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Van Persie and Song exits maintain the annual Arsenal tradition of selling key players
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If you can’t beat them – sell to them!

By prolifik on August 25th, 2012 in Blow the whistle 10 comments
If you can’t beat them – sell to them!
Emirates exit - RVP and Song
Once again, Arsenal fans have had to endure another pre-season of seeing some of their top talent escaping the Emirates, electing to move on to greener pastures and leaving them with a weakened squad and potentially a troublesome year ahead. Midfielder Alex Song has followed last season’s Player of the Year, Robin van Persie, out the door after a £15 million deal was agreed with Barcelona. The news came just days after it was confirmed that star striker RvP was joining bitter rivals Manchester United in a move that will hurt even the most positive natured of Arsenal supporters.  

If anything, this summer has confirmed that Arsenal have now become a selling club. It’s not abundantly clear whether they feel they have to cash in on their prized assets in order to keep their finances in balance, or they are just not prepared to invest money into building the squad, forcing their top stars to move elsewhere in search of silverware. But one way or another, their top players seem to be jumping ship which suggests that perhaps the short-term future of Arsenal Football Club is not looking overly bright.  

Just as they were last summer, Gunners fans have again been left scratching their heads at just how they’ve managed to lose two of their top players. Going back a few years, Arséne Wenger’s side would always be considered as potential title contenders going into a new season but sadly those days are gone now. The only question mark now is whether or not they are able to retain their status as a Champions League club and it seems to be becoming an increasingly tough ask for them to deliver on this each year.  

So why exactly have the powers that be at Arsenal allowed this situation to develop in the way that it has? Why have they not taken steps to prevent the exodus of top stars and ensure they strengthen the squad year in year out?

Well, it could be said that a lot of it is down to the repayments required to service the debt the club incurred when building the Emirates stadium. After the money was committed to the Ashburton Grove project, it was understood that for the next few years the Gunners perhaps would not have the finances to invest heavily in the transfer market. In truth, they have spent very carefully ever since moving to the Emirates in 2006. In fact, they have generated a net profit from transfer fees in four out of the six seasons since then, so Wenger has had to work with a low budget to keep things ticking over during that time. The transfer policy seems to have been dictated more by the sale of players than by thoughts of who they can bring in to strengthen the squad. This has surely hampered their progress and made it increasingly difficult to keep up with the big guns of English football.  

The first sign of Arsenal’s inclination toward becoming a selling club was when midfielder and then captain, Patrick Vieira, left to join Juventus in July 2005. The move came as a bit of a surprise as Real Madrid had offered big money for the Frenchman the previous year which Arsenal had turned down. In 2006, home-grown defender Ashley Cole moved across London to join Roman Abramovich’s Russian revolution at Chelsea. This was the first example of a rich club overpowering Arsenal to steal the signature of one of their top players. The following summer, the Gunners best player ever, Thierry Henry left to join Barcelona. It was thought at the time that Arsenal would really struggle without their top star. But they soldiered on and other players stepped up the plait.  

It may perhaps be the summer of 2009 that paved the way for things to come the most, when Arsenal sold both Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Touré to Manchester City. Not only were they losing two first team players, they were also helping a team that was a major contender to take their Champions League spot away from them. That was why it was a rather surprising deal and one that had been uncharacteristic of Arsenal under Wenger until that point. 

In 2011, Arsenal sold two more first team players to Man City, starting with left-back Gael Clichy and then Samir Nasri later on that summer. These were indeed dark days for the Gunners, as they did not want to sell Nasri but their hand was forced, since he only had one more year left in his contract. That same summer, captain Cesc Fabregas had moved to Barcelona, leaving Wenger with a severely depleted squad to tackle the new campaign with. Arsenal managed to secure a few last minute signings toward the end of the transfer window and, in the end, managed to achieve a miraculous third place finish which got them into the Champions League, although they had to rely on a huge collapse from North London neighbours Tottenham Hotspur to do it.  

In all that time since moving to the Emirates, Arsenal have failed to win a single trophy. Although they’ve managed to qualify for the Champions League every year, they’ve not really made any inroads into looking like they can challenge for major honours. You would think that by this point the board would be keen to keep the players they currently have and then make a few acquisitions to boost them to that next level so they can challenge for major honours. But this has not happened. Instead the powers that be seem strangely content to do just what it takes to achieve Champions League qualification. There’s no thought given to strengthening the squad in an attempt to bridge the gap between themselves and the two Manchester clubs. There’s no hope of any money being thrown into the kitty to help buy more key players so they could perhaps take home a trophy of some sort, even if simply to appease the fans.  

So why are the Arsenal board not prepared to go that extra mile to give the team a better chance of success? The answer is simply economics. It’s a well known fact that the Champions League is where the money is in football these days. Clubs get paid a fair amount of money for just participating in it and additional bonuses for winning games and progressing. Manchester United earned £28 million last year despite failing to progress past the group stage. The prize money for winning the Premier League is approximately £16 million and each placing earns the club approximately £800,000 more than the position below. By finishing third, Arsenal could earn around £14.4 million so there isn’t a great difference between winning it and finishing third. An FA Cup win would earn the club around £2,800,000 in prize money and a League Cup win only £100,000, so it’s easy to see why those trophies are not a major priority for the Arsenal board.

Chelsea earned £47.3 million for winning the Champions League, which is a lot of money. But from a business point of view, it would make no sense for Arsenal to go out and spend £50 million on new players in order to win the competition, plus pay those players astronomical wages. Therefore, it’s easy to see that from a financial point of view, where Arsenal are now is the best place to be. They aim to finish in the top four and gain Champions League qualification. This is something they know they can achieve with minimal investment. In fact, most seasons they bring in more money from transfers than they pay out, so they can then potentially turn over a profit when the accounts are totted up at the end of the year.  

Unfortunately for Arsenal fans, the owners and the management run the club from a business perspective, rather than a football one. So winning trophies is not seen as the be all and end all for them. Finishing in the top four is and that is all that really matters. They intend to stay there without the owner or any of the board members having to invest their own money into the club. This is completely different to how Chelsea and Manchester City are run. They both have wealthy owners who just want to see the club win major trophies and are willing to plough a lot of their own money into realising this. Therefore, much like the supporters, they do not concern themselves so much with profit. Manchester United are somewhere in between the two. They’re prepared to spend big, but only when they really feel the need to in order to stay on top, as we’ve seen with the van Persie acquisition.  

Sadly for Arsenal, the situation is unlikely to change. They will always look to qualify for the Champions League at as minimal cost as they possibly can and the sale of their top players is liable to continue in the coming years. Whether that is viewed as a lack of ambition or simply choosing the sensible option is up for debate. It will only be if they fail to finish to finish in the top four, a fate they came dangerously close to last season, that the situation will change. If that does happen though, it may be too late by then and they may struggle to combat the inevitable decline that will ensue if they lose their status as a Champions League club.

Contributed by richbrawn1
By prolifik on August 25th, 2012 in Blow the whistle

If you can’t beat them – sell to them!
10 responses
8 Sep, 2012
I should also have meinonted that Martin Montoya has surprisingly been called up by Vicente Del Bosque for Spain's friendly against Chile next week. A lot of news today to keep up with
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