

    We are not far off !

  • michael anderson

    im glad every person ^^^ commenting seems to have entirely missed the point of this article…well done

  • Xavier

    Arsenal have one of the higest wage bill u dumb shit!
    Enjoy supporting a business not a football club.

  • Mystical Mike

    the kids policy is flawed, we now know that. Wilshire aside, who else is there? United are rebuilding whilst still winning trophies, that’s the big difference!

    go on say it, how much debt are they in though

    if there was a league table for profit and debt then we would be contenders every year, unfortunately trophies are given out on the pitch!

  • Stefan Vasilev

    Hmmm, no need to swear. Ok, they have one of the highest wage bills in the premier league, but what they don’t have are players who know how to win trophies. They sold them all to pay for the Emirates. Only recently, Wenger started buying more experienced players once again – Arshavin, Squillaci (although he’s shit), Chamakh. Still, that’s not enough.

    This crop of players will certainly mature, but as it seems time has run out and the fans are impatient with the manager. The way out of this is to buy a couple of players with trophy-winning know-how to help the younger ones.

  • Stefan Vasilev

    Yeah, the thing is United did not sell their rocks – Ferdinand, Van der Saar, Giggs, Scholes, Neville until recently. Without them, their youngster wouldn’t have had the chance to improve as much.

    That’s what Arsenal are missing. Experience.

    It will come naturally, but there is not time to wait anymore.

    Oh, and, apart from Wilshere, we have Frimpong and Ignasi Miguel who I’m expecting to make it next season. Also, Vela.

  • Minyahil

    Can Mr. AW assures me not going down to 4th place in the rest two matches? i don’t think. Please BUY BUY BUY and fill the void. If this was done the expense on the players in would have been re payed more than 4 times from the trophy and new fans additions

  • Amadu Jalloh

    ur blog is funny to me and all the arsenal fans in africa,u are ok with ur wenger who for six years cannot win a single.let me remind u that he is worst arsenal manager in the history of the club,we want trophies ,u can also make pprofit by wining trophies.soo wenger will turn arsenal into ajax.

  • Andy

    Money was not the reason for losing Carling Cup? Money was not the reason for blowing a 4-0 lead. Money was not the reason for losing against Stoke, Blackburn, West Brom. Buying experience players won’t solve Arsenals’ issues. The manager has to take a long look at himself.

  • goonergerry

    This piece exaggerates the debt reduction, which is more than 260m, but a well controlled debt non the less.
    Arsenal are making an operating profit for 3 reasons, firstly they charge the fans the highest prices in the world to watch a game. Secondly, they have sold players like Adebayor and Toure to help fund debt reduction on interest rates, and thirdly they simply refuse to spend money on transfer fees. This whole approach is unsustainable. Arsenal are ambitious off the pitch but unrealistic on it.
    The squad is underinvested in experience, the team is unable to win trophies and the fans are not being offered value for money and will eventually lose interest. At the moment a significant number are angry.
    The Arsenal team is half as good as it was 7 years ago and costs fans three times as much to support and somehow this is construed as progress .
    It is all very well talking about clear profit-but profits are not being spent on addressing weaknesses in the team-so as a fan why should I care?-its just another rip off like Arsenal catering. If Arsenal want a more sustainable team they have to buy some star players and hold on their best players-who have lost faith in the clubs ambitions on the pitch.

  • Stefan Vasilev

    Good comment, gerry. You missed that Arsenal generate income through property development as well. Their debt is even less than the number I’ve written (net debt). It stood at 147 million in November 2010. Check this link, page 13:

    REad the summary. They clearly state they will put money back into the club for success on the field. This doesn’t mean they will spend more than 30 million on a player – it’s Wenger after all – but it states the intentions of the club.

    Personally, I want them to buy players too and win something at last, but the article just makes a point why they have not spent monstrous amounts of cash. There are plenty of problems but much less than last season for example. As you pointed out, the fans see results on the field, I am one of them, and want success. But it will definitely come as Arsenal have some great youngsters. They only need someone experienced to show them the way.

  • Dedie

    Your article sir is very true and has so much sense in it. The current squad is somehow 70% perfect. What would 30% spent in strengthening the squad and turning it into an experienced winning squad be of any harm? Let’s spice up the team and be proud Professor, shall we?

  • Mystical Mike

    @Andy, you hit the nail on the head mate!

    We have the players capable of winning trophies, it’s the mentality we don’t have, and that comes with experience. William Gallas should of never have been given away, he makes mistakes but he’s better than what we got.

    Are you telling me player for player that Chelsea and United have a better squad than us?

  • Stefan Vasilev

    Mike, they got some dinosaurs that know what they are doing…in the long run. Otherwise, we can beat in a direct clash, as this season showed. I agree that experience is missing, but by experience I mean people who know how to win trophies, preferably with some leadership qualities…

  • Stefan Vasilev

    beat them*

  • billy

    Arsenal are in ground hog day. Until they find a new Tony Adams or Patrick Viera then I’m afraid we’ll be having the same conversation next year too

  • Minyahil

    You know what is frustrating? how that is possible to loss if a club leads the opponent in more than 70% of possession in majority period of the match for almost all of the time? I have watched many games and did not pick a single club like arsenal. I can summarized this team as most entertaining, most promising and most frustrating. I can assure you that no arsenal fan is confidently say arsenal will win this match b/c of this strength. B/c it can drop and loss the game to any type of team at at any circumstance against the giant one like Barcelona or to the emaciated to stoke or Ipswich. The problem is clear. It lacks key and confident players at risky areas like defense, goal keeping and striking positions. The most important voids are holding midfield areas and central defense at the back four.

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