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Free at Last! says Wenger

Free at Last! says Wenger

When it comes to transfer spending there is no sum too great and no trophy that can`t be gained simply by bringing in two or three world class players. Knowing who those players are and whether they will marry with the world class players you already have is the great uncertainty that makes all transfer spending risky.

The transfer windows have taken something of the form of a game within a game. Like party political broadcasts the sane will avoid them until the election or transfer window is over. As each window approaches headlines carry promises of 'war chests` and big spending amongst those teams deemed to be capable of doing so. The media stokes up the fever amongst a salivating audience with the closing hours adopting something of election night media frenzy as the clock ticks down. For some bizarre reason some supporters will even stay up all night in the hope that the close will bring news of a big money signing by their club. At the end of the process winners are declared with those spending the most announced by pundits and commentators as those having strengthened and therefore to achieve a CL place and those deemed to have under spent, if one of the previous CL qualifiers, the ones to yield their place to the big spenders.

The reality is never quite as simple as that as spending money, as any objective watcher will tell you, doesn`t always result in a strengthening of the team. If the spending isn`t properly balanced then you could as easily end up weakening the squad as Liverpool have perhaps found to their cost this season. Changing rules in any event should force clubs to be a little more prudent in what they spend even if the travails of Portsmouth FC, one of a series of financial failures, haven`t already brought the dangers into sharper focus. The Uefa Financial fair play rules won`t now be fully adopted until 2015 but they`ll be gradually phased in before then. New rules on squad sizes and structures coming into effect in the PL next season will require some thought in structure and make up though these will have the curious side effect of making players like Chris Smalling more attractive than his experience suggests he should be.

The financial restraints of stadium investment are for the most part behind us. The property development dividend is finding its way into the coffers on top of revenues increases as a result of the stadium development. Wenger has publicly declared that the club is in a better position to invest in the team than it has been able to do for some time. The strategy hasn`t involved 'soft` loans from billionaire sugar daddies or rights issues the money the club has is its own which brings a responsibility of its own too.

Arsenal has never had the reputation of big transfer spending club, not since the Chapman era at least, though a simple look at total player budgets including wages, as news of the deal struck a couple of seasons back to ensure Cesc`s 'stickiness` illustrates, undermines the notion that Arsenal aren`t big investors in their squad. In summer 2001, with David Dein claiming his credit card was in meltdown the club spent £22.5m on three players van Bronkhorst, Jeffers and Richard Wright with a fourth Sol Campbell joining on a free. The only significant departee was Silvinho for a modest £3m resulting in a big net spend for the times. Not much doubt about which player provided the best return for David Dein`s credit card payments in that summer.

In the past two summers Wenger has tried to sign first Alonso and then Melo for reportedly large sums. This summer it`ll be interesting to see what Wenger is tempted to do for the final season of his current contract. There are popular ideas of what weaknesses the squad has but just as Wenger surprised many by selling his star striker and buying a right back before mounting a strong title challenge the season before last he is as capable of frustrating popular perceptions this summer. Then again he has also shown with the signing of Arshavin that the negotiating team, with Gazidis to the forefront, is capable of putting together the glamour deals.

Since that summer of 2001 this is probably the first summer when the foot is more likely to be hovering over the spending accelerator rather than the brake. Even last summer, despite a couple of seasons of decent profits, the uncertainties of the property market called for a cautionary approach. This summer fewer encumbrances beyond the need to get real value are there to inhibit Wenger. With just one year to run on his contract what he does this summer may well decide what he does next. Another trophy less season may make him feel, as he has alluded to recently, that it would be time to let someone else cash in on his legacy. On the other hand if he does win something what better valedictory exit could he have?

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Date:Tuesday April 27 2010
Time: 12:22PM


I still don't expect AW to splash the cash this summer. Chamakh is already a done deal, and a call has been made to Martin Jol for the services of his RB at Ajax. I think it will be more interesting to see who Le Boss cashes in on. Sagna and possibly Clichy will be called into the office for the old " we've received an offer " conversation.
Cockney Rich
27/04/2010 12:46:00
I will be interested to see whether AW spends more than he used to before the new ground.
SFC Forever
27/04/2010 12:50:00
Good article Amos but doesn't this recent admission from Wenger about new found freedom contradict what the Board have been saying for the past 5 years? This latest statement from Wenger surely validates those Arsenal fans who have suspected all along that Wenger has been working with one hand tied behind his back? The official line from Arsenal FC has been "There may be financial restrictions but this in no way affects our transfer ambitions and Wenger can have any player he wants". Whilst the fans have said "There is obviously not enough money because Wenger is not an idiot, if we can see what we need then surely he can too." So I would say the fans who have suggested we have a highly compromised team which has been treading water post Highbury were right all along.
Professor Calculus
27/04/2010 12:52:00
I think that Chamakh is a defenite arrival, Van Der Wiel is a probable arrival. That leaves a goalie, CB and if we have enough left, a midfield enforcer. But I suppose it will in part depend on whether Sagna or Clichy are shipped out as I can see the vultures (i.e. Real Madrid, Barcelona et all) circling around them this summer. But I imagine that even if they do go, we should receive a substantial amount and therefore there will be no reason why the squad cannot be replenished, so we are not found wanting in any areas next season as we were this season. BTW we are now linked with Subotic of Dortmund, though I do understand this is only a rumour. Anyone ever seen this guy play?? Is he any good?
27/04/2010 12:59:00
I don't see Wengers announcement as an admission of anything just a statement of the obvious. The financial position and the policies utilised to deal with the financial restrictions would be pretty clear to anyone following the club on anything other than a superficial level. I am not sure whether the official line quote is a direct one but the paradox in it is pretty apparent. Wenger has said all along that the reliance on youth was forged to cope with financial restrictions. In that regard it has been reasonably successful. The whole stadium project was designed to put us into this position and given the way football regulation is now moving that process is being vindicated. Treading water, if that's what it has been, can be seen as by far the better option to that of drowning.
27/04/2010 13:04:00
Not necessarily, Calculus. There is a difference between reckless spending and prudence, which can make the difference between financial good health and dire straits; just ask Pompey (or 'Arry). The fact that "Wenger can have any player he wants" should not remove from Wenger's choice to thread the path of prudent spending. You and the fans you have referred to sound like the club never did ANY spending all those years, but the club paid for the services of Arshavin, Sagna, Eduardo and Vermaleen. Spending does not have to be huge to be effective, as Amos' article tried to point out. Big names do not always guarantee trophies and considering that Arsenal has remained competitive, despite "treading water, post Highbury" should tell you a thing or two about that fact. Of course, I do not attempt to answer for Amos, as your post was directed to him; these are my own views which I have always stood by.
27/04/2010 13:11:00
The admission and contradiction is very simple. For 5 years Wenger could buy any player he wants, now Wenger claims he can buy the players he needs due to new financial freedom. You can't see the contradiction there?
Professor Calculus
27/04/2010 13:13:00
Wenger was never going to 'want' a player that prevents him signing players he needs. The club has the cash to spend £80m on Ronaldo or Rooney but though Wenger might want them in the team he also wants to keep be able to afford to keep Fabregas and van Persie. What Wenger really wants is always going to be that which serves the club best over the long term. In that respect what he wants and what the board has wanted has also been in concert - which is why he has never been the problem it might have been in other manager/board relationships. To both his and the boards credit.
27/04/2010 13:20:00
Incisive article, by the way, Amos. I do not expect AW to splash the cash as most would imply, as this would not be Arsene's way. The backlash from disappointed fans is on-going and Wenger has only reacted to the general sentiments, not necessarily as an admission of any great weaknesses in his present squad, but to show he is sensitive to the needs of fans, world wide. This squad doesn't need a big make over; just some tweaking here and there and we will be ready. I subscribe to the need for more experienced men, though, just seeing Sol's impact on the side, just to push the lads across the line when we get close. What's with all the restriction on Squad size and Nationality quota, anyway? An attempt to bring down the quality in the PL?
27/04/2010 13:22:00
Agreed Naija. AW is very sensible. His policy is not reckless, mindless spending. Sure it would be great to have the likes of Villa, Torres, Aguerro etc playing for us but at the same time the club has to be careful to spend within its means as I would not want the club to go the same way as Man Utd or Liverpool who are financially much worse off than we are. I think AW mostly always makes shrewd signings especially in more recent times and unlike many other managers in football, learns from his mistakes with signings that havent quite worked out. I do expect AW to spend this summer but it will not be huge mega stars arriving at the club. It will be players that are relatively well known and talented and are ready for a step up to a big club who we will pay a sensible price for and will become stars at this club. I do expect the purse strings to open up much more once the debt on the Emirates is cleared but for the time being if it means a safe and sound financial footing for our club to be on to spend sensibly and wisely in the transfer market, I am all for it especially with todays climate and examples of clubs being crippled by their debts.
27/04/2010 13:32:00
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