It’s that familiar time of the summer again for Arsenal fans. After a promising start to the transfer window which began with a high profile, long-needed recruit (Xhaka this year, Cech last) it’s gone awfully quiet. Again.
While our main rivals have splashed the cash, the Gunners are failing to invest the lucrative profits drawn from unprecedented TV and match day revenues to keep up with competitors. As a result, we face the serious risk of starting the season with a thin squad due to injuries and extended holidays.
Worst even, chief executive Ivan Gazidis recently went back on his promises of 2013, when he claimed now the Emirates Stadium was paid for, us fans could look forward to exciting times and major signings. Now instead, he argues Arsenal cannot compete financially with the rest, or even afford any recruitment errors.
Really? What happened since 2013? Last time I checked, Arsenal earned €435.5m in 2014–15, with the Emirates among the highest grossing stadiums in the world – certainly the most profitable in England. Based on social media activity, Arsenal’s fanbase is the 5th largest in the world, whilst Forbes estimates the club is the second most valuable in England behind United. That’s not to mention the new TV deal, and huge kit sponsorship signed with Puma only last year.
Despite this, we allegedly can’t afford to offer anymore than West Ham for Lacazette? Or deem it more important to haggle over a few quid on Mustafi, rather than just sort a deal and prepare the new campaign? Can we not pay £40m for last year’s PFA player of the year? Like, really?? Claiming not to be able to match, say United’s crazy valuation of Pogba is one thing – although it’s probably equally untrue. But to say we can’t align on the spending powers of the mighty likes of Palace or Liverpool isn’t just bullshit. It’s actually taking the fans for mugs.
The million dollar question for me is this: who’s to blame? It’s pretty obvious Gazidis has little interest in Arsenal specifically, and football more generally. Like many sporting institutions under American ownership, we operate like a profitable business and not an ambitious football club. This suggests that the board is to blame for the lack of spending.
But here’s the thing: Arsene Wenger is a God at Arsenal, if not among the fans, at least internally still. If he pushed for new signings, he would get them. In fact, the board regularly make it public that the funds are available for him. They did so again this week. I believe Wenger’s target is not solely to win trophies. It is to win them on HIS TERMS.
The issue with this of course, is that his terms involve a team that’s largely inexperienced, often naive, mentally weak and crucially cheaply assembled. Wenger sees the modern transfer market and its inflated prices as an obscenity he categorically refuses to be part of. His ideological beliefs mean he refuses to play the game. And if you don’t buy a ticket, you can’t win the raffle. In a way, he’s the Corbyn of football management: an out of touch idealist who needs to wake up quickly, and who’s perhaps already caused irreversible damage.
It seems there is nothing Wenger would like more than to show his doubters wrong and win the league without breaking the bank, or with a Giroud upfront, or without a solid defensive pair. That is, even if it takes up 12 years of despair to get there. This is a motto he MUST break before the start of the season.
One thing’s for sure: whoever is to blame for Arsenal’s failure to strengthen, we won’t have to wait for Wenger’s biography to find out. His successor’s ability (or not) to spend money will speak volume about what’s really been going on behind the closed doors of North London.
Who do you think is preventing Arsenal from spending?