One of the things that people have been talking about off late is how Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have more or less thrown away the title in January by not strengthening the squad. The way things have panned out for them, you can’t find too much fault with this assertion. However, what is jarring is the more widely held belief that the manager, and in effect the club, have an aversion to spending money on quality players. That is a view that is not entirely true and perpetuated by the media, lapped up by fans, home and rivals alike.
When Arsenal’s new stadium was commissioned, it was known that it would be a tough time for the Gunners. With that in mind, the focus was always on getting youngsters and developing their potential so that they could achieve the results on the field. And this was not something randomly started after the existing squad had been dismantled. Rather, it was the League Cup that was used to blood a lot of these youngsters, getting them ready for the first team. The fact that the club was ready for the transformation was evidenced in the excellent 07/08 season. True, they did not win anything, but they were on top of the league for most of the season, proving wrong the general but flawed opinion from all-knowing journalists that Arsenal would be relegated that season.
But as the number of trophyless seasons continued to grow, the frustration has been built up among the fans, resulting in a blinding of the logical reasons of the reasons behind the failure of the teams. For any team to win or lose, there are multiple factors that come into play. To simply ascribe a team’s destiny to the amount of money it spends in the transfer window is not only lazy, but also an insult to the intelligence.
It is a well-known fact that Arsenal had to take out a multi-million pound loan to cover the cost of the construction of the stadium. It is a simple equation that not only would the club have to repay the principal, but also pay the interest as well. Anyone who has taken a simple personal loan would know that if the payments are not made on time, the interest adds up as well as defaults not appreciated by the lender. So imagine what it must be like to have to pay somewhere around 30 million a year and still be competitive.
At this stage, the only source of revenue was the ticket sales, the tv rights and the sponsorship. But the sponsorship also cannot be counted considering that it was given up front rather than over the period of the contract so as to support the construction of the stadium. And with Chelsea effectively destroying the transfer market with its willingness to pay huge money, the chances of making a big purchase were quite less. Arsenal could have splurged the money on players, but chose not to, as it would end up causing trouble for the club’s very survival.
But as the payments continued over the years, helped by some astute sales that has ended up in calling Arsenal a selling club, the board at the helm started to sanction bolder moves in the transfer market. Andrei Arshavin comfortably beat the 10 million mark that Arsenal seem to have set for themselves and was the record signing until recently. The fact that they were willing to plump 12 million (plus 3 million in add-ons) for a 17 year old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was further proof that if the right player arrives, the club was willing to put in the money. And more recently, the signings of Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil have shown that Arsenal are willing to play the transfer game now that the burden of the loan has significantly reduced with better deals coming in for tv rights and sponsorship.
But to claim, like the Telegraph has, that Arsenal have a 100 million transfer kitty is once again lazy journalism. They may well have cash sitting in the bank, but as any finance person would know, you cannot use up all the money at once. There are liabilities to meet and you need to have enough money in reserve to be able to meet costs in case the unthinkable happens. Beyond that, whatever money is left can be used for investments.
And that is what Arsenal intend to do this summer.