Who Is To Blame At Arsenal?

by Sam Wheatley

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Much has been made of Arsenal’s 8-2 demolition at the hands of Manchester United on Sunday, and rightly so. Being hammered so comprehensively by a team that is not supposed to so emphatically superior (if the purported competitiveness of the Premier League is to be believed) and has, in the not too distant past, been a direct rival displays an embarrassing contrast in fortunes between Arsenal and the teams immediately around them in the top echelon of the English game.

Whilst everyone has spent money quicker than you can say “blank cheque”, Arsenal have been knocking up a little pile of cash to sit on for presumably no other reason than the board enjoys swimming in it in a large Scrooge McDuck-style vault. The UEFA financial fair play rules, when they are implemented, will not knock all other clubs around them out of the Champions League due to infringement of what is essentially the vague scrutiny of club accountancy.

Manchester United’s revenue stream is so enormous that it’s doubtful that this summer’s spending is in anticipation of the new rules (due to be imposed in 2012/13) but more likely it is a club flexing their financial muscles in a competitive environment to build the spine of a team for the next decade. Across town, Manchester City are unlikely to face any penalties for no other reason than their extremely dodgy insider-sponsorship deals. Only Chelsea, currently an absolute drain of a club (and always has been) may find themselves in trouble.

UEFA have written that “the financial fair play rules do not prevent clubs from spending money on transfers themselves but rather require them to balance their books at the end of the season”. What this means is that the huge spending does not necessarily need to end as long as the club can be seen to be making a profit at the end of the season, and even then special dispensation may be granted to clubs with a long-term financial strategy that can be proved.

This leads us back to Arsenal, who have long since been saying that the strategy of creating financial stability of the club is the bedrock for the future. But one can hardly see Manchester United disappearing overnight because of the debt levied against the club. It is certainly true that Arsenal’s finances are among the most stable in the Premier League, though what this means is that there is not all that much to spend in comparison to Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United. Financial stability and frugality are synonymous with penny-pinching and a fear of risk-taking – and it is the latter that has become most evident at Arsenal.

It would be easy to blame Arsène Wenger, and much has been made of his past relationship with David Dein and the way that deals used to be brokered. It is not Wenger though that sets the wage and transfer budget for the club, it is the board. Wenger, we all know, does agree with them but it would be unfair to suggest that he does not feel frustrated by the amount of players that have been missed out on over the years. I doubt it was Wenger, for example that scrawled out that embarrassing fax to Bolton, which mostly likely was a tribute to economising, written on recycled toilet paper in crayon which contained something like “Cahill? £6 million.” Perhaps in a further effort to save money, whoever wrote it out missed out a ‘1’ before the 6. Wenger must take some blame for not identifying the correct targets, but a lot of it must go to those that set the parameters for deals.

This is where we arrive back at 8-2. The likelihood is that the transfers of André Santos from Fenerbache and Park Chu-Young from Monaco would have been completed regardless of Sunday’s results – the pair will cost just over £11 million in total – but the potential transfer of Per Mertesacker is the direct (and at last positive) consequence of the inherent problems of frugality in a spendthrift environment. The Arsenal board’s profiteering was finally exposed as disastrous on Sunday and the reaction, to sign three players in roughly a day, is not surprising. In it, we can also see that Wenger has been shouldering the burden of the unrelenting greed at the top of the club. A player that the manager has been after for several years is finally close to signing and all it took was Arsenal’s biggest defeat for over a century to loosen the purse strings to get him.

Follow me on Twitter @samuelefrumento

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  • John

    The Financial Fair Play rules are not worth the paper they’re written on if Citeh is not banned from Europe next year. Their salaries are higher than their revenue! So, for the CL next year we have: Manu, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham; Citeh and Chelsea banned. Seems about right, won’t hold my breath though.

  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Mystical Mike

    Cieth will wright it off by throwing loads of money at the stadium as sponsors. What’s 500 m to a trillionaire?

  • looneygooner

    blame the board and blame the f..king Kroneke who is a disgrace, doesn’t go to games, doesn’t say f..k all and calls it soccer we have lost our way with the wankers on the board and PHW is a dinosaur whom has to go bring back Dein to help Wenger

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