On the way down: Arsenal are fighting to avoid catastrophe as new reality bites that Arsene Wenger is no longer the pioneer

Arsene Wenger is no longer the pioneer and money may be tight so club clings to Champions League status

At the Emirates Stadium today many of the chief scouts of leading European clubs, along with many agents, will convene for a forum on the scouting and trading of elite level footballers. Finding the next big talent, developing players and trading them astutely is big business these days and where better to hold a seminar on the subject than at a club who pioneered the art in the modern game?

It would be no exaggeration to say that a large part of the Emirates was paid for on the profits of Arsène Wenger's unerring eye for a player and once enviable scouting network. The man who brought Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie, among others, to England changed football here for ever. But not much in football stays the same for long.

This talk at the Emirates today will be, in part, about the dismal situation the host club finds themselves in. Beaten in the League Cup by a team 72nd in the professional hierarchy and with a side that was close to full strength. Seventh in the Premier League and now so concerned that their 16-year spell in the Champions League is coming to an end they are insisting, if it comes to that, players agree to a reduction in wages.

At the top sits Wenger. Embattled and frustrated with criticism of his approach, he is in an unusual position for a manager whose club are slipping down the table. He is stronger than ever within Arsenal. The absentee majority shareholder Stan Kroenke has no appetite to intervene. The chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, defers to Wenger on all player contract issues, so too the club's so-called transfer fixer Dick Law.

Wenger's skill in recent years has been narrowly averting disaster – failure to qualify for the Champions League – which in turn has put no pressure on the club to change anything radically. Every calamity, such as last year's frenzied summer window trading after the 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford, is patched up. In May, Arsenal finished third and it looked like a success compared to the situation nine months' previously. Even now Arsenal are only two points off fourth place, albeit 15 off the top.

Every season something slips. Take this summer's signings. A tick for Santi Cazorla, but Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski have failed to make an impact. Podolski was looked at by most of the leading European clubs and subsequently passed over. As Arsenal have found in their failed attempts to sign the likes of David Silva and Juan Mata, if a richer and/or more successful club is interested, they lose out.

Wenger will not be leaving soon and certainly not before the end of the 18 months on his contract. Kroenke and Gazidis have no appetite for the attrition and pain that would cause the club. There is nothing like the critical weight of supporter feeling to force him out, in fact they sang his name at Valley Parade. There is every chance Arsenal will beat Reading on Monday and limp on. They pull the occasional rabbit from the hat to divert the gaze from their increasing mediocrity.

Defeat by Bradford was simply another marker in the road in the gradual falling of Arsenal's fortunes, not a pivotal moment from which change will spring. In fairness, a League Cup defeat should never decide a manager's future but this is a club that is very different. The more life becomes difficult for Arsenal, the closer they stick to their guns and for some that is a quality to be admired.

Yet every bad day brings with it further examination of Arsenal's financial approach. There is no question they pride themselves on the fact that they will sail through Uefa's financial fair play regulations for the first monitoring period that ends in May. Their last accounts posted a £36.6m profit, but that was boosted by player sales. The football operation made a loss. The wages bill was £143m, £50m more than Spurs. Ticket prices, as every Arsenal fan knows, are the most expensive in the league.

The tales of Arsenal's increasing parsimony are legendary. At one point, a visitor to the training ground who asked for a television screen to be switched on to a live match was told the club did not have the channel. The local provider had quoted Arsenal the higher rate paid by pubs and restaurants and the club refused to pay it. But what is the truth about the great unspent transfer kitty?

The Arsenal Supporters' Trust has long petitioned for the £70m it believes Wenger has at his disposal to be spent. Those around Wenger will tell you that the situation is nowhere near as simple. They argue his inspired player recruitment and management during the building of the Emirates, and the club's first years there, kept Arsenal in the Champions League and their head above water. They say that the notion he is simply sitting on £70m unspent is nonsense.

Yet when you look at those who are targets this January – Pepe Reina, Demba Ba, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Wilfried Zaha – they are not players, however talented Zaha might turn out to be, who are likely to transform the fortunes of the club immediately. That is not the business Arsenal are in.

When the scouts at the Emirates today look back at Wenger's track record at the club they may well conclude that he overachieved. That it was impossible for him to continue discovering players of that standard, especially when the rest of football wised up and began to copy his approach. That would a fair assessment of a brilliant manager, but 16 years on he is not for changing. It is testament to how ingrained in Arsenal's existence Wenger has become that the club feel the same way.

Related articles...

Arsenal are fighting to avoid catastrophe as new reality bites

Ivan Gazidis: Arsenal were not good enough... but Arsene Wenger's job is safe

James Lawton: Admiration for Arsene Wenger's achievements should not stop Arsenal acting decisively

Ray Parlour rejects suggestions Arsene Wenger runs Arsenal like a 'dictatorship'

Playing Torquay was harder than playing Arsenal, claim Bradford

Arsenal assistant Steve Bould 'furious' over reports of rift with Arsene Wenger

Previous worst: Wenger's dark days

Leeds United 1-0 Arsenal, May 1999

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's late goal all but ended Arsenal's hopes of retaining the title. They finish a point behind Manchester United.

Arsenal 2-3 Tottenham, Nov 2010

Neighbours won away in league for first time in 17 years.

Newcastle 4-4 Arsenal, Feb 2011

Became first team to fail to win in Premier League after going 4-0 up.

League Cup Final, Feb 2011

Lost to Birmingham City 2-1 thanks to Obafemi Martins' 89th-minute winner after defensive error.

Man United 8-2 Arsenal, Aug 2011

Suffered the club's heaviest defeat since 1896 in Old Trafford thrashing.

Suggested Topics
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
people
Sport
SPORT
News
people
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Biggins as Mrs Smee in Peter Pan
theatreHow do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick