It’s often asked of Arsenal why so much money is in the bank if the team isn’t progressing on the pitch - and it is a completely fair question. Andi Foster explains.
Arsenal’s latest financial results show that the club have cash reserves of £123 million - (I’ll let someone else get into the argument about how Arsenal have such a high wage bill compared with their performances) and as an Arsenal fan myself I‘m intrigued to know how the club can really justify sitting on that massive piggy bank whilst an eighth trophyless year is looming.
Now before you suggest that I am the latest in a long line of writers to suggest “just spending it” - the last thing I want is for Arsenal to blow all of that cash for the sake of it. But it does raise a few interesting questions for me – and mainly because of a Wenger press conference last week.
“We went out to spend money at Christmas but we didn’t find the players.”
Where on Earth were you looking? And who are you looking for? Other clubs managed to substantially enhance their squad (see Newcastle) - and in positions that Arsenal could have desperately done with improving. Could the problem actually be that you overrate your squad?
“Strengthen the team in the positions we feel we are a bit weaker. But we have a basis of a team that is very strong for me. I believe in some areas of our team we can compete with anybody in the world. We analyse all the European and English teams and in some areas of our team we are very competitive.”
If you only feel that Arsenal are competitive across some aspects of the team – why haven’t you been more pro-active in addressing this issue?
“I’m not reluctant to spend. First of all, we only had money recently. Secondly, in England there is a way of thinking that every problem is sorted out just by spending money – but that’s not always the case. If it was, the same teams would win the Champions League every year.”
Tackling the second part of this first – the same teams do not always win the Champions league every year – that part of what you say is correct. But what you fail to mention is that very similar teams are involved in the latter stages of the competition each year (the same way that Arsenal are normally out of each competition by February). The vast majority of these teams do actually spend more than Arsenal. So in truth – spending money does actually solve some problems.
And now moving on to the first part of what you mention (about only recently having money to spend). This money hasn’t just appeared overnight. Arsenal haven’t just won the lottery.
Arsenal don’t have a mystery backer that has suddenly deposited £120m into the club – Arsenal’s cash reserves were at £115m at this point last year and as far back as 2010 – the club said that they would back you in the transfer market.
So no – you haven’t only recently had money to spend (proven by the fact that it is widely accepted that Arsenal bid £35m for Gotze on 31st August 2011) – so yes I think you may well be reluctant to spend as well as being blinded by your faith in the quality of the current squad.
And I find that those questions actually all come back to one bigger overriding question. Who is Wenger actually accountable to? It was a question asked at the close of the 2011 season. Why is no one alongside him asking him the difficult questions that no one has asked since Dein left the club?
How has one man collected so much power? How is Wenger still so comfortable in a role that other top clubs would have dismissed him for a number of years ago?
In writing this I realise that I actually don’t want Wenger to leave Arsenal – but he desperately needs someone to shake him up. There has been one constant throughout our trophyless seasons and that constant has been Wenger. He needs to be made accountable and his actions need to change or the Arsenal board need to agree on a new captain.
When Wenger leaves Arsenal – he should be remembered for the great memories that he brought so many of us. He should be remembered as a legend.
Unfortunately - every recent season pushes those memories further away. Wenger was the right manager to pull Arsenal through a stadium move and to ensure financial stability whilst dealing with massive financial burdens.
But is he now the right manager to take the club forward? Unless Wenger can adapt to this new era at the club – and new era in football then I’d have to say no. The tides are changing – and it’s time to stop treading water.
Do you agree with Andi? What next for Arsenal?
image: © lodekka