So far this summer, Arsenal’s transfers read like this:
In: Carlos Vela (returning from loan, work permit approved), Aaron Ramsey (£5m, Cardiff)
Out: Mathieu Flamini (free, AC Milan), Jens Lehmann (free, Stuttgart)
Add to this the impending arrivals of both Samir Nasri and Amaury Bischoff and you have a nice nucleus of young stars arriving at Arsenal to boost their title chances for the next season.
They are a keeper and a backup defender away from being a complete squad after these two additions, although some might say that with Gilberto Silva, Abou Diaby and Denilson left to partner Fabregas in midfield an experienced European campaigner would be useful too (any suggestions?).
But there is a lot of needless panicking in the media about Arsenal’s state of affairs. It started with Adebayor and Hleb being linked with moves away from Arsenal – both players wanted improved contract terms or a move aborad – and it culminated into a frenzy with shit tabloid NOTW publishing quotes from Arsene Wenger that supposedly claimed that Arsenal need to sell in order to pay off their debts.
Now I’m no Arsenal fan but even I can see from the numbers that the club is profitable thanks to their consistent appearances in the Champions League, the new TV deal and the money-making machine that they call the Emirates Stadium. If Arsenal have to pay 24m per year, they could do that and still be left with enough profits to buy new players. The whole thing is being blown out of proportion for fun’s sake – Arsenal have to be prudent in the transfer window and look for less expensive talent and focus on youngsters as a result but that has more to do with Wenger’s vision of creating a winning team than it has to do with financial hardship.
So when Wenger says: “We manage at Arsenal to maintain all our football ambitions â€” national and European â€”while having to free up – for 17 more years – an annual surplus of £24m to pay for our stadium.”
He’s bragging about his work at Arsenal, not telling us that Arsenal will be a selling club.
And when he says: “The strategy of the club is to sell every year and to buy less expensive players.”
You need to take those two points separately – selling each year helps Wenger get the bad players off the wage bill and buying less expensive players helps them get more value for their money.
Wenger: “The club’s strategy is to favour the policy of youngsters ahead of stars and to count on the collective quality of our game.”
That’s what produces Wengerball and again, not a fan but hard to argue with the man based on the results they’ve had in the past.
Unfortunately NOTW put those quotes in a sequence (answers to separate questions in separate contexts) that made it sound like Arsenal are a selling club. They’ve done it before, and they’re not the only ones to pull such tricks.
So Arsenal have the dosh to spend – as evidenced by their spending 5m on Ramsey, and 11m on Nasri – both intelligent buys and free of the ridiculous over-valuation that surrounds the likes of Arshavin and Barry. They refuse to be hijacked, and although Wenger does get a few things wrong he gets most of them right, like his stance on Hleb and Adebayor.
Adebayor is asking for improved contract terms and my understanding is that while Arsenal have offered an improvement, it doesn’t match what Barcelona or Milan are prepared to offer him and he’s holding out for that much at least or he’s threatening to leave. Thing is, Arsenal have put a 30m price tag on a 10m forward and it’s already scared Milan off and it will eventually knock back Barcelona as well (they would have to be crazy to pay that much for Adebayor). I’ve said before that a straight Ade-Eto’o swap might be best for Arsenal as long as they could manage his wages. If a swap doesn’t happen, I doubt that Adebayor will move as a club would have to be crazy to pay that much for him.
Hleb is a different case – he himself has kept quiet although his agent has once or twice spoken about his client’s desire to move. It seems that while Hleb is also after a better deal he’s less adamant about it than Adebayor and has been far more professional about the whole situation. Barcelona were rumoured to be after Hleb as well
Barcelona will find cheaper but equally talented alternatives to Adebayor and Hleb outside England. If Arsenal can keep these two onboard for next season and add Nasri and Bischoff as expected, they will be stronger than last season (barring central midfield, but you never know how Silva / Diaby / Denilson / Bischoff could step up and do a Flamini) and again genuine contenders for trophies on all four fronts.