Arsene Wenger has made no secret of his disdain for the effect money has had on football in general and the Premier League in particular. He’s railed against Chelsea and Man City, who have both caused him headaches in the transfer market (Petr Cech aside) and in the league table for years now, and he has bluntly assessed the failings of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules.
Recently, he criticized a fellow member of the old guard, Manchester United, as they have gone on a spending spree this summer more befitting the nouveau riche.
From Sky Sports:
The Frenchman reckons United have flexed financial muscle to the detriment of youth development and believes Louis van Gaal’s summer splurge is evidence of a club that has “no patience”.
“We want to continue to combine stronger financial resources with faith in our philosophy and policy,” Wenger said, outlining his approach to the transfer market.
“That means we want to continue to give chances to young players and build the players from inside our club with our culture.
“Afterwards, if we can buy the exceptional players, we can compete today. But that will not be the basis of our policy.
“Most of the clubs who have been successful are clubs who have done that well. You can take Barcelona or Man United, who had a generation and built their success on players who came from within.
“These are our values and it is our DNA and it’s important we keep that.
“With United’s success they have created huge financial resources and today there is no patience for them to continue what they did.
“They have the financial resources to go with a different policy. And they do not have available players like Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham inside the club.”
The concept of building from within is a noble one and, as Wenger states, it worked for Barcelona and Manchester United when they had the good fortune to develop golden generations of players — entire crops of exceptional talents who all happen to bloom around the same time. But Wenger is mistaking pragmatism for impatience.
His reluctance to spend even after a full decade of finishing in the bottom half of the top four and consistently missing the later rounds of the Champions League demonstrates a refusal to recognize that Arsenal haven’t developed the golden generation required to serve as the backbone of a successful team. This isn’t patience, it’s stubbornness. Both Barcelona and Man United have spent huge sums to fill in the gaps when necessary, because while building from within is nice, their supreme values and DNA — the things they deem necessary to maintain above all else — is success.
Wenger goes on to say that Man United have the financial resources to go along with their new policy, as if the same isn’t true for Arsenal. For an extended period that was definitely the case while the club kept a tight budget as they paid off the construction of their stadium, but non-executive director Lord Harris says this is far from the case now, whether Wenger is willing to recognize that or not.
From the Daily Mail:
“Money was tight when we moved to the Emirates but it’s a lot freer now,” said the 72-year-old. “We could go into the market and probably buy any player in the world, apart from half a dozen who are un-buyable. In the accounts, there’s over £200million in the bank. You could say to Arsene we’ve got no money and he wouldn’t worry, or you could give him £100m and he might not spend it.”
Wenger isn’t just not spending, though — he’s saying that money doesn’t even exist.
“He’s gone a bit overboard. It’s not true,” says Wenger of Harris’ claim, perhaps with his hands over his eyes.
This is how much Arsene Wenger despises the flood of money in which the sport currently floats. Instead of doing a backstroke along with the current, he holds his breath and tries to walk against it as if he were still back on land.
Like it or not, this is the way things are now. And modern success demands a flexible willingness to spend. But Wenger seems determined to stick to the strictest interpretation of his principles, needlessly wearing himself down as he clings to a bygone era.