Legendary former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has revealed that it was not his intention to turn to less physical players after the break-up of his second great Gunners side in the mid-2000s, but financial restrictions meant he had little choice but to buy younger individuals.
Having gone unbeaten in the Premier League in 2003/04 and reached the 2006 Champions League final, Arsenal ultimately fell away from the top level and have never fully returned.
Their reputation, where once hard and ruthless across consecutive eras from the likes of Tony Adams, Martin Keown and Ian Wright to Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit and Thierry Henry, became soft from the late 2000s onwards.
In the second half of his 22-year spell in charge, Wenger was unable to replicate the incredible successes he had delivered during that first decade. At one stage, there was even a nine-year trophy drought, while Arsenal haven’t seriously challenged for the Premier League title since 2008.
“In 2006 we moved into the new stadium at the Emirates. My regret is we could have crowned [that period] with a Champions League win. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. I will never digest that we had to play with 10 men against Barcelona,” Wenger told The Athletic.
“Once we moved into the stadium that limited resources. At the same time, we had Chelsea and Manchester City coming in with huge finances and they bought our players.
“At first [in the 1990s] we had players who never moved. Then we had players who moved after eight or nine years like Henry and Vieira. I replaced them with younger players because I thought it was the only way I could compensate.
“It was not deliberate to buy players who were less strong. It was just the good players we found like [Cesc] Fabregas were smaller and less physical.”