In the 2003/2004 Premier League season, Arsenal managed to breeze through the entire league campaign without suffering a single defeat, taking the title home to Highbury in the process.
This Arsenal side, which featured Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp among many other legendary stars, are known quite simply as “The Invincibles”.
Fast forward 11 years to 2015 and Arsenal look a shell of their former selves. The Gunners always seem to have strong squads on a year to year basis but they are always a top player short of mounting a serious title challenge.
Sure, the reds of North London are always thereabouts but simply clinching fourth place season after season isn’t enough to satisfy fans that remember the previous glory days under Arsene Wenger.
Many believe that Arsene Wenger could be well past his sell by date as Arsenal boss. Everything about the Frenchman feels stale at this point in his career, it really does look as if he has taken his beloved club as far as he can take them.
The inconsistencies of the Gunners is really frustrating for the Emirates faithful. Arsenal picked up a rare win against a top side away from home a few weeks ago as they toppled Manchester City at the Etihad.
However, they could not follow up on it at White Heart Lane last weekend, throwing away a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 to bitter rivals, Spurs in the North London Derby.
This is a prime example of the modern day Arsenal and their league position tells a story.
Wenger’s men are floundering in and around the Europa League places as they struggle to regain their place in the Champions League spots, with Manchester United, Spurs, Southampton and maybe even Liverpool based on current form, looking more likely at this moment of time.
Don’t get me wrong, Arsenal are an absolute pleasure to watch when they are playing to the best of their abilities but some of their players are on far too much money for what they are worth.
Like we do every week, we will now take a look at which players are pocketing more money than they deserve based on their weekly displays on the pitch. This week we sample Arsenal’s wage bill.
Abou Diaby: £65,000 a week
Diaby has been at Arsenal for nine years. Let that sink in for a moment. The Frenchman has spent more time on the physio table than he has on the playing field since he signed for Arsenal from Auxerre in 2006. From fractured ankles to anterior cruciate ligament problems, Diaby has experienced them all.
In the past, his physical appearance and positional preference have evoked comparisons to Arsenal legend and countryman, Patrick Vieira. Taking Diaby’s career thus far into account, this comparison would drive the majority of football fans to hysterical laughter. When Diaby has featured he has looked quite the average player.
However, the former French international has been known to put in the odd quality performance. Most notably, Diaby was voted Sky Sports man of the match in Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Liverpool at Anfield in 2012. He does pop up with the odd cameo goal here and there too.
In reality though, the midfielder does not play nearly enough games to justify his pricey wages. Diaby is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Joel Campbell: £40,000 a week
Campbell is currently out on loan at Villarreal but technically Arsenal are the striker’s principle employers. Campbell signed for Arsenal in 2011 and has failed to nail down a regular place in the Gunners squad, being shipped out on loan every campaign since putting pen to paper with the club.
However, he did fail to secure a work permit for the first two seasons he spent as an Arsenal player. The Costa Rican striker had a good World Cup last summer, playing a starring role in his nation’s fairy tale run to the prestigious tournament’s quarter finals. This gave Arsenal supporters and the player himself fresh hope that he could make contributions in the final third for the Gunners this campaign.
Unfortunately, this did not happen and Campbell spent most of the first half of the season either on the bench or watching from the stands. As recently as 24 January 2015, Campbell was once again sent out on loan, this time to La Liga and Villarreal.
Arsenal will have to choose whether to keep or cash in on the striker when he returns to North London at the end of the current season. His salary is far too high for someone who has been rarely seen or heard of in four years at the club.
Tomas Rosicky: £85,000 a week
Once a very important part of the Arsenal team, now merely a squad rotation player. Nowadays, the 34-year-old’s appearances for the club mainly consist of cameo bench appearances.
Rosicky finally reaped the awards of staying with the Gunners long-term, as he came off the bench to replace Santi Cazorla in the second period of extra time in the 3-2 FA Cup final success versus Hull City at Wembley in May.
It took the Czech eight long years to earn his first winners medal at the Emirates. A number of months later, he clinched his second piece of silverware at Arsenal, playing the final fifth of the FA Community Shield game against Manchester City.
The skipper of the Czech Republic national team is well-respected amongst Arsenal fans and rightfully so, but it is clear that the winger is winding down his career. In his prime he would have been worth the hefty sum but not any more.
Mathieu Flamini: £65,000 a week
On 29 August 2013, It was looked upon as somewhat of a surprise when the Frenchman signed with the club for a second spell at the club. Flamini was a solid performer during his first stint at Arsenal. He always had a great work ethic and always shined in the holding midfield role.
However, his post Arsenal days weren’t all that special as he never really stood out in some average AC Milan sides in his five years at the San Siro. Following his 2013 return, Flamini has been in and out of the squad on a regular basis.
At times he has struggled to nail down a place in an Arsenal midfield that is jam-packed with quality and potential. In the games he has featured in, he has often appeared shaky. His edginess really stood out in December when Arsenal took on Liverpool at Anfield.
The defensive midfielder appeared all over the place in a bad individual performance as his side escaped Merseyside with a point.
Nacho Monreal: £50,000 a week
On the transfer deadline day of 2013, the Gunners snapped up the Spanish international for a fee believed to be in the region of £8.3 million.
At the time he was tipped to come in and make his mark as the club’s first choice left back as English youngster, Kieran Gibbs was out of form at the time of the Spaniards acquisition.
These beliefs never quite came to fruition as spells out of action with injuries and good displays from Gibbs have kept Monreal out of the starting 11. He also looked rather uncomfortable when he was deployed in an unfamiliar central defenders role earlier this campaign while Laurent Koscielny was suffering with an Achilles tendon injury.
The Spaniard has provided some assists from the left flank when he has played but he will have to become more of a regular in the side again if he is to be truly worthy of his weekly income.
Jack Wilshere: £90,000 a week
This inclusion is guaranteed to divide many opinions. Yes, he is only 23 years of age and yes he has massive potential to become a big star in the future, but like his team mate, Abou Diaby, the young Englishman spends a lot of time in hospital beds with injuries.
Wilshere has been tipped to lead the England national team’s midfield for years to come following the retirements of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, but as of yet it has not happened. Again, he has plenty of time to achieve this.
When he does play he often stars in the middle of the park but he is well-known to have the odd disciplinary problem. Wilshere is mainly hot-headed in the big games, especially against Liverpool and Chelsea, but it could be argued whether this is poor discipline or simply just great passion and a massive will to win.
To sum things up, if Wilshere cleared up his injury deficits and played most of the season, £90k a week would be a good investment. Until this happens, the Arsenal board will be just forking out £90,000 a week plus various hospital bills.
The race for top four places is really heating up. Only three points separate Liverpool in seventh from Southampton in fourth. The Gunners are right in the mix and it would be fair to say that Wenger and his men cannot afford to miss out on Champions League football for the first time in many a year.
After winning their first trophy in eight years last term, the Gunners supporters will be demanding more this time around and with many of the big guns out of the FA Cup, a great opportunity to retain the historic trophy presents itself for the North Londoners.
Arsenal are a well-balanced side and the majority of the squad are earning the right amount of cash for what they are contributing to the team, but perhaps the targets of Champions League football and an FA Cup triumph would be more likely if the few players above would remain fit for the long-term and/or just pull up their socks ever so slightly.
Some food for thought?