After seven years without a trophy and an endless conveyor belt of talent walking away from the Emirates Stadium, Arsene Wenger remains defiant is his principles of not over spending in the transfer market. The Arsenal manager has been criticised for not adapting his philosophies in light of so many disappointing seasons but as fans prepare for another of their heroes to up sticks and leave North London, the Frenchman insists he will never spend over the odds for players.
Whether it’s Robin van Persie this summer or Cesc Fabregas the year before, Wenger has lost so many players at a point in their careers when they should’ve been playing their best football yet he still believes he can build a team capable of winning the UEFA Champions League without splashing the cash. It’s a mantra that even the most diehard Gunners fans are finding harder and harder to follow as year on year the club’s reputation dips from being a genuine title challenger to a side simply battling for the top 4.
While many fans appreciate Wenger’s ideology, and his logic for trying to follow Johan Cruyff‘s successful examples from Ajax and Barcelona, clearly an integral factor is missing from the Arsenal setup if players are not buying into the project Wenger has envisioned for them. The manager believes he’s doing the right thing and that his work has been destroyed by others but surely any project that relies on the loyalty of modern day footballers is risky at best. In a perfect world players like Gael Clichy, Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor would appreciate the progress they made under Wenger’s tutelage and commit themselves to his mission. Unfortunately the reality is their ambition will always get the better of them and teams like Manchester City will offer them bumper wages and a better chance of silverware. Strangely, while the prospect of silverware may have been Samir Nasri’s official party line, both he and the other defectors joined a team with little history of lifting trophies so clearly money played a central role in their decision making. When these players were swapping North London for Manchester they were being persuaded by City’s ambition but is the prospect of a forming a new team of Galacticos more inviting than working towards Arsenal’s objectives?
Both teams are desperate to win titles so clearly the side with more money to invest is more appealing because it swells the player’s bank balance and this is something that Wenger must contend with. While it’s admirable that he follows Barcelona’s sentiments, Arsenal do not have the same history as the Spanish giants and as such cannot offer the same attraction to keep their stars. When players such as Pedro and Sergio Busquets come through the Catalan ranks they are playing for the one of the best sides in the world so they are happy to remain at the Nou Camp and follow in the footsteps of Xavi and Andres Iniesta. When Arsenal’s latest crop of talent breaks through they are greeted by an absence of senior players so when they make their own reputations they’re inclined to seek success away from the club.
While Arsenal are in no means a stepping stone for players learning their trade, the continuing threat of established stars seeking pastures new tarnishes the club’s attempts to persuade players to stay. If a young Lionel Messi was on the club’s books, chances are he would’ve been snapped up after one decent season because the club wouldn’t bow to his wages demands and instead would expect him to honour his contract amidst better offers from other teams. It would set a wonderful precedent if only the rest of the world followed suit but instead the richer clubs are happy to gazump sensibly financed sides like Arsenal and while the Gunners can take heart from the example they’re trying to set, it’s hard to take pride in the club’s efforts when the trophy cabinet lies bare.
Wenger’s pride is admirable but it’s time he reassessed his project and related it to the current football market. He believes in not paying over the odds for players and that’s a sensible outlook but any figure spent is relative to how much other teams are willing to pay. There was a time when Alessandro Del Piero was Europe’s top earner with roughly £70k per week yet nowadays someone like Samuel Eto’o receives £350k per week for playing in Russia. The market is subject to inflated prices for home grown talent as well as the top European stars and Wenger must accept that while his principles are commendable, they are not sustainable when surrounded by fatter cats willing to pay more than he is.
This summer will be indicative of Arsenal’s future ambitions for if they can secure Van Persie’s signature then it will send a message to their rivals that top players are happy to stay at the Emirates Stadium. They will need to submit to the Dutchman’s demands which is not in their makeup but the longer Wenger relies of the loyalty of his underlings, the longer Arsenal will struggle keep hold of their best talent.
Should Wenger update his philosophies to fit with the modern world? Is he right to stick to his principles as more and more players leave the club?
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