Arsenal legend George Graham has delivered a scathing indictment of the Gunners' performances over the past few seasons. The 68 year old midfielder made 308 appearances for the north London club, between 1966 and 1972, scoring 77 goals. And the Scot has admitted to being hugely disappointed with the lack of ambition his club has displayed.
"Whether I like it or not, the club are quite happy to finish in the top four. They have been doing that for the last 15 or 16 years. That seems to be the objective," he said in The Sun, adding, "Let's be honest, they are not serious challengers for the Premier League. So finishing in the top four, I think the club are quite happy with that."
Arsene Wenger's side last won the Premier League in the 2003/04 season; they finished second to Chelsea the following season, 12 points behind the Blues. Since then, their best finish has been third and the club scores at least 10 points less than the league winners every year.
The fans' frustrations have begun to boil over in earnest this season, with protest marches, chanting and booing an increasingly common occurrence. And it doesn't help matters that there appears to be an increasing amount of friction between key members of the club's administrative machinery.
Have Money, Will Not Spend
The 1 December Premier League defeat, at the Emirates, to Swansea City and the mid-week penalty elimination from the Capital One Cup, at the hands of League Two side Bradford City, have increased pressure and the club has responded by announcing transfer funds for the mid-season window. However, Graham is sceptical about his former club actually spending that amount.
"I don't think Arsenal are ever going to compete with Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United. I thought they could have competed with United because they don't spend the money the other two do. But Arsenal are not going to compete with them either," the ex-international explained, "They have got a structure at the club on transfers and wages. They are very strict on those. They have more or less said to fans - that this is the way they are going to run the club."
Playing for Arsenal Demands Quality
Finally, Graham also took a shot at the club's transfer policies, questioning the extent to which Wenger's sense of financial prudence was actually helping the club. Arsenal's chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, made some comments earlier in the season, about the club's growing revenues and multiple income streams. However, the South Africa-born businessman was cagey about actually spending money on big-money signings, insisting the decision always had been Wenger's to make.
"When was the last time Arsenal broke the transfer record? I think it was 1938. Manchester United seem to buy players at £25-30million and they mix it up a little bit. But Arsenal don't do that. In the past Arsene's teams have played some of the best football I have ever seen. It was breathtaking," Graham concluded, "But the quality of players there now is inferior to the players he used to have. And I don't care how good a coach or manager you are, you need good players to win things."