Arsène Wenger’s greatest strength could prove his downfall

For a while I have avoided the controversial topic of Arsenal’s money – specifically whose fault it is that we’re not spending money. However, after a discussion with Mean Lean of Arsenal Vision, I feel ready to throw my hat into the ring.

In the summer, Arsenal had looked to be on the verge of signing Juan Mata. The deal was supposedly set to be sealed, but according to Guillem Balague, the Gunners pulled out at the last minute. There was a debate about who at Arsenal pulled the plug – Arsène Wenger or the board*.

Let me start by saying one thing – Arsène Wenger does not negotiate deals. If my understanding of the club’s structure and hierarchy is correct, Richard Law and Ivan Gazidis are at the helm of the negotiations for players coming in, going out and potentially signing new contracts. I believe that they’re backed up by a team of negotiators too, the number of which I’m unsure of.

This isn’t to say that Wenger has no say in who we buy, sell and keep; not at all. He is the one who makes the decision to negotiate for whomever – he picks the players to try to buy, to try to sell and try to keep. I assume that he also advises the negotiators based on his footballing knowledge. Of course, he can pull the plug on a deal, but I don’t think this was the case with Mata, which is just an example I’m using to make my point.

For Wenger, his priorities are footballing results first, money second. Obviously the two are somewhat correlated, but there is no reason to suspect that he is holding back money just for the sake of making a profit at the expense of winning matches and trophies and at the risk of damaging his reputation further. The board, however, are basically investors. For them, the most important thing is money – while a few might be Arsenal supporters, the majority most likely favour money over footballing results.

Arsenal have been producing high profits for seasons now, and the credit has rightly gone to Arsène Wenger – he has kept the club largely competitive (despite an absence of trophies come the end of each season) and has done so without breaking the bank. He still manages to sneak under the radar and sign excellent players such as Laurent Koscielny without paying massive prices. But now we come to the point of this article.

The board have seen how Arsène has generated large profits and kept the club competitive and perhaps this has made them reluctant to sign off on the bigger deals when Wenger feels they’re needed; like Mata for example (although this is all just educated guess-work). But it’s not as simple as that anymore – the teams around us have been wising up and some have been bought up, leading to a more competitive league. We can no longer secure all of our targets because we’re never the only club on the scene; other teams have caught up with scouting and so on and it’s not as easy for Arsène to pull rabbits out of the hat.

Wenger had insisted that he would not sell both Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas in the summer and if he’s as stubborn as his critics insist he is, I’m sure he would have done everything in his power to keep his word. Fabregas was always likely to go, but Wenger did say that he thought Nasri would remain at Arsenal, even if he didn’t sign a contract extension. Putting two and two together here, I believe that the board forced through the sale of Nasri so we wouldn’t lose him for nothing at the end of his contract.

In the current financial and footballing climate, I feel it’s unreasonable for the board to expect the same miracles from Arsène Wenger again and again without adjusting our wage and transfer budgets accordingly to fit with the rising prices in the world of football. We’re getting left behind, and so many times we have failed to bring in a player because they were “unavailable”. Prices are rising, and to get quality sometimes you have to pay – like for Mata. If anyone can give me a better reason for the deal being cancelled (if that’s what happened, and it seems that way) than the board refusing to sanction it, I’d be happy to listen.

As I implied above, I doubt it’s just the transfer budget which has kept us from signing players. Wages are increasing yet we still seem to be incorporating a £100,000-a-week ceiling. Obviously footballers wages are huge, let’s ignore that, but instead remember that we moved to the Emirates Stadium to compete financially with the top teams. Or at least, that’s the line we were fed. We don’t seem to be doing that.

I have no doubt that Wenger would keep his best players if he could – he’s a football manager, not a wheeler dealer (to paraphrase a twitchy tax evader) – but for several reasons, he’s not been able to. He’d also adequately replace them if he could. But he hasn’t done so, while the club is still making a profit. What reason do the board have to change things if they can still make money out of the club?

This is just my logical take on it, it’s how I see things at the club. I’m entirely willing to accept that I may be completely wrong.

* – After the Kroenke deal, no members on the official board have shares in the club (which is relevant through-out this article), but since the deal Kroenke is now the one who stands to gain from the profits Arsène has helped to generate. Either way, the general point from the post remains. As far as my understanding goes… Although according to @DarrenArsenal1, board members still stand to gain directors’ expenses, so can still profit from the club.

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17 responses to “Arsène Wenger’s greatest strength could prove his downfall”

  1. shrek2be says :

    Interesting article. Keep it up. People constantly expect AW to be a miracle worker. He is only human. There was a comment made by Winterburn that we lost out on a deal with a player because we were waiting for the funds from the Fabregas deal/ delay in the deal itself. Speculation is rife that the player was Juan Mata.

    • Sam says :

      Thanks, glad you liked it. I agree there, and in fact that very comment was something that sparked this article. I’m positive that the player was Mata. Cheers again for the comment.

      • shrek2be says :

        Normally I take anything Ferguson says about Arsenal with a pinch of salt but he made an insightful comment during the Nasri saga as he was linked with Man Utd as well. I believe SAF was asked his opinion on it and he said that the Arsenal board,not Wenger, would rarely be able to resist such a good offer for Nasri from City with his contract running out.

  2. Thomas Woodward says :

    Great article, the only issue I have is that I’m not sure the Mata deal was ever cancelled? According to this Sky Sports article (http://www1.skysports.com/football/news/12874/7119059/Mata-reveals-Prem-snubs), Mata rejected moves from both Arsenal and Tottenham. It seems more likely that a player would reject a club than a board would cancel a transfer? Although I do agree that it was the board who sold Nasri because as you point out in the article, Wenger said he wouldn’t sell both Fabregas and Nasri and he is one stubborn guy.

    • Sam says :

      I suppose it’s a matter of who you believe; you could say that Mata wanted to make a good impression on his new team in fairness, and believe what Guillem Balague and I believe Graham Hunter & Sid Lowe were also saying, which is the path I’ve taken. But I can see where you’re coming from; Mata was really just the best example I could think of to aid my point. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Sam says :

    @shrek2be: Exactly. Wish I’d known of that quote whilst writing!

  4. Oneworldceo says :

    Wenger still remains a factor in this failure. However, I leave the blames on the fans of Arsenal. They really have not agitated enough for derivation from the clubs’ management

  5. Oneworldceo says :

    Wenger still remains a factor in this failure. However, I leave the blame on the fans of Arsenal. They really have not agitated enough for derivation from the clubs’ management

  6. Vinny says :

    People focus on Wenger’s Young inexperienced players , or lack of spending etc. But not one has really given me data on why wenger’s team between 1998-2005 , were ridiculously less injury prone than his teams from 2005-2012…
    And most of them got injured on grounds which were not Emirates to put a finger on the new stadium …!!! I mean Good , Bad , Ugly … compare apples to apples … then i will think of joining the witch hunt[ not referring to you 😉 ]..otherwise .. I dont see any joy on wenger’s face when we loose … he is more devasted or more disgusted … just like us ,.,,thanks

  7. shrek2be says :

    Does anyone have any idea what a rights issue is all about?

    • Sajit says :

      Its similar to issuing new shares, the difference being that it is offered only to existing share holders (proportional to the existing shares)and normally comes at a discount to the market rate. This way the company raises money, and %age of shares held by individuals don’t change significantly. AST have been propounding rights issue as way to raise money for some time now

      • shrek2be says :

        from what I am reading online ,it ends up diluting the actual value of the stocks. Although it gains us money and also ensures Usmanov’s stake goes higher , no guarantee that money spent will result in success.

    • Sajit says :

      It could dilute the value of the stock, however all the existing shareholders have the option of proportionally adding to their holdings, thus holdings pattern remain same. The only way Usmanov’s share increases is, if some of the share holders turn down the offer and elect Usmanov to be offered those shares. The way i see it some of the major share holders will have to buy the shares (more investment), which they might not want to or relinquish those shares which could eventually get picked up by Usmanov. Devils alternative 🙂

  8. Sajit says :

    Agree with your what you have written. I have held this opinion for some time now

  9. caipirinho gaucho says :

    mate, wenger is all over it. please just answer on simple question. who on earth in the arsenal is it that gives the go ahead to extend juicy contracts to mediocre players such as vela, bendtner, almunia, djourou, denilson, etc. etc. et.c?

    players such as those, and their “good” contracts compared to their quality is what makes the arsenal to be financially constrained!!!! wake up!!!!

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