In a recent BBC radio 5 live interview, Chris Sutton said that Arsenal's last 13 years have been a failure because we've never been challenging for the Premier league. And he's not the first person to say this, especially this season after Arsenal's form dramatically dropped off after the loss against Watford and a recent run of 4 losses in 5 games. But despite all of this, I still think that the last 13 years at Arsenal haven't been as bad as some will make it out to be. This time period has been when I've started supporting Arsenal (just missed out on Wenger's best years at Arsenal) and in my opinion even though yes, there have been various frustrating seasons where we could've won the league or done better in Europe, I believe the past 13 years have been far from a failure for a few different reasons:
This season Arsenal were knocked out of the Champions league in the last 16 by Bayern Munich (again!) and that 10-2 aggregate loss made it 7 seasons in a row that we've been knocked out at this stage. This started the now yearly comments from fans and journalists alike saying that Arsenal aren't good enough in Europe and even though it's hard to disagree with them, you still have to look at who we've been playing in those 7 years. First of all, Arsenal are easily the most unlucky team when it comes to the draw for the last 16, repeatedly being drawn against Barcalona or Bayern Munich. Before this season we'd never really embarrassed ourselves against these sides. In the 2010/11 season, we were beaten 4-3 on aggregate against a Barcelona side who would go on to win the tournament. This tie also included a famous 2-1 win for the Gunners at the Emirates. In the 2013/14 season where we again went out to the eventual winners, this time Bayern Munich, drawing 3-3 on aggregate and only going out to away goals and beating Bayern 2-0 at the Allianz Arena. The only time where we were the favourites going into the last 16 was against Monaco where we again drew 3-3 on aggregate, being knocked out on away goals. And yes, we obviously should not have gone out to Monaco, playing very poorly in the first leg at home but since that match Spurs and Man City have both shown that beating Monaco isn't as easy as everyone was saying before our matches against them. Also in the last 13 years it's easy to forget that we've reached a Champions League semi final and final, so it's only in the last few years where we've had relatively bad outings in Europe.
Ever since Arsenal moved to the Emirates, there have been two main jokes towards Arsenal and Arsene Wenger - we never spend enough money in the summer and we always finish 4th. The latter of which I've never really understood why it's so funny as if you look at the players we have had during this period, I have always thought we were doing about par maybe even better. This period I'm referencing is from when we moved to the Emirates to when we signed Mesut Ozil in 2013. During this time instead of spending millions of pounds on players, we had to pay off the debt from the stadium so Wenger was very clever by bringing through young players from the academy or signing them young such as Aaron Ramsey who has been very good during his time at Arsenal, Jack Wilshere who for his first few seasons before his injury problems started carrying our team along with Fabregas, and Wojciech Szczęsny who finally sorted out our keeper problem and became our solid number one for the best part of four years. And when we did sign players, it was always for very little money and most of the time these players would become vital for the club. In the summer of 2012, Arsenal signed Santi Cazorla for £10 million and Olivier Giroud for around £9.6 million and both these players became very important parts of the team. Cazorla has been one of our best players every year since he joined and when he's not in the team its clear to see how much we struggle without him. Giroud has been our top goal scorer for two of the seasons since he has joined. When you add this to some of the terrible players we had in our squad during this time period, the likes of Squillaci, Bendtner, Chamakh and my least favourite of all, Andre Santos, you start to realise that with the squads we had, we probably were doing better than you'd expect with those players and how little money was spent on the squad.
This is my last point but also it's the hardest to argue as there haven't been too many seasons where we've been serious title contenders. And the seasons where we have been challenging, we've always started off well and spent a large period of time at the top but never still been in the title race by April. The main two seasons where we have been challenging prove this point, the 2007/08 season and the 2013/14 season. In the 2007/08 Arsenal spent 2/3 of the season at the top of the table with two very good strikers in Adebayor and Eduardo and went the entire season unbeaten at home. However when Eduardo suffered a career threatening leg break away at Birmingham, we drew four games in a row against teams we should've beaten and then lost to Chelsea which put an end to the title race. We finished five points below champions Manchester United. In the 2013/14 season we spent the most amount of time at the top of the league with Ramsey and Ozil both having very successful seasons. However, after various injuries and an embarrassing 5-1 defeat to Liverpool Arsenal slipped down the table, finishing. So even though for the majority of the last 13 years we've not really been challenging for the title, you can't say we've never been close and, without a few terribly timed injuries to our key players, you never know what we could've achieved.
What do you think Arsenal fans? Let us know in the comments below!