Arsene Wenger made an amazing statement during an official press conference in February when he was the recipient of the Laureus lifetime award, a disclosure which has been virtually ignored by both mainstream and social media:
“We built the Emirates without one penny injected by anybody. So, that means, this was all done on transfer policy, from the first to the last moment.
“We could only survive by having a good transfer policy, and by selling our best players.
“People forget that now because the finances of football have changed as the television money has improved a lot.
“The weight of a transfer is less today because television money has doubled compared to a few years ago.”
Whether you are pro or anti Wenger and anywhere in-between, this was an eye-opening statement, a radical disclosure that should cause any objective person to entirely reconsider their perception of the ten year period between 2005-15.
On reflection, it is not surprising the media would totally ignore this earth-shaking disclosure by Wenger. It entirely destroys the fake narrative of the past 13 years that centered on demonizing, defaming and debasing Wenger himself. There were various lines of attack from time to time:
- Cheap scrooge.
- Insecure and weak willed afraid of signing or keeping big players.
- Dictatorial totalitarian.
- Egomaniac selfishly pursuing a personal agenda.
- Senile and out-of-touch.
Readers can add to this list. It was infinite in its malign stupidity. But it was repeated adnauseum by the majority of journos, pundits, bloggers and podcasters, often to wild acclaim and popularity. Many earned fame manufacturing fake news in support of their accusations and disparaging anyone who expressed opposition. It’s an all too familiar story.
Best players were sold
To be fair, even those of us who actively rejected the nonsense, often underestimated that Wenger was implementing a clear and deliberate policy of the Board. Wenger may have had the final say but he was implementing a policy. Developing and selling best players was necessary to pay for the stadium.
Memories are conveniently short in football, especially when it comes to inconvenient facts and figures but it is worth remembering some of the players developed by Wenger and later sold on for major profit.
- 2005-06: Patrick Vieira for £18.00m
- 2007-08: Thierry Henry for £21.6m
- 2008-09: Aleksandr Hleb for £15.3m
- 2009-10: Emmanuel Adebayor for £26.1and Kolo Toure for £16.83m
- 2011-12: Cesc Fàbregas for £30.6 and Samir Nasri for £24.75m
- 2012-13: Robin van Persie for £27.63m
- 2014-15: Thomas Vermaelen for £17.1m
Due to the humongous inflation in transfer prices (e.g. goalkeepers are now going at £60 million) the above fees may not seem like much. But at current prices both Vieira and Henry are easily £80 million players at least.
According to transfermarkt.co.uk, between 2005-15, when the club was most shackled by the stadium debt, under Arsenal’s transfer policy net transfer expenditure was an astonishing £30.94 million or £3 million per year.
The transfer policy may have been good financially but it was certainly a negative football-wise. No doubt about it. Bear in mind almost all the above players were sold at or near their peak. Vieira, Henry, Toure and Van Persie were all at or around 29 year-old when transferred. Fabregas and Nasri were much younger with potentially many more years to grow and develop. All went on to have major success at their subsequent clubs, certainly winning major honors and becoming fabulously wealthy in the process. No wonder many Gooners still lament their departure and argue if they had been retained the club could have won the PL title.
Interestingly some Gooners have developed a grief-coping mechanism by convincing themselves that most of these players at their new clubs did not continue the same star trajectory they had at Arsenal. The fact that many are now regarded as major figures in the football world betray these convenient, self-serving rationalizations.
The point of this brief trip down memory lane is not to rehash the mindless battles of the past dividing fans between pro and anti Wenger factions but to emphasize, wrong or right, what we observed was deliberate club policy.
Current policy is to cut wages
Similarly, as I pointed out in my last blog, today there is clear evidence of club policy to cut wages and in the process get rid of those players that are the highest earners. Ramsey is clearly a victim of this policy and the signs indicate a similar attitude to Ozil. I further argue that given his loan obligations, Kroenke can sustain such a policy by aiming to be a top-6 club and avoid the additional financial risk of being a top-4 club.
It seems mine is an unpopular opinion but facts are facts. Historical evidence and current developments support my conclusions.
Being conscious of reality does not mean fans should be quiet and accepting. It means we can better challenge Mr. Kroenke and avoid getting into mindless futile battles such as blaming Emery for any resulting failures from the owner’s policy. If Emery is being instructed to phase out Ramsey and Ozil, with the subsequent negative impact on results, then not only is the manager due severe criticism but, as much, if not more, of our ire should be directed at the owner. That it seems to me is the major lesson from Wenger’s disclosure. The owner sets policy and no matter how great or successful is the manager he must comply.