THE sky was the limit for Arsenal when Stan Kroenke finally saw off Alisher Usmanov to become sole owner in August 2018.
The American billionaire even spelled out exactly what the fans could look forward to.
High-profile signings like Nicolas Pepe, David Luiz and Willian are all under the microscope as Arsenal slip further towards complete freefallCredit: Reuters
Gunners’ owner Stan Kroenke has backed his managers in the transfer market but has reaped little reward for that huge outlayCredit: PA
Manager Mikel Arteta has admitted his job is on the line, especially after their dire Europa League semi-final exit against VillarrealCredit: PA
Kroenke boldly declared: “KSE’s ambitions for the club are to see it competing consistently to win the Premier League and the Champions League, as well as the major trophies in the women’s game and at youth level.”
Less than three years on and Arsenal are ninth in the Premier League and look likely to be out of Europe for the first time in 26 years.
Their Under-23 team is currently tenth in Premier League Two but at least the women are challenging in the WSL.
So it is not all doom and gloom at the Emirates.
But try telling that to the disillusioned fans who have witnessed a gradual decline accelerating into a complete freefall.
And it is impossible to see how the Gunners arrest this nosedive.
The obvious solution would be to spend their way out of trouble — but Arsenal have already tried that and it has not worked.
Contrary to popular belief, Kroenke has never refused to back his managers in the transfer market and dug deep into his own pocket to facilitate the signings of £72million Nicolas Pepe and £45m Thomas Partey.
Arsenal have spent £730m on new players in the past ten years.
So the issue has never been the cost of those new recruits. It is their quality.
Of the 16 players signed since Wenger’s departure, only Kieran Tierney and Gabriel Martinelli can be considered excellent business.
The rest? Overpriced, overrated and underperforming.
But it is not just in the transfer market where Arsenal’s decision-making has been seriously flawed.
There have been so many comings and goings behind the scenes that it is impossible to keep track of who is calling the shots.
Technical director Edu has been doing his best impression of the Invisible Man recently, while CEO Vinai Venkatesham has become little more than a Kroenke apologist.
Emery was the right man at the wrong time for Arsenal, unable to bring the charisma, authority and leadership needed to accompany his technical qualities.
There are many more questions than answers now and if Kroenke has a solution up his sleeve then he is keeping it to himself.
Arteta has talked a good game but has not been able to back up his words with results on the pitch.
Now he needs to oversee a complete clearout of the dressing-room deadwood before he can even start to think about another summer spending spree.
But who is going to pay the kind of money Arsenal want for this lot?
What do they do with Alex Lacazette now he is approaching the final 12 months of his contract? Give him a new deal, sell him or allow him to leave as a free agent next year?
Can they really afford to extend the stay of 34-year-old David Luiz?
What about Matteo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira, William Saliba, Joe Willock, Sead Kolasinac, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Konstantinos Mavropanos?
Do they recall them from loans this summer or sell them all? And then there is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 31, and Willian, 32.
Can the club really afford to keep the veteran duo for another two years on eye-watering wages without European football?
There are so many more questions than answers right now and if Kroenke has a solution up his sleeve then he is keeping it to himself.
TOP GUNNER FLOPS
HERE are six of the worst – in the list of current expensive failures at the Emirates
Cost £16million from Borussia Dortmund but did not even make the 25-man squad this season before Arsenal paid him to leave in January on a free transfer to Olympiakos.
Yet to kick a ball for Arsenal almost two years after his £27million move from Saint-Etienne. Currently out on loan with Nice and in no hurry to return to the Emirates.
Former manager Unai Emery wanted Wilfried Zaha but the Arsenal board overruled him and forked out a club-record £72million for the one-footed winger from Lille.
Neither Emery nor Arteta could get a tune from the £350,000-a-week playmaker so Arsenal mothballed him for a year before paying up his deal.
Could not believe his luck when Arsenal handed him a three-year deal worth £250,000 a week. Leaving Chelsea was the quickest he has moved all year.
OK, he only cost £1million from Dijon. But a goalkeeper who can’t catch? Surely someone should have flagged that up?
With a £2billion takeover offer on the table from Daniel Ek, Arsenal fans are desperately hoping the absent owner will cut and run.
Yet even if Spotify founder Ek does get his hands on the club — which is highly unlikely — that is barely going to touch the sides of the black hole which Arsenal have been digging for themselves.
A fifth year without Champions League football means falling even further behind Manchester City, United and Chelsea.
But it is the prospect of trailing Leicester, West Ham, Everton and, of course, Tottenham that is cause for most concern.
As Arteta pointed out ahead of facing West Brom tomorrow: “This is not a process that started six months ago.
“Arsenal has not been competing with the top clubs in this country for five years so we have a lot to do.
“I understand the concerns and there are things that have to change, that’s for sure.
“But I can assure you that no one at this club is going to accept where we are at the moment.
“I take full responsibility for my part because since I arrived here I had invested every drop of physical and emotional energy to get the best from this team.
“But so far it has not been enough so now we have to be ruthless because there is no time to waste.”
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