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.