Arsene Wenger’s weather worn face shows the strain several years without a Premier League title – or cup of any sort – has placed on a man once worshipped as the saviour of one half of North London. The Frenchman has endured fan discontent, media pressure and a disbelief that Arsenal’s conservative recruitment policies of recent years are really the way to lead to a fourth Premier League title win.
Arsenal: Out-Spent and Out-Man-ned
At the same time, in the decade since Wenger’s men last hoisted the Premier League trophy, the newly rich Chelsea and Manchester City have come along and apparently demonstrated there is one simple way to take the title: spend, spend, spend.
The pressure grew as, despite playing in a shiny new stadium and with an ownership in place that did not place on Arsenal the heavy debt burdens both Manchester United and Liverpool took on in the meantime from their American owners with leveraged purchases, “spend” was not a word that became associated with Arsene’s strategy. The departures of the likes of Cesc Fabregas became symbolically seen as part of Arsenal’s fall to the second tier of European football, even if they – just about – fended off the concurrent rise of their bitter rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, spending more heavily as they battle the Gunners for Champions League spots.
Return to the Top? Why Bookies are Betting on it
As 2014 begins, though, Arsenal are back in the hunt. While the nouveau riche Manchester City and Chelsea remain the favorites to take the Premier League trophy come May, Arsenal are now 4/1 on William Hill to win the championship. A surprising feat as major bookmakers didn’t place much faith in their odds at the start of the season.
It has been quite some time since anyone fancied Arsenal a good punt to claim the championship. But with Manchester United struggling to adjust to the David Moyes regime (and the legacy of a questionable squad left by Sir Alex Ferguson), it could well be that Arsenal’s slow and steady strategy might turn out to have been the way to play the game after all. The tortoise, Arsene Wenger might be thinking, can win the race.