Today’s back pages are covered with reports of Arsenal’ s £17.8 million profits announced yesterday.
The world and his wife seems intent on asserting their opinion on whether or not Arsenal’s profits in the transfer market are directly related to their lack of silverware for the last 8 years.
It is a question that needs to be answered – by the owner, the manager and, in many ways, the players on the pitch – after all it is their wages that account for the largest portion of Arsenal Football Club’s expenditure each year.
However, another question that may have been swept under the carpet to some degree is what exactly is the problem with Arsenal selling players?
Allow me to play Devil’s Advocate for a moment and suggest that most clubs sell some players. Manchester United sold David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo at the peak of their powers, Chelsea let Didier Drogba and very soon Frank Lampard go on free transfers and Liverpool sold Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso, and Raul Meireles, didn’t they?
Arsenal have made a profit – a huge profit – in the transfer market, the problem, however, is that their success on the pitch has suffered season after season and they have nothing but money to show for their endeavours.
The likes of Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, and Ashley Cole would have likely helped them chase that elusive trophy that’s been avoiding them like the plague all these years.
But, whilst all and sundry will point to the correlation between what Arsenal do commercially and how they perform in competitions, there is nothing wrong with selling players for large sums of money, at the peak of their powers – even the big boys do that.
The problem is not re-investing that money in adequate and quality replacements and this is why Arsenal’s profits are being called into question. When you sell the players above, you need to be sure you can not only survive, but compete at the same level without them in the squad.
If you sell two captains in two seasons consecutively, you can’t be surprised when your team desperately lacks necessary leadership and commitment – you can’t sell quality attackers and expect to score the same amount of goals – surely the signings last summer of Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud, and Santi Cazorla illustrate that Arsene Wenger and the board understand the principle of that.
So why all the fuss then?
Arsenal fans generate much of the club’s revenue and, if the ticket and merchandise sales which have slightly decreased this year are anything to go by, they want to see the money they spend re-invested in the squad.
When Alex Song was sold, Wenger did not buy a replacement but instead converted Mikel Arteta into a holding midfielder in Song’s image. But that’s not good enough – Mikel Arteta had been drafted in to the Emirates in the first place as the closest to a like-for-like replacement for Cesc Fabregas after he was sold to Barcelona.
Fabregas cost Barca £35 million, Arteta cost Arsenal £10 million – you get the picture. Fans get over losing their favourite players but only so long that they are replaced properly and the team continues to challenge for titles.
If that were the case at Arsenal, then the profits being announced would have been reported and analysed the way Manchester United’s profits are – as a commercial success, as a slap on the back and a cause for celebration.
The reason they are reported so negatively is because Arsenal have not won anything in 8 years and the fans are becoming disillusioned and impatient with the board and the manager. They want to know where the money’s going…
image: © wonker