Five of Arsenal's biggest problems... and why it's so difficult to solve them

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The Gunners are facing up to a very difficult summer after failing to secure Champions League football for a third successive season

It was a season that promised so much - but in the end it all finished in a familiar sense of disappointment at Arsenal.

The Gunners had a top four spot in the Premier League within their grasp, yet a miserable run of just four points from 18 at the end of the campaign saw them somehow throw it away.

And then they crumbled in Baku, losing 4-1 to Chelsea in the Europa League final - a defeat which condemned them to a third successive season playing in Europe’s second tier competition.

Unai Emery’s side had two golden chances to secure Champions League football, but they fluffed their lines in dramatic fashion on each occasion.

And now the post-mortem is already well underway. Is Emery the right man? How can Arsenal close the gap on the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool with a limited budget and just what should be done with Mesut Ozil?

Those are all questions being asked as the dust settles from a disastrous end to the 2018-19 season. It is shaping up to be a very difficult summer at the Emirates and sorting out the issues surrounding the north London club will be far from easy.

Below are Arsenal’s five biggest problems, with explanations as to why they will be so tough to solve.


An absent owner


Stan Kroenke Arsenal 2017

The problems at any club always start at the top - and at the top at Arsenal there is an absent owner who has been a disaster for the Gunners.

Stan Kroenke has still not put a single penny of his own money into Arsenal since arriving on the scene in north London and his lack of ambition is seeping into every orifice of the club.

There is a lack of leadership at all levels inside the Emirates and that all stems from the way Kroenke is allowing things to be run.

Arsenal are failing off the pitch, just as much as they are on it - yet the 71-year-old billionaire just sits across the Atlantic allowing it to happen.

Kroenke has made hundreds of millions on his investment since first buying into Arsenal and none of that has been put back into the club.

During that time he has forcibly hovered up all remaining shares, shunning the offer of major investment from Alisher Usmanov, one of the world’s richest men, in the process.

The fact Kroenke didn’t even bother to attend last week’s Europa League final in Baku summed him up. Yes, his son Josh was there, but Stan’s lack of attendance was an insult to those fans who had spent so much money to follow their team.

When Kroenke arrived at Arsenal, they had reached the Champions League final a year earlier. Now, 12 years on, they are a club who very much belong in the Europa League.

Standards have been allowed to slip and that’s what happens when you have an absentee owner.

In the past 12 months Arsenal have seen their chief executive, who had just replaced manager Arsene Wenger after 22 years, jump ship a few months into the season and leave for AC Milan.

That led to the club’s highly-valued head of recruitment, Sven Mislintat, leaving because he was overlooked for the technical role in the power vacuum that followed.

Raul Sanllehi was the big winner from Gazidis leaving but since he has taken charge, Arsenal have failed to land Monchi as technical director and now look set to have to wait until the the final month of the summer window to appoint Edu to the role.

It's a situation which someone needs to get a firm grasp on, but it's clear Kroenke will not be the man to do that.

The current set-up at the Emirates feels rudderless and with Kroenke continuing to focus on his interests in the United States, there is no sign of that changing any time soon.


A failing business model


Aaron Ramsey Arsenal 2018-19

Arsenal’s business model is based around the Champions League.

With Stan Kroenke not putting his own money in, the club has relied on Champions League funds to keep things ticking over.

But having spent the past two years in the Europa League, the coffers have run dry, very dry.

The club is now working to a failed business model. Whereas before Arsenal used to be able to celebrate the publication of their accounts, now the club will be happy that they are not so easily accessible following Kroenke’s full takeover.

It’s estimated that Arsenal's financial performance for the year 2017-18 saw a £40 million drop in revenue from 2016-17 - with £35m of that being put down to a lack of Champions League football.

At the same time the wage bill spiralled by nearly 18 per cent, rising from £200m to £235m - a figure that takes into account the pay-offs for Arsene Wenger and his coaching staff.

This was all covered though by player sales, with the club recouping big fees for the likes of Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

That all meant that despite Arsenal’s drop in revenue, the club made a pre-tax profit of around £70m, but given the lack of player sales this time around it’s forecast that the club could be heading towards a loss of between £60m/£70m for 2018-19.

And that is not a figure that is going to improve any time soon, with this season’s run to the Europa League final only earning the club £32m. When you compare that to what Manchester United earned from reaching the Champions League quarter-finals (£82m), it shows how costly missing out on the top four has been once again for the Gunners.

It also means that the only way the club will be able to break even going forward is by selling some of their top talent, something which will alienate an unhappy fanbase even more.

The main problem with the finances is the wage bill, which is running at unprecedented levels - with Mesut Oil the top earner on £350,000-a-week.

Without Champions league football, that wage bill is massive problem - and it was the reason why the new offer which was on the table for Aaron Ramsey was dramatically withdrawn. 

Arsenal have started to reduce it, with Ramsey, Petr Cech and Danny Welbeck leaving this summer, but they are well aware that further cuts must be made.


Mesut Ozil


Mesut Ozil Arsenal 2018-19

Trying to find some sort of resolution to the Mesut Ozil situation is key to Arsenal’s short and long-term future.

Without Champions League football, the wage bill is completely unsustainable and at £350,000-a-week, Ozil is the club’s highest earner by some distance.

If he was playing at the top of his game and delivering on a weekly basis, that would at least be a passable situation. But the fact is Ozil is a shadow of the player he once was.

Whether that is down to Emery’s management and his style of play is up for debate, but for whatever reason the German is simply not proving to be worth the incredible amount of money that he is being paid.

He is a drain on Arsenal’s resources and there is a good chance Aaron Ramsey would still be at the Emirates right now had Ivan Gazidis not caved to Ozil’s wage demands last January.

That decision to hand Ozil a new deal has proved to be a dreadful one and Arsenal must now try and find some way of resolving a situation which is damaging for all parties.

It’s been clear for some time now that Ozil does not fit into Emery’s plans. The Spaniard’s decision to replace the 30-year-old with teenager Joe Willock in the Europa League final spoke volumes.

But the fact that Willock offered more in those last 13 minutes than Ozil did in the previous 77 showed just where the former Real Madrid man is right now.

Since signing his new contract, Ozil has contributed just two Premier League assists in open play in 18 months - all that time with strikers of the quality of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette playing in front of him.

For a player earning the amount of money Ozil is, that is just not good enough. Arsenal need more and deserve more.

Without Champions League football, Arsenal can’t sustain the type of wages they are paying their No.10. It impacts any future contract renewals and limits what they can offer any signings.

The big issue is, Ozil has stated several times he does not want to leave. He is happy in London, he will soon be marrying his girlfriend and now has more than one business interest in the capital.

So how do you get a player out who does not want to leave?

It’s a massive problem for Arsenal but one that Emery, Sanllehi and Vinai Venkatesham must find a solution to over the coming months because if Ozil starts next season as an Arsenal player, it will not be a good situation for anyone.


The defence


Sokratis Laurent Koscielny Arsenal Chelsea Europa League final 2019

Arsenal conceded 51 goals in the Premier League last season - that was the second successive season that they have shipped 50 goals or more in a league campaign.

When Unai Emery arrived it was assumed that one of the first things the Spaniard would do was fix the leaky defence that Arsenal had become known for under Arsene Wenger.

But so far, Emery has been unable to do that and until he finds a solution - either through coaching or new signings - then his side are always going to fall short, as they did in Baku when they let in four second half goals against Chelsea.

Individually, Arsenal have some good defenders. Sokratis has had a good first season, while Laurent Koscielny has shown at times that he can still be a top Premier League centre-back following his return from injury.

Bernd Leno has also impressed in goal following his move from Germany last summer.

But collectively, Arsenal are still poor at the back - with the midfield still struggling to offer the sort of protection you need to be a successful side.

Improving the goals against column has to be a priority for Emery going into the new season but as was shown during his first year in charge, that is far from easy.

Unlike in attacking positions, there are not really any young players who appear ready to make the step up in defence at Arsenal - although Zech Medley has shown promise and Daniel Ballard has his admirers at the Emirates.

So you would think a large chunk of the transfer budget this summer has to be spent on bringing in better defenders who Emery can then work with at London Colney to make Arsenal a far tougher nut to crack.


A disconnected fanbase


An unhappy Arsenal fan

It looked for a time that the Arsenal fans were beginning to unite under Unai Emery’s guidance.

But that sunny October day in Fulham when the travelling fans were singing “we’ve got our Arsenal back” during the 5-1 win now feels like a long time ago.

The feeling of disconnect between the club and the fans remains at Arsenal - and that has not been helped by the poor end to the season.

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From Kroenke forcing fans into selling him their shares last season, to high ticket prices and the continued miserable away form, the match day experience following Arsenal is not always an enjoyable one.

Finding a way of getting the fans fully behind the team again will be key to Emery going forward. He tried hard to do that last season, but was unable to do it on a consistent basis.

One way of potentially doing that is to start blooding the youngsters, players the fans can really connect with because they know they have Arsenal in their heart.

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