Is Arsenal’s structure defendable?
There is a stability at Arsenal that Jose Mourinho claims he is envious of. Clubs around Europe perhaps should look at Arsenal with equal levels of envy because of their apparent financial safety. But as has always been the case, football is won on the pitch, not on how attractive the bank balance looks.
Arsene Wenger spoke out about a topic that most were already well aware of. This is his club and the board wouldn’t make a strong move against his position. The manager offers the guidelines for wages, as well as advocating a socialist structure that looks to keep everyone well within reach of each other.
Like most of Wenger’s ideals, it’s a romantic approach to the game. Unfortunately, it’s also one that doesn’t really work in the modern climate of football. I’ve always maintained that being smart in one field doesn’t always mean it can be a success when transferring it to sport. This socialist structure may have worked elsewhere or at various points in history, but it simply won’t work in sports.
And that’s not to say the Arsenal manager isn’t free to go about the running of the club in a manner which he sees as ideal, it just means it won’t always be the best for both him and the club. His star players don’t want to be within touching distance of players who accumulate barely a handful of games over a season. Why should a top scorer or a captain be on almost similar pay to a veteran whose job is simply to fill a gap and come in when the situation calls for it?
There’s being smart with a wage budget and living within your means, but this approach is something completely different. I struggle to see a way which the manager can defend his socialist ideal, and looking to the need for a stringent wage structure as a way to defend it is wrong. Quite plainly, they are two separate issues which don’t need to be married.
It almost certainly falls in line with the manager’s desire to create a young squad and have them grow up together and form a title-winning side. In that case again, Wenger would have wanted very little between each of his players, no matter their status.
But where is the problem in paying established players like Lukas Podolski, Santi Cazorla and Thomas Vermaelen the highest wages in the squad, all the while keeping the Johan Djourous, Aaron Ramseys, Carl Jenkinsons at the other end of the scale and with obvious daylight between both groups of players?
The manager seems to live by the idea that if he pays one player a high salary then everyone else will subsequently ask for a pay rise. Well why are a big club like Arsenal unable to say no? Why is a manager who holds so much power at the club unable to say no? Moreover, I doubt these players are stupid. How likely is it that a poor performer will ask to be paid in equal to that of one of the club’s star players?
It has always seemed that Wenger looks at the value of players on the pitch and what the effects are in the dressing room when offering contracts or even looking to new recruits. Do factors such as the morale of supporters ever come into play? What about the image the club creates for itself that is then spread around Europe? How many clubs are genuinely fearful of playing Arsenal anymore? It stems from the idea that the club are happy to let go of their best players for one reason or another. It stems from the idea that the club are unable to go after the finest players in the transfer market because they refuse to shell out on wages that befit the player’s quality.
The manager admits that the club are vulnerable to outsiders because of their wage structure. But as I’ve said, it’s not something that needs to be adhered to. There’s being smart and playing it safe with wages, breaking away from the norm for one or two outstanding individuals, but then there’s believing that something works when it clearly doesn’t and refusing to alter it’s makeup.
It’s very difficult to defend clubs who hand out contracts which reach close to £200,00 a week: not everyone can be or is Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. But it’s also difficult to defend a club who don’t want to properly stand by their most valuable assets by offering them increased wages and a contract that sets them well apart from the rest. It’s not that there are rules in football or sports as a whole on how to spend your wage budget, but there are quite obvious lines of thinking that stretches to all clubs and franchises. There isn’t a cloud protecting Arsenal’s players from what goes on elsewhere.