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The current bitterness everyone is feeling about our lack of silverware regularly leads to not only a lack of sympathy from non-Arsenal supporters, but also accusations that fans are acting like spoiled brats. While I don’t deny we are in a better position than 90 per cent of clubs, the moans and groans are not wholly unjustified.
In one of the latest Gooner podcasts, the Arsenal supporter and Observer writer Amy Lawrence outlined her belief that critics of Wenger should ‘stop whinging’ should consider how well served they have been in the past few years and think about the lofty heights we find ourselves in before venting their spleen too hard.
I agree with her to an extent. Some of the attacks on Wenger are over the top and seem to forget that we have been operating on a pretty limited budget compared to some of our rivals.
We are currently in our fourth-worst Post-War barren spell: assuming we don’t claim top spot in the Premiership this season, it will be at least seven years since our last trophy win - one less than between the FA Cup successes of 1971 and 1979 and then the League Cup triumph in 1989, and 10 years less than between the Championship of 1953 and Fairs Cup victory of 1970.
It is fair to say the pain of the current potless period has been eased by some other significant milestones, not least of which is the club reaching its first Champions League/European Cup final (or, in fact, even reaching the semi-finals for the first time), and the quality of some of our play. And it has also been an achievement to fund the creation of a brand new stadium while remaining solvent. Overall, since our last cup win, Wenger’s main achievement has been cementing the club’s position as one of Europe’s highest-profile and best-regarded clubs.
But therein lies the rub. During the previous trophy-less years, you would have to push the boundaries of reason to argue that Arsenal was one of the biggest names in European football. And it was definitely not as rich (we’re now fifth wealthiest in Europe, according to Deloitte). So the sense of frustration is heightened today because we are in a much more rarefied financial position. It is relative to other English clubs’ wealth, of course, but even then, the playing field was much more evenly balanced in the days before the Premier League and Champions League.
No true Arsenal supporter believes we are entitled to silverware every year. But the club is now one of the haves compared to the have-nots elsewhere in England and Europe and it is fair for us to want displays and success on the pitch to more closely reflect the resources available off it.