A wage balance that Arsenal need to finally strike

With Premier League clubs making a loss of over £360 million in the season 2010/11 and Manchester City taking up a big percentage of that, Arsenal’s turnover of £256 million suggest the club are on the right path. Sort of.

What has been a running theme at Arsenal for a number of years has been their high wage bill, rewarding lesser players with contracts that far outweigh their abilities or contributions on the pitch. For that, Arsenal are right up there as the fifth highest spenders in the league in terms of wages. But then isn’t that in line with what we’re seeing in the Premier League table?

The club doesn’t have a group of players good enough to challenge for titles. Individually yes, but not as a whole squad. Rather, the club seem to be paying a squad to match their own ambitions (or lack of) by just about making Champions League football on a yearly basis.

Now it would be fair to say that’s all fine, clear skies and wind in the sails. The club are punching in the weight category that their wage bill suggests. So what’s the problem? Aren’t these players deserving of their current salary by achieving what the accounts table suggests?

The problem with Arsenal and their ability to fail so spectacularly is that the club are being carried by a select few in the squad. It’s the way it’s been since Arsene Wenger decided to tear up the Invincibles and start a new project, and it’s the reason Cesc Fabregas and Thierry Henry, among others, decided to leave. The pressure on those players to continue to carry the team became too heavy, and yet the club are not in a position where they can genuinely go out and strengthen in ways which many would like.

The problem is Arsenal are not being economical with their ability to spend on wages. There’s a good amount of irony in there somewhere. But this is only off the back of false hope that the team would continue under the same group of players for many years, rather than this mishmash of old and new taking undeserved chunks out of the wages.

The wage bill is a healthy 50 per cent of the turnover—only Manchester United are better out of the top clubs in the league—which suggests Arsenal are in a position to spend greater than what they are. But, it seems like they’re holding themselves back from the mistakes that have led them down this path in the first place. The club’s lack of success in moving on these inflated wages means there’s very little to work with going forward if Arsenal want to remain on a safe path.

While the club have continued to be carried across the finish line by a select group of players over the last few seasons, you’ve got to wonder how long this stigma will be attached to Arsenal and Arsene Wenger; that being the lack of willingness to offer wages in line with a player’s talent.

On some levels you’ve got to wonder if the club’s ambition dictates how they spend and where they finish in the league, or if the mistakes of handling the wage bill since the move to the Emirates Stadium is dictating the club’s level of ambition.

This summer appears to be a step in the right direction as Manuel Almunia has been taken off the wage bill. You’ve got to hope that there will be an equally easy transition for the rest of the ‘undesirables’ in their exit from the club. Of course, transfers aren’t that simple when the players have a big bargaining chip in terms of the length of contract remaining. But Almunia has hopefully set the trend for this summer with the deadwood at the club.

But one way or another, it would be really interesting to see how Arsenal can manage themselves without the shackles of those who are weighing the club down in wages. Is it a lack of motivation to pull the trigger on a big transfer by the manager, or is he mindful of the wages involved in any potential superstar player?

The clubs finances continue to be a healthy reminder that the club are on a positive path, but it would be greatly welcomed if the club can use some of that stored power to rejuvenate the playing squad.

With the deadwood wages on the out this summer, it will be interesting to see how Arsene Wenger can move with a fresh page in the club’s books.