According to former Manchester City midfielder, Steve Sidwell, Arsenal have become “a selling club”, with the ongoing Aaron Ramsey saga highlighting the “frightening” direction in which the club are heading. Sidwell, who is also an Arsenal academy graduate, expressed his shock at how events have unfolded in north London since he left the club, with the expected progress having never materialised.
Having tasted Premier League title success on three occasions under former manager Arsene Wenger, a move to Emirates Stadium in 2006 was intended to lift the club to even greater heights. The costs of making a move impacted on transfer business, though, with a more frugal approach taken to player recruitment. That has ultimately led to the club slipping out of the top four and behind a number of those they once looked down on.
Key men continue to slip through the net, with Juventus-bound Ramsey the latest to run down his contract, and Sidwell fears an alarming trend has been set in north London. A man who emerged out of a famed youth system, winning two FA Youth Cups along the way, told talkSPORT: “I was at Arsenal when the club left Highbury to go the Emirates to start competing at the top of world football, but it’s not really materialised.”
Sidwell added: “The Aaron Ramsey situation is just frightening. They’ve backed themselves into a corner with the wages they’re paying [Mesut] Ozil – and even that saga was a strange one – and they’ve got to let him [Ramsey] go now. They’re slowly becoming a selling club where their best players are leaving, and if they don’t buck their ideas up they are really going to fall short of top-four football.”
Arsenal had offered indications early in the 2018-19 campaign that they had shaken off the shackles of recent years. Current head coach, Unai Emery, who succeeded the legendary Wenger last summer, oversaw a 22-game unbeaten run across all competitions at one stage. Inconsistency has crept back in, though, and Sidwell believes it was inevitable that the wheels would fall off at some stage. He said: “I’ve watched Arsenal a lot this year and I think that run papered over a lot of cracks in their performances. It hasn’t been great, there were plenty of games where they could have lost. They rode their luck on a few games, they weren’t blowing things away at all. It was only going to be a matter of time before that came to a halt, and they’re on a bad run of form at the moment.”
Sidwell continued: “It was always going to be a tough transition, but they’re doing better than I thought they would, I thought they were going to be around the mid-table mark, I really did. And then you’ve got the politics going on upstairs with transfers, the ownership, directors and sporting director and all that now – there is not an alignment from top to bottom and it really needs to be restructured or they could be in real trouble.”
Emery was only able to make one addition to his squad in January – a loan deal for Barcelona midfielder Denis Suarez that includes an option to buy. His side are still sat fifth in the Premier League, just one point outside the Champions League places, but they have been far from convincing of late and suffered a 1-0 Europa League defeat to BATE in their most recent outing.