Arsenal need to learn lessons from 2008

In 2007/08, we should have won the league.

We led for much of the season, only to capitulate in the closing stages of the season – winning just 5 of the last 12.

The season derailed following that game against Birmingham City. Eduardo’s injury and then a heads gone moment in the 95th minute that saw Birmingham equalise from the penalty spot.

Club captain William Gallas threw a strop on the pitch and the team never recovered.

We ended up 3rd, 4 points behind league winners Manchester United.

The lessons to be learned are not what happened during that season, but what happened after.

Arsene Wenger had built a team of the most exciting young talent in Europe.

2007/08 should have been the beginning of something special, not the best it would get for nearly a decade.

That young team contained the likes of Cesc Fabregas (21 years old), Robin van Persie (24), Theo Walcott (18), Gael Clichy (22), Alex Song (20), Abou Diaby (22), Denilson (20), Mathieu Flamini (24), Emmanuel Adebayor (24) and Nicklas Bendtner (20).

We were set up nicely to dominate English football – and potentially European – for some time.

Having nearly one the title, we needed a few tweaks. A bit of investment in some senior pro’s to guide the young squad.

Summer 2008 we bought French starlet Samir Nasri, Welsh teenage sensation Aaron Ramsey and Manchester United veteran Mikel Silvestre.

It built on the young squad with more undoubtedly young talent, but it was not enough and we ended up 4th, 18 points behind Manchester United.

Reportedly hamstrung by stadium debt as the UK entered recession, we were either unable or unwilling to spend. And the next summer everything began to unravel.

In 2009 we spent just £10m on you g Ajax defender Thomas Vermaelen. And then the exodus begun.

Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure were pochard by nouveau riche Manchester City. Both signed big contracts with their new club and it showed to the Arsenal players what they could earn elsewhere.

As the lack of investment continued, more and more players became frustrated about our transfer policy. We were simply unable to match our talented young players ambitions.

This was not just about what they could earn, but also what they could win.

We were falling well behind Manchester City, Man U and Chelsea, and we could no longer be considered one of Europe’s elite.

Every summer we failed to invest, more players departed – peaking in 2011 when Clichy, Fabregas and Nasri all departed.

Almost every one of those young players we that nearly took us to the Premier League title in 2008 won the league at their new clubs.

Cesc and Song at Barcelona, Toure, Clichy and Nasri at City. van Persie at Manchester United.

Had we matched their ambition when at Arsenal, they might have taken us to the title.

And that is where the lessons need to be learned.

Regardless of where we finish this season, we need to build on this young team. We can not rest on our laurels.

Manchester City will spend again. Newcastle are now financed by a country. Manchester United will come again.

If we do not build on this season, it will be deja vu.

How long will the likes of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and William Saliba hang about if we do not match their ambition?

The likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Barcelona are already reportedly sniffing around our young talent.

We need to match their ambition on the pitch and in their back pocket.

Over the next two windows, I would expect us to spend £120m+.

A new defensive midfielder and more attacking talent – both centrally and wide – is what we need.

We also need to tie the younger lads down to long term deals, securing their future with us.

I am more confident now that we will do that.

The stadium debt is now more manageable, and in Edu and Arteta, we have an equally ambitious management team that won’t try and treat us like some sort of socialist footballing experiment.

Hopefully KSE have learned that to move forward, you need investment. You can not just rely on young players improving.

2008 will live long in my memory as a missing opportunity. What happened in the half-decade after that was simply disgraceful.




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