Towards the end of Arsene Wenger’s tenure, Arsenal became Barcelona lite.
The tiki-taka football Wenger’s boys played was a joy to watch at times but, unlike the real deal, they didn’t have the cojones to complement it and ensure they were fighting for titles.
It proved to be Wenger’s undoing, ultimately, with Unai Emery brought in to replace him.
A three-time Europa League-winning manager who would inject those little dollops of grit and spite that are needed at clubs who want to compete for trophies other than domestic cup competitions.
It started brightly for Emery, too, with the ingrates for whom three Premier League titles, seven FA Cups and annual Champions League campaigns under Wenger were not enough soon singing about having their club back.
But despite the early love-in, it didn’t take long for that relationship to sour as well and, 18 months after walking through the front door, the Spaniard was ushered out the back.
Devastated, Emery blamed part of his demise on a lack of character from some of his players as the same old accusations were levelled at Arsenal and the same old problems continued to blight the club.
Mikel Arteta’s Gunners have been starved of title glory for a while now – but things could be changing as a new-look Arsenal side plot a course to success.
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New signings Gabriel Magalhaes and Thomas Partey have hit the ground running following their big money summer arrivals, and the new-look Gunners are going all out for a top four spot and Europa League glory this term.
The Mesut Ozil situation continues to hang in the background and there’s plenty going on in North London to keep abreast of.
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Problems it was — and still is — hoped former Gunners midfielder Mikel Arteta would be able to iron out when he was hired in December.
What has become clear in the 11 or so months since his arrival is the fact Arteta is a proper manager in the making.
Tactically astute, willing to make big decisions — as we’ve seen with Mesut Ozil — and happy to call out his players when they aren’t at the required level, clearly some of Pep Guardiola’s stardust has rubbed off on his old No.2.
The problem for Arsenal now, though, is that Arteta just doesn’t have the quality in his squad to do at the Emirates what he and Guardiola were able to do at the Etihad.
That is why the Gunners are destined to spend the coming years being Manchester City lite unless Stan Kroenke repeats or betters his spending in the last transfer window in January and, especially, next summer.
What should be worrying, very worrying, for Arsenal supporters was that on Sunday, Aston Villa, fresh from defeats at the hands of Southampton and Leeds, handed them their backsides on a plate.
It was the sort of result and performance English football has grown used to from the Gunners in the last decade or so and Arteta’s complaints about his players needing to blame themselves rather than others sounded all too familiar.
As did the bile spouted on Arsenal Fan TV that did the rounds on social media in the wake of the game.
“F*** off, f*** off. Bulls***, bulls***. Everything’s s***, Bellerin, all of ’em,” screamed one very angry Gooner.
And while it wasn’t the most eloquent analysis we’ve ever heard, it was hard to disagree with the point he was making.
Which is that while plenty has changed at Arsenal over the past five years, somehow everything has stayed the same.
And unless Kroenke gives Arteta the quality of players he needs over the next year or two, the same old, same old is all the club will have to look forward to for some years to come.