The divisions with Arsenal are deep, very deep.
We saw a glimpse of it when many of Arsenal’s outfield players failed to celebrate Alexis Sanchez’s opener against Crystal Palace, prompting Thierry Henry to claim of a rift in the dressing room.
Leaks from the dressing room were that Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey did not see eye to eye, and that this was creating divisions within the squad.
Hector Bellerin hinted at further issues with Sanchez when he suggested that Sanchez often “demanded too much” from other players, even when they were already giving 100%.
With Sanchez gone, it seemed like the divisions on the pitch might disappear. But further leaks from the dressing room indicate more divisions within the squad.
Firstly on the leaks. Things are never good when a player (or member of coaching staff) is leaking arguments and disagreements to the media. It creates an atmosphere of mistrust, that the dressing room is not sacred, and can actually lead to further divisions as finger pointing begins.
The Arsenal dressing room seems to be split. There have been divisions before.
In Arsene Wenger’s early days, there was a French clique, due to the amount of French players at in the squad. There was even rumours that French was the official language within the dressing room. These were dismissed, and ultimately Arsenal being successful ensured any disagreements did not grow further.
As Teddy Sheringham and Andy Cole showed at Manchester United, players hating each other does not really matter when the team are winning trophies.
The biggest clique at Arsenal seems to be the Bundesliga / German clique. It contains the likes of Mesut Ozil, Granit Xhaka, Shkdoran Mustafi and Sead Kolašinac.
New signings Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang have also reportedly joined this clique.
The issue seems to be is that this group of players contains the highest paid players in the club, those that cost the club the most. It also has some of the clubs biggest underperformers.
Granit Xhaka and Shkdoran Mustafi cost over £70m between them. They are arguably the two worst players in our starting XI. It is a struggle to name worse Arsenal signings, taking into account cost and that they were expected to come in and solve a lot of Arsenal’s problems.
Sead Kolašinac came to the club on a free transfer in the summer, immediately taking the place of the popular Nacho Monreal.
Due to it being a free transfer, he was amongst the highest earners at the club, reportedly on £120,000 a week. At the time, only Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette were on more.
When you consider that he is on twice as much as Monreal, who is popular and hard working, and has out performed Kolašinac, it is not hard to see why an eye of jealousy has been cast.
And the you have Mesut Ozil. £300,000 a week. And yet seems to have a soft underbelly and a tendency to go missing when the going gets tough.
When players are rolling up their socks and digging deep, and look across at Ozil swaning around the park, it must be frustrating knowing that he is on 3 times your salary.
Salary is probably part of the issue.
With Jack Wilshere currently in negations with the club who are trying to reduce his salary, and Aaron Ramsey also set for a new contract, they must wonder why their decade of service is being disregarded for these new signings. Who are performing worse than them.
The fact that the underperformers are players that came in for big money and on high salaries are part of the same clique exabarates the situation further.
There also seems to be jealousy throughout the club.
Reports a few weeks ago were that Aaron Ramsey had become jealous of Jack Wilshere.
He was frustrated that the injury prone Englishman got so much praise from the fans, whilst he was often criticised. Even though he outperforms Wilshere.
Now whilst this is just rumours, I can see the situation being true, not just with Ramsey and Wilshere, but with a lot of other players and Wilshere.
No other player at the minute gets their song sung other than Wilshere. And he seems to be immune to criticism.
Despite poor performances, Arsenal fans demand the club pay him what he wants ands go above and beyond when defending him. I imagine Ramsey is not the only one who gets frustrated with constant criticise of themselves, whilst Wilshere gets praised.
Wilshere can also be petulant and arrogant. I imagine in an argument, he uses the fact that he is a fans favourite.
You then have Hector Bellerin.
He wanted away in the summer, and up until the Brighton game had played every single minute in the Premier League. He was told 2 hours before kick off that he would not be playing.
Before then, he was untouchable. Performing poorly, whilst speaking out against fans. The fans that Wilshere loves.
It was interesting to see Jack Wilshire completely contradict Bellerin in an interview a few days after the fall-out of Hector’s Oxford Q&A. Further proof that the dressing room is divided.
You have to wonder what affect some players who have left had.
The likes of Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and the injured Santi Cazorla. Big, popular characters within the squad. None of whom are around anymore.
Losing these big characters diminished the French and English cliques, as they were allegedly the “leaders” and most popular in those cliques. The alpha males, perhaps.
By losing such big characters, it created a power vacuum which, alongside Ozil’s new contract, made the Bundesliga / German clique the most powerful in the club. And it seems to be those players who are getting the blame for our poor performances.
It is not just on the pitch there are divisions, however. It is off the pitch as well.
This time last year, it is documented that Ivan Gazidis wanted change.
Arsene Wenger’s contract was coming to an end, and he wanted to explore other options. He also wanted to look at bringing in a Director of Football to reduce Wenger’s power on the club.
A Director of Football was logical.
As CEO, Gazidis runs the business side of the club. Arsene Wenger ran the football side, he was king maker. Bringing in a Director of Football would leave Wenger managing the team, whilst the new man would oversee the development of the entire club, from youth systems to scouting to contracts.
Wenger put his foot down and fell out with Gazidis over his desire to hire a Director of Football.
Ultimately it fell to the board to make a decision on the future of the club. The old boys Keswick and Harris could not be awoken from their slumber to make a decision, leaving it to majority share holder Stan Kroenke.
Eventually he sided with Wenger, giving the Frenchman a new 2 year deal.
With Wenger and Kroenke on one side and Gazidis on the other, the club was pulling in different directions. Then up stepped Josh Kroenke.
It is rumoured that the younger Kroenke agreed with Ivan Gazidis’ view on how the club should be run. And with him taking more of an interest in many of his fathers sports investments, was able to back up Gazidis in his catalyst of change.
Despite getting a new contract, in came Sven Mislintat, Raul Sanllehi and Huss Fahmy. These are Gazidis’ men.
So there are now clear divisions. Stan Kroenke, Wenger and his yes men on the training ground, then Gazidis and his employees who were bought in above and alongside the manager to work with him.
With so many disagreements off the training ground and in the boardroom, it is no surprise that on the pitch players are unable to show a united front.
The obvious step is to remove Wenger and his coaching set up.
Let Sanllehi and Gazidis bring in the man they want, and unit behind him as manager (or head coach). And then let that manager, with an iron fist, break the cliques that Wenger has allowed to form.
With Wenger still at the helm, Arsenal will remain a broken unit on and off the pitch.