Much has been made of Arsene Wenger’s tactical short-comings against Manchester United. Aaron Ramsey starting on the right wing, ahead of an under-utilised Theo Walcott, persistence with Olivier Giroud and the catastrophic decision to not drop Andre Santos against the league’s best collection of wingers.
While these are all valid points, there’s a much greater problem at Arsenal undermining their ambition – their wage structure. I also think there’s an argument no matter what team Wenger put on to the pitch they would have struggled due to the inferiority of Arsenal’s squad in comparison to the best three teams in the Premier League.
The Gunners spend a vast amount of their riches on wages but receive none of the reward for their spending with their top players often looking elsewhere to earn more and win more. The fault comes from the over-spending on mediocrity. Players like Nicklas Bendtner, Denilson and Johan Djourou whose first team importance have always minimal receive much higher weekly wages at Arsenal then they would at either Manchester club or Chelsea. Arsenal are always near the top of the wage bill table in the Premier League easily exceeding £100 million expenditure per year on their wages. Bit part players such as Marouane Chamakh, Bendtner and Sebastien Squilacci shouldn’t be earning over £50,000 per week.
If Arsenal didn’t blow such a high percentage of their wage budget on irrelevant players they’d be a lot closer Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United. If the weekend’s match is anything to go by they’d do well to finish within 20 points of England’s three premier teams in 2013. Prior to his move away from Arsenal in the summer, The Arsenal Truth, reported Carlos Vela was earning £50,000 a week at the club, which is madness, considering the Mexico international never established himself in the first team. I doubt any Arsenal fans would rather see the current egalitarian system than an alternative where players are paid according to ability and the club offer greater deals to marquee men such as Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri who criminally suffered due to the structure.
I’m not suggesting it’s as simplistic as offering squad players less lucrative contracts and doubling the money your best players receive. Chelsea outspend the Gunners on wages reportedly having a squad costing £191 million last year. United and City’s wage budgets are also supposedly higher, but not to the disparity currently seen between squads. Wenger must also take the blame for poor transfers, the lacklustre Andrey Arshavin remains one of the club’s highest earners and due to his £80,000 a week wages shifting him has proved problematic. The Frenchman’s misplaced trust in Giroud and Gervinho has also affected the team; seemingly the £20 million blown on their combined transfers could have been spent better.
Much like Arsenal’s transfer policy which has seen them slip from title contenders, to their current state, where now their 63-year-old boss considers finishing fourth to be a trophy in its own right, it will be hard to gauge whether it’s the club or manager’s policy until Wenger’s gone. Many believe that there’s money available to spend at the Emirates but in buying proven talent, instead of improving and developing a group, the club would be going against their current manager’s wishes.
If it is Wenger and not Stanley Kroenke or Ivan Gazidis who enforces this farcical wage structure then further questions must be asked about whether Wenger’s the right man for Arsenal. While he has endured bad luck and has changed the footballing philosophy at the club where he has had an overwhelming impact, if his presence is undermining one of the country’s biggest club’s ambitions then he must go.
Let me know your thoughts on where it’s gone wrong for Arsenal in recent seasons on Twitter: @jimmylowson