If you try to stick with your position you find yourself being overtaken by clubs with proper football ambition...
At the recent Arsenal Annual General Meeting (AGM) the majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke, was required to defend the clubs transfer policy and ultimately its ambition. There was much reason to question this; the fans have had to put up with their best players being routinely sold and replaced with a markedly worse player. Add to that the recent news that Arsenal fans are being ripped off with ticket prices, in a nutshell; there was a lot to answer for. Kroenke came out fighting, saying that ‘our goal is to win trophies’. Now I don’t profess to being an Arsenal fan, far from it. Usually I pay little attention to Arsenal news, but this news made me shout out an expletive that for purposes of this article I will tone down and quote myself as saying “cowpat!”
Reading this news made me realise just how strong my feelings are on this subject. My opinion had been that if Arsene Wenger can get into the Champions League for as many years in a row that he has, you can’t really question him. Therefore I found people who wanted him sacked to be typical football fans, not grateful for what they have and constantly asking for more. Now that he’s come out and said that finishing 4th is like winning a trophy my mind is changed. I find myself declaring him talking ‘cowpat’ when he says that "I say that because if you want to attract the best players, they do not ask 'did you win the League Cup?' they ask you 'do you play in the Champions League?'." Ask Luis Suarez about this; did he not join a team that isn’t in the Champions League? Isn’t he one of the best players? Let’s also ask Nuri Sahin, if players prefer teams that are in the Champions League as opposed to the League Cup winners; nobody told him. He elected to join League Cup winners Liverpool as opposed to 3rd placed Arsenal. Explain that Arsene.
In fact he doesn’t need to. He may say that the Champions League is important for its pulling power, but he means the Champions League is important for the money. The ‘finishing 4th trophy’ that he talks about must take the form of a cheque titled ‘Champions League revenue’. This brings me to my main gripe with Arsenal; they are more of a business than a football club. Since the year they sold Thierry Henry, 2006, Arsenal have bought players worth a combined £182,300,000 but sold players for a combined £230,900,000 – a profit of £48,600,000. Including the players sold are the likes of Thierry Henry, Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri, Alex Song, Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy and Cesc Fabregas. How many of those would walk into the team today? An awful lot I’d say. To add to this, they are also making money off their new stadium. So there is no excuse for saying that they are having to sell players in order to cover the costs of the stadium; Christian Purslow dispelled this myth by claiming that they in fact make £20,000,000 a season from their stadium.
So what has happened to this money? It certainly hasn’t gone on strengthening the squad! Could it have gone on players’ wages? Possible. This raises another criticism of Wenger, one that I cannot find a rational explanation for. A policy of this seems to be to pay all his players equally. This has seen the likes of Denilson and Nicklas Bendtner given wages of £50,000 a week. What is baffling is that he is willing to pay these kinds of players that much, but seems to refuse breaking the £100,000 a week barrier with his best players. This seemingly communist, everyone-is-equal, system makes no sense at all. This is a capitalist, free-market country and sport! This is only highlighted by the struggle that he has offloading the over-paid players when he realises that they are no good, no one else is stupid enough to pay them that much.
Despite this massive drain on wages, The Sun claim that Arsenal have £150,000,000 in the bank. We have always constantly heard the heads at the top claim that Wenger has £30, £40 or even £70 million to spend in the next transfer window. Yet Arsene says that he does not have this kind of money available to him. So who is lying here? The board or the manager? Considering that they don’t spend that kind of money every transfer window without selling players for the exact same amount, you might be inclined to believe Wenger. But somehow you get the feeling that it is Mr.Wenger that is being deceitful. After all, if you’re constantly achieving your aim, why should you spend more money? Besides, you only get a trophy for finishing 1st in the Premiership, you don’t get any real financial benefits!
So what about the Arsenal fans? They have to endure their best players leaving. It used to be players in their 30’s leaving, Wenger was praised for ‘selling players at the right time’ but now some players are leaving before they even reach their prime – let alone go into decline! I’d be furious to see this happen at my club, especially without any real effort to replace them with players of similar level. Arteta for Fabregas? Giroud certainly doesn’t look anywhere near van Persie’s class. Considering Arsenal’s recent history, it must be gut-wrenching to see them not even challenging for a trophy. Even Steve Clarke at West Brom told his players that he thinks they could win a cup.
And then there are the ticket prices. Most expensive season tickets, most expensive match day experience. What do they get in return? A good European run? A cup final? Not as often as they deserve. It’s a real credit to Arsenal fans that they can stick with their club after all that’s happened recently; the players they begin to idol and sing about are sold and not adequately replaced, investment in the squad is minimal and they’re being ripped off for ticket prices. For their sakes, I hope Arsenal’s ambitions change; if that requires a change in management then so be it.
Unfortunately for Arsene Wenger; you can’t stand still in football. If you try to stick with your position you find yourself being overtaken by clubs with proper football ambition.