Jack Pitt-Brooke: Oh no, it's Groundhog Day at Arsenal following Robin van Persie statement

A year ago the Trust said 'Arsenal face the risk of serious decline if action isn't taken'

This was not meant to happen again. One year on from the most traumatic summer of Arsène Wenger's tenure, there are signs of a repeat. A departing captain, no longer confident that the Emirates is the best stage for him, is the main story.

But with that exit comes a debate about the future. How can a club with no trophies in seven years, and which sheds its best players with seasonal regularity, possibly be said to be moving in the right direction?

Two statements in two days raised this question. First, Robin van Persie said on Wednesday that "in many aspects" he disagreed with Wenger on the direction of the club. He made his position at the club untenable, with a form of words unprecedented from any club captain anywhere.

The 29 per cent shareholder Alisher Usmanov released a statement yesterday underlining the message. "The real conflict is between the supporters' expectations and your visions for the club," he told the current board, in his clearest statement yet of his belief that his vision is right and theirs is wrong.

The real frustration is that this is nothing new. Little that has been raised this week was not raised last summer. These are not fresh problems, but unaddressed sores.

Last year's difficult summer culminated in the 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford in August. Tim Payton of the Arsenal Supporters Trust wrote in The Independent that "while Arsenal aren't in danger of dying, they do face the risk of serious decline on and off the pitch if urgent action isn't taken."

Arsenal had just lost Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, and an underfunded team had been humiliated. The Trust suggested paying down the remaining debt or undertaking a rights issue to help make up the gap with their better-funded opponents.

So the issues are depressingly familiar. When Usmanov writes that the self-sustaining model puts the onus on Wenger to sell his best players, demands more investment and calls for a rights issue, he is only echoing those Trust concerns. As Usmanov writes: "Where are the safeguards to ensure this doesn't happen again?"

 



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