Financial Foul Play

By Daniel Cowan
In Arsenal
May 8th, 2012

Welcome to part 2 of my double header. It’s another long one so please bear with. I want to explore the financial side of our club and why we aren’t paying big wages or big fees for big players.

I take no pleasure in seeing Arsenal fail to challenge for titles or having a silverware drought nor satisfaction in seeing Arsenal struggle to qualify for champions league football and unlike some, you know who you are, I do not want Arsenal to finish outside of the top four for some screwed up ideology that it will benefit the club into changing.

Naughty Wenger! How dare you qualify us for the Champions League 15 years in a row having spent no money (net).

I don’t think we need to finish outside of the top four to get a kick up the arse. I think we had a kick up the arse with the 8-2. That would be more like kicking a man when he is down.

I don’t excuse our poor showing in the past few years and I don’t accept them either but I do understand that there are reasons outside of our control that influence them in some way.

Years ago Arsenal had probably the best scouting network in the world. So much so that Florentino Perez once said that Real Madrid’s scouting policy was to find out who Arsene Wenger was buying and bid more.

Even though this was a tongue in cheek comment it retrospectively had an element of premonition about it. Now when Arsene tries to sign a player he is easily outbid by other interested parties and even if he won the bidding battle he would lose the wages war.

I’ve tried to explain to a few people on Twitter that the landscape has changed but it is difficult to get that across in 140 characters.

In response to the worn out argument that the move to the Emirates was supposed to have made us financially stronger I tracked back through some old Peter Hill-Wood quotes on the Emirates move. There was one in particular that I remember but cannot find so will not include it as a proper quote but the general theme was that once the stadium debt had been repaid Arsenal would be on the same financial footing as Manchester United when it came to player registration and wages.

“We’re moving to Emirates Stadium in order to compete with top European sides, not only on a financial footing but from a footballing perspective”

“This Club is ambitious for success and I believe that the strong financial position which the Group has established, as confirmed by the results for the year, provides the best possible platform from which to deliver that success for the long-term.”

“We are committed to operating the Club as a business which is financially self-sustaining.”

“We strongly believe that to compete at the highest levels of professional football the Club has to have a viable business that can pay its own way. We strongly believe this is the only way in the long-term.”

The overall debt of the Group has increased and is now at a peak level. Is this an area of concern?
“This is not an area of concern and in order to appreciate why, one needs to look at and understand the two main components of the Group’s debt finance which operate independently and are ring-fenced from each other. Firstly, a bank loan of £133 million, which has been used to fund the construction and redevelopment works at Highbury Square and drawings on this loan have increased by some £70 million over the last year in line with the progression of the works on the site. Secondly, £250 million of bonds which represent the borrowings we took on for the construction of Emirates Stadium.”

You mentioned the £250 million of bonds used to fund the Emirates Stadium construction?
“Yes, that’s correct, we have £250 million of bonds in issue and as this is the financing used for the construction of Emirates Stadium, it can be looked at in a similar way to a mortgage. It is long-term debt which is repayable over 23 years and which is all at a fixed rate of interest of 5.3%. The repayments on the bonds together with the interest costs amount to £20 million per annum and this figure needs to be considered in the context of the significantly increased levels of income and profits that we are able to generate operating from Emirates Stadium as compared to Highbury.

It is important to recognise that the board has said all along that they want to run the club in a self-sustaining way and that will only benefit the club in the long term.

It was this strategy that led to David Dein’s departure. Dein had twice been overruled by Hill-Wood and Fiszman when it came to the move to Emirates, the first being considering the Ashburton Grove site which the rest of the board twice rejected whilst simultaneously looking into other sites and allowing Dein to pursue looking into renting Wembley with no intention to see it through which incidentally put the construction of the Emirates back a year and if avoided would have seen Highbury Square miss the 2007 housing crash and potentially would have cleared a larger portion of the stadium debt in a shorter amount of time. The second time was over the design of the stadium. Arsene and Dein wanted something more functional and Fiszman and Hill-Wood wanted something much more elaborately designed and a beacon of Arsenal’s history of modern design and architecture and I am glad that Dein lost out on that occasion as the Emirates is a glorious stadium.

The argument that led to Dein leaving was over billionaire investment. Dein saw the way the game was going and whilst he was not completely in favour of a benefactor supported club such as Chelsea or Man City he did think the self-sufficient model would count against us. David Dein favoured a model that was a hybrid in the sense that rich investors could invest in the club in the form of very long term bonds, rights management or infrastructure investment to allow more of the club revenue to go into strengthening the team. The board did not take kindly to this suggestion as they saw it as a relinquishing of power to an ‘outsider’ and moved to secure the lockdown agreement and force Dein out.

I personally agree with the self-sustaining strategy but I see no reason why someone like Usmanov cannot invest in the club by buying the clubs debt and deferring repayments for 5 years in order to allow Arsenal to not only compete on a financial level in the short-term but to also to allow Arsenal a payment ‘holiday’ whilst we wait for sponsorship deals to expire so we can negotiate better deals and future repayments would be covered by improvement sponsorship contracts.

The current sponsorship deals Arsenal have cost us at least £20m a year on top of the £20m we pay in debt repayments every year. That is a hit of £40m per annum that Arsenal has to suffer whilst trying to compete against benefactor teams like Chelsea and City and teams with insanely good commercial partnerships like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and even Liverpool. Every year we are at a big disadvantage and that is down to the board underselling our brand and commercial worth in order to finance the stadium that could have been built much earlier and without the delay cause by rising costs caused by dawdling over sites and designs. To put things into perspective Arsenal’s shirt and kit deals are worth £13.5m a year combined, Liverpool’s combined shirt and kit deals are worth £45m.

Whilst match day revenue has increased, in real terms our commercial revenue has decreased as we have been tied into unfavourable long-term deals. As such we have had to rely on player sales to post a profit and we need to make a profit of at least £40m every year to “break even”. (Not actual break even).

The sales of Cesc, Na$ri, Ad€bayor, Clichy and Toure totalled £100m. £70m of that needed to go into the TPA (Transfer Proceeds Account. The TPA can only be spent on player registrations and wages. ) The other £30m was available to the club to spend as they saw fit. How it was spent I do not know, I personally hope that it went back into the squad but I don’t think it did.

It is clear from Arsenals revenues since the move to the Emirates that we could afford to spend £20-30m on a player but that would be the only player we bought that year. Arsenal’s main issue is the disproportionate wage bill. It should be noted that Arsenal went on a cost cutting exercise in 2001-02 which included drafting in a team of crack accountants to reduce the playing bill where possible. Our current wage issue started in 2007 in my opinion. Is it coincidence that this was the first summer that Wenger didn’t have Dein to handle negotiations? I don’t think so.

The big increases all seem to happen around the time Arsene signed a player or a player signed a new contract. It is a well known fact that Arsenal spends too much money on certain players wages. Some believe that will go down next year with the departure of Na$ri and Cesc in the summer but with all of our additions I think that it will have gone up by at least 9%. Manchester United for example pay Rooney £200k a week and Welbeck £15k a week. Arsenal pay Van Persie a reported £90k a week (or £70k according to some sources) whilst Bendtner gets £52k a week and Denilson gets £50k a week. All three of those don’t even total Rooney’s salary yet two of them don’t even play for us and the other has been better than Rooney this year.

Our weak commercial deals, stadium debt, less than anticipated revenue from property deals and disproportionate player wages hinder us when it comes to signing new players. It is not the transfer fee that holds us back it is the wages. If we brought in a top class talent on £150k a week Robin would want more or at the very least parity. Does he deserve it? Hell yeah he does but then Theo, Jack, Arteta, Song, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Sagna, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho would all want pay rises and so would the rest of the squad. Arsenal have built a wage structure that offers favour to no one player regardless of their ability or contribution and that is wrong and what holds us back.

Arsenal cannot compete with the wages on offer at the oil clubs or the likes of United, Barca and Madrid and have been forced to carry on trying to pick up bargains to use the saved transfer funds in the wage pot. The thing is though that Arsenal no longer has the edge with their scouting network and picking up bargains is difficult. Players like Kompany, Cabaye and Cisse were all bargains but would they all have been as good for the Arsenal? Kompany yes and he is someone that should have been on Wengers radar but who knows, maybe he was and maybe Wenger decided that we couldn’t match the wages on offer at City so he pulled out.

When I mention these things to by regular debaters on twitter I get told that we should sell the ‘dead wood’ but it is not as easy as that. Firstly we need to find buyers for these players and those clubs need to be attractive to the player and able to match their wages demands that we have skewed. I’ve been told that we should just give them free transfers but that would be almost impossible. We would have to pay them enormous amounts of money to get rid which would wipe us out and leave us nothing to recruit better replacements with. We would also need the players to accept such an arrangement which they probably would not and even if they did it sends the wrong message to our players and potential recruits. It makes us look ruthless and impatient and you also need to consider the relationships your best players have with the guys you are trying to get rid of.

Some of you may have heard the rumours that Arsenal tried to sell Diaby in the summer of 2011 and there were interested parties but no-one wanted to pay £60k a week plus for a player with his injury record and can you blame them? The same with Denilson and Bendtner. Diaby earns way more than Modric and who is arguably the better player?

Almunia and Squillaci are both on £60k but thankfully both are out of contract in the summer. Ramsey and Wilshere are both on £55k. Neither deserves it. Ramsey has been maligned this season for good reasons and bad but regardless of his performance this season he is not worth £55k a week at 21 years of age and not one full EPL season under his belt. Wilshere had a break-through year but so is Welbeck at United after a great season at Sunderland and he is on £15k. Wilshere and Rambo should both be on a max of £30k a week in my opinion.

Hopefully in 2014 our renegotiated commercial deals will help the club compete and in the mean time a restructuring of the wage bill starting with a clear out where possible and only slightly improved contracts for the likes of AOC, Jenks and Ryo and a great tip in balance towards Robin should be the priority.

The board’s idea of self-sufficiency will hopefully start to come into its own over the next few years now that a large part of the stadium debt has been paid back and with UEFA introducing Financial Fair Play (FFP) Arsenal should be in a great position to challenge for the types of players that will get us challenging on the pitch.

FFP won’t favour the likes of Chelsea and Man City and hopefully UEFA will try to close every loophole as and when these clubs try to use them such as commercial deals vastly above market value.

The board always made it clear that the move to the Emirates would allow us to compete with the Manchester Uniteds of the world eventually but I don’t think anyone ever saw the landscape changing quite so drastically with the arrival of Abramovich and the Sheikhs.

UEFA are doing their bit to counter-act this but whether or not they can enforce it or not remains to be seen.

For the time being Arsenal supporters need to accept our position as a top 4 club rather than title challengers and support the team positively. It’s not ideal and it certainly isn’t where we would like Arsenal to be but it is no more than we deserve. Our position is dictated by the way the club is run and how the club competes with other clubs off the field in order to facilitate competing on it. We’ve beaten the two ‘richest’ clubs in the country this season with a team of disproportionately paid cheap buys and to be fair it’s not a bad starting 11.

But even with FFP Arsenal may still not be able to compete with big wages for a few more years.

Arsenal are to blame for not adapting to the situation and for paying silly wages to average players but they cannot be blamed for the doubling or tripling of wages that City and Chelsea offer. When it comes purely down to wages we will never be able to compete with them without a rich benefactor.

Arsenal need silverware and we’ve waited long enough to see a decent team built without being dismantled a few seasons later actually challenge and win and we may have to wait a while longer unless we sell out to a billionaire.

I guess the question is: Do you want Arsenal to be self-sufficient and model club or join the oil clubs in promoting financial foul play?

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About "" - 509 Posts

I am a South London born Gooner now living in Leigh-On-Sea, Essex. I'm a husband, daddy, podcaster, trainer enthusiast and aspiring author. My work is my passion and for that I will always be grateful. Here is where I write my thoughts and views on Arsenal Football Club, the greatest team the world has ever seen.

30 Responses to “Financial Foul Play”

  1. Madge says:

    Daniel, once again, a lol, long, but great insight into
    the finances that are uppermost in fans minds, during
    Summer period. Thanks :))

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Thanks Madge. It was a long one!! 🙂 glad you stayed for the whole thing though

  2. Lewis says:

    Great article, good to read some sense for a change. Thanks

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Thanks Lewis. Glad you liked it. Feel free to follow me on twitter if you aren’t already & subscribe to the blog 🙂

  3. Bradster says:

    Here’s an out there idea that I think could possibly happen, be like the Indian Premier League,the richest clubs or any club with a rich benefactor been able to make their own league of elite, offering exorbitant wages to get the greatest players and no rules from UEFA.

  4. Nathan says:

    Pretty good read, agreed with everything you said. If you look at the financial landscape that is currently plauging European Football, more clubs should be taking on Arsenals’ business model. Im not sure Barca will ever pull themselves out of the financial hole they’ve dug, but they’re the “best” team in the world because of it. I hope that FFP will be upheld by UEFA, and why is there nothing like a salary cap in football? It would allow small market teams the chance to compete.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Agree. Wage cap would be good but I don’t think it would ever happen in Europe because of EU law

  5. Malaysian Gooner says:

    Good article but you made one mistake. Dein and Fiszman’s (may he rest in peace) disagreement was because DEIN wanted to rent out Wembley while the rest of the board wanted to build a new stadium. You got it the other way around.

    It was also Dein’s idea to play our CL games in Wembley in the early 2000s.

    Arsenal – The Making of a Modern Superclub by Alex Fynn and Kevin Whicher.

    • Malaysian Gooner says:

      sorry…meant late 1990s.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      You’re right but I didn’t mean to put it across like that. I’ve changed the wording to make it clearer. I have all editions of that book, big influence on this post. Fiszman a great man but always hated Dein, shame really because together they did great things for the club.

  6. Roman says:

    As a long term fan I really want us to win something but more importantly I want us try work our asses off when we play, there are too many players that don’t work hard enough. Our defence is fine but the team as a whole don’t have enough fighters sort that out and we can win trophies even without the additional revenues. When you look at Walcott, Ramsey, Gervinho, along with others they don’t work hard enough without the ball, do that we win more games, if Messi does it why can’t they.

    On the financial side if the club can find new homes for Denilson, Vela, Bendtner, Chanack, Park. Along with moving on Squallci, Almunia, Arshavin, maybe Diaby, Johan D, Mannone, Lansbury and Benayoun, this would reduce the wages by over £600 per week, while possibly bringing in £40m.

    The replacements of Podolski, M Villa, Vortghen, Kagawa or Hazard (unlikely) or Belhanda this would give us a stmaller but stronger squad. We could even achieve this by almost breaking even.

    However we must keep Song, Walcott and RVP to make this plan work. Theo should get a slight increase while Song should be rewarded but maybe adding an assist bonus rather than a massive base increase and RVP should get what he wants.

    All in all what we would end up with in a leaner but more effective squad give some of the other youths a chance, a reduced wage bill of maybe £200pw, allowing us to look at adding 1 or 2 quality players a year.

    We would have a very impressive starting 11

    MA JW
    TW LP

    With the support of Song, Fabianski, Verotghen, Mertisacker, Ramsey, Gervinho, Ox, Santos, Jenkinson, Frimpong, Conquilan, Miquel, Ryo, Rosicky, Diaby.

    With the a good few coming through Gnarby looking very good.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      You say Theo doesn’t work hard enough but he deserves a better contract? We wouldn’t get £40m for the fringe players because they are on such big contracts. We’d have to sell cheap to make them tempting. Strengthening squad isn’t easy. If it was Wenger would have done better in recent years.

    • Roman says:

      I believe that we could:

      Arshavin £7 to £10m they love him in Russia and he has scored a few goals lately
      Bendtner £5 to £7m he is a constant scorer at international level
      Vela £5 to 7m scored double figures in La Liga
      Chanack £5 to 7m Bordeaux would have him back
      Johan £3 to £5m Good young international
      The rest £10m or so

      It is possible while not certain, £35m for Carroll.

      Theo should get a slight uplift yeah as between assists and goals he has produced around 20 this season however he still needs to improve his game on the defensive side.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Theo very good at tracking back I think, he works hard. If we could get those sorts of figures we would have sold them ages ago rather than loan out. Transfer fees not the issue. The issue is other clubs being able to afford to match the wages we’ve paid to these players

    • Roman says:

      Bendtner was not playing enough for someone to take the punt, but scored a few importants one lately of Sunderland as has Arshavin and Vela hence my optimism of selling them. I think someone will take a punt on Chamack.

      The difficult ones are Denilson, Park, Johan as they are on very high wages versus quality.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      It’s not about people taking punts or how much game time the players we want to sell are getting it is about other clubs being able to afford them. There are transfer fees to consider, signing on fees, agents fees and wage demands which will include a high basic salary and add ons like appearance fee, goals, league finish, games played, cup performance etc

      It all adds up and makes these players every expensive. They wouldn’t be on loan if someone could afford to buy them.

  7. Great read, still curious as to whether FFP will actually make a difference. Yes, we seem on good foundations for it but deals like Citeh’s training ground shindig just makes me think it will never be what it’s intended to be.

    Anyone else feel the same way?

    • Roman says:

      Yes but I believe that UEFA will make a very good effort to cap this, even without it football goes in cycles and if we make positive decisions to thin the squad while bringing better quality and renew our deals we can compete.

      Only 1 team can win the league and it is a strong league unlike la Liga, yes they have better technique but it is a hard battle the PL with 6 teams capable of winning 70 or so points a season.

      An honest question win the CC and finish 7th or nothing and in the top 4?

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Nothing & top 4. CL is a better competition. CC is Micky mouse. Good to build winning mentality but not at expense of top 4 place

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      I’m hopeful that FFP will work and I know UEFA are keen to clamp down on fake commercial deals like City’s. Whether they can or do remains to be seen

  8. mutuuza says:

    How many years will Arsenal need to compete? The board has to give us an estimate we are tired of excuses. I remember not so long ago 2007-2008 who saying it i do not remember but that Arsenal will compete in 3 years time. Same old nonsense. Even when Arsenal was still at highbury Wenger rarely bought expensive players!

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      We’ve never been able to afford expensive players before now. Was Henry, Vieira, Cesc, Pires, Ljungberg, Sagna, Sol, Toure, Petit, Overmars or RVP expensive? Big fee doesn’t mean better player. We can’t put a timeframe on success. It will happen when the team is good enough and at the moment they aren’t.

  9. LJB says:

    After we moved to the distinctly dreary Emirates stadium, those major shareholders preaching self sustainability couldn’t sell their shares fast enough,making millions for themselves and their families.The only difference between us and chelsea and city is that their billionaires invest money into the club,ours don’t.Our soul has been sold for 30 pieces of silver,and i don’t see any reason to take the moral high ground.If you choose to trust a man who thinks the Glazers are doing a swell job,and who thinks there is nothing wrong with owners taking money out of a club then more fool you.One day in the not so distant future,there won’t be a Ken Friar,PHW or Arsene Wenger at the club and Kroenke will be left to do what the hell he likes.If the thought of a man running the club who is more interested in the balance sheet than how the team performs on the pitch doesn’t worry you then fair enough.All i know is that fans of his American Franchises are not complimentary about Silent Stan.The move to the Emirates has priced out many old school fans who can no longer afford the extortionate tickets,and this has resulted in a new breed of middle class fan and a lack of matchday atmosphere.The new shiny corporate Arsenal bears little resemblance to the club i have supported since childhood;fans like me are no longer welcome.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Part of the reason for moving to the Emirates was to increase revenue because the ticket prices at Highbury were so high because the club couldn’t afford to lower them.

      Silent Stan may not be popular with some fans but his “ownership” is no different from that of Fiszman or Dein or Lady Bracewell-Smith. He like every other member of the board does not draw any dividends from the club. Any money he gets from the club is in form of a directors salary.

      With regards to major shareholders selling their stock; Fiszman sold his because he knew he was on his way out and wanted to leave a large inheritance for his family. We cannot speculate as to his finances without selling the shares as who knows how the recession affected him. Dein sold his to R&WH in the hope he could lead a take over of the club. ITV sold theirs because it represented big profits, they’re a company not a person. Bracewell-Smith has no excuse.

      With regards to smaller shareholders selling their shares; it was the middle of a recession & they were being offered insane amounts of money to part with their share and I don’t think you can blame them. If there were no recession I’m sure many of those fans would’ve kept their shares for a while longer

  10. Matt says:

    I have to say I disagree with you (again) about the stadium design versus function. I do agree that Ashburton Grove is a beautiful stadium. One of the best in the world and one to be rightly proud of. However, its design leaves no room, in my opinion, for development. The capacity is 60k and it will stay at 60k for ever.

    Since we moved Old Trafford has increased to 75k capacity. That represents, on the low side, about £18m per season. If Chelsea ever get a chance to move, along with Liverpool and Sp*rs, then the likelihood is they’ll match or improve on our capacity. They might not fill it, but they could, which would put them on a parity with us on match-day income.

    The deficit to OT is a big one to make up and we’ll have to make it up off the field.

    That brings me on to wages and commercial deals.

    Wenger pursued this communist wage structure style of everyone earning similar wages. What a fool! Regardless of football being a team game, sport has always been about individuals. How can a player who plays no more than 20 games a season over 5 years (Diaby), or one that has only just broken through (Rambo/Wilshere), or one that has just arrived on a free transfer (Shitmakh), reasonably expect to earn close to, or even half of what the FWA Footballer of the Year earns?

    It’s a massively flawed concept and someone at Arsenal should have stood up to Wenger and this foolhardiness.

    That said, I disagree that we can’t move these players on. Yes it might be tough because of player wages, but there’s a couple of points here. Firstly, let’s not be greedy in terms of what we want for these players in fee. Getting them out and freeing up squad places and salary is better than keeping them and paying part of their wages while they’re on loan.

    I appreciate that agents want their fee and players want sign-on bonuses, but if, for example, we’re struggling to get rid of Bendtner because of his £52k p/w wage, then let’s not be asking for £10m (as reported last summer), let’s move him on for £4-5m (or less). That spare £5-6m will more than pay for his £52k per week salary.

    Equally, these players need to understand that we no longer want them. Sticking around will mean no chance of playing. Some of these players are international. Not playing for your club means not playing for your country (see Park). If picking up an extra £10 p/w is more important than actually playing then you deserve everything you get (see Wayne Bridge).

    Equally, look at Arteta. If rumours are to be believed he is now on a smaller wage with us than he was on at Everton. Okay there’s an argument to say he was willing to make that sacrifice for CL football and potentially to win the PL, but nonetheless it demonstrates a moral integrity that should be more prevalent in the game – the desire to play regularly should counter-weigh stupid wage demands.

    Finally, commercial deals. We have been hamstrung by some really stupid long-term deals that were done with an extreme short-sightedness in an effort to fund the stadium development. We now have a VERY expensive commercial team at Arsenal and they have yet to broker any deals of significance, although I understand they were responsible for last year’s tour to the Far East (and possibly also the deal to sign Park!).

    You are right in as much as shirt and kit sponsorship deals, and stadium naming rights need to wind down, but some of these can also be bought out and re-negotiated. I can’t see how the short-fall can be justified – how much would it cost us to buy out the contract on shirt sponsorship and renegotiate a deal like Liverpool’s?

    I’d also like to pick you up on David Dein. In today’s post you talk about how he’s directly at fault for us not moving more quickly and that had we moved we could have made a lot more money from Highbury Square. Arguably correct, but then look at how Liverpool have just written off £40m simply for the design work on a new stadium and they’re not even moving. These things take a lot of time to happen regardless.

    That said, in yesterday’s post you talked about how David Dein was Wenger’s right-hand man and the person responsible for maintaining the right balance in wage structure, advice to Wenger on player acquisition etc and that our demise and trophy drought of the last 7 years is in no small part due to Dein’s absence.

    You can’t have it all – blame for debt, blame for trophy drought etc.

    There’s been a lot of mistakes made at Arsenal over the last 7-9 years. Other than a few early player acquisitions there’s no real indication that things are changing.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      I’ll try and respond to all of your points.

      Firstly you are mistaken about Emirates having no room for development. My future wife worked on the Emirates with the architects Buro Happold during her year in industry and I can assure you that if we wished to expand we can. We could have gone up to 80000 but the board decided not to because they wanted a more intimate stadium and were against three tiers. We may never exceed 60000 but we have the ability to do so. It should be noted though that any expansion would just hamper the finances again as it will have to be paid for and we’ll lose gate income as we will have to temporarily reduce the capacity.

      Wenger had this idea of building a young team, all on a similar wage structure that favoured no one player too much and for the first couple of years it looked great (2007/08 we just missed out on the title) but we missed the crucial experience in the squad to get over the line and some players started to get itchy feet and hot pockets. In hindsight the concept is flawed and I’m sure that privately Wenger will admit to that.

      It’s not as easy as just lowering our demands. Wenger isn’t an idiot and has shown many times that he is willing to sell players for less than their perceived worth to move them on. There are too many things to take into consideration but I will do my best and I will use Bendtner as an example.

      Bendtner gets paid £52k per week plus add ons for appearances, goals, assists, wins and, ahem, trophies.

      Firstly the buying club must be able to afford him. Let us say that we decide to sell him for £4m, around a third of his reported price tag last summer. He decides he is going to be a nice guy and drop his basic wage demands down to £45k. It may come as a surprise but the average EPL player gets paid £24k a week. A top 6 club will not buy Bendtner so we are really looking at the Sunderlands, Villas and West Broms of the world. They might be able to stretch to £40k a week for what would be a star player for them but Bendtner has already shown at Sunderland this year that he isn’t their star player. Let’s say they can afford £35k, just £10k short, they decide that the extra £0.5m a year can be covered by his reduced fee. He wants a 4 year contract. Already he is asking for his new club to commit to £9.36m of wages. At least half of that must be considered as part of his initial cost in forward accounting terms, we’ll call it £4.5m. The buying club must now pay him a signing on fee, that would easily reach £1m. Bendtner is now a £10m purchase before add-ons which could easily add another £2m on to that. It doesn’t seem too expensive but the reality is that any club that would want him could not afford his wages. Villa could but they are in debt and trying to bring their wage bill down. Sunderland can’t which is why he is on loan.

      I think Wenger would happily sell Bendtner, Denilson, Chamakh, Park etc for £2-4m each, relative bargains but could anyone afford their wages? Even if they could the player has to want to move to that club. Back to Bendtner, we can tell him we don’t want him all day long but if he doesn’t want to leave he doesn’t have to. He knows that he can get shipped out on loan and just run his contract down and take a lower salary elsewhere with a bumper signing on deal because he is on a bosman.

      Our commercial deals are stupid and our commercial team is extremely expensive and not really worth their pay but I think we should have been touring Asia, America and Africa years ago. A global fan base is what makes United so successful and marketable not Old Trafford. The little deals Arsenal are signing now just keeps everyone in that team employed and when we finally sign decent deals in 2014 they will look like amazing sales people but in reality they would have done sod all.

      We can’t buy out the shirt deal as that was part of the arrangement for the whole sponsorship package. Buying ourselves out of deals 4/5 years ago would have been expensive but potentially worth it but with about 20 months left to run on our deals there is no point really as we could use those 20 months to work behind the scenes on better deals rather than the best deal of today.

      With regards to Dein I think either you’ve missed my point or I’ve miscommunicated it. I don’t blame Dein. I blame the board for allowing him to explore Wembley when they had no intention of using it whatsoever. It was all a ruse to try and put pressure on the Council to allow redevelopment of Highbury or one of their preferred sites because the board didn’t fancy the Ashburton Grove site the first two times it was offered to them. Liverpool have had to write off the design work because they can’t get planning permission for anywhere, can’t redevelop Anfield and owe a bucket load of money so pursuing their designs would have been counter-productive. I appreciate these things take time but if the board had’t dilly-dallied the Emirates stadium would have opened in 2003 as originally planned rather than 2006 after a revised date of 2005.

      There are two main causes for our trophy drought in my opinion. 1) The boards handling of financing debt. 2) Management mistakes with player wages and acquisitions. I think David Dein plays a big part in both. Without David, Wenger has too much control and too much to do which affected our ability to compete with wages but also to negotiate deals for player acquisition. We have missed out on many targets because Wenger has decided they are too expensive. Dein also put forward the idea of billionaire investment. Not benefactor based like Chelsea or City but more along the idea of the billionaires investing in infrastructure such as the stadium and helping to ease repayments allowing for better commercial deals to be negotiated and for more money to be available for the playing side of the club.

  11. Matt says:

    I stand corrected on the expansion issue! This may well be a good reason for benefactor investment – balance the hit on reduced capacity and cost of development with a low-interest loan from Usmanov.

    From what little background reading I’ve just done there are far more issues than financial behind potential expansion though. Primarily local transport infrastructure to ship people in and out.

    In terms of the youth team concept, you don’t need hindsight to know it was never going to work. A team without at least a couple of experienced heads is unlikely to ever win anything – you need that calming, ‘been there done that’ attitude that simply doesn’t exist in young heads.

    That said, in 07/08 there were still a few (Lehmann, Gilberto and Gallas), although there was a constant stream of older heads being shipped out pre-season 07/08 and again the following pre-season. Only for them to be replaced with the likes of Silvestre – a desperate move if ever there was one!

    In terms of shipping on the dross, tell me one player with whom Wenger has been ruthless and shipped out for less than they are worth? We were offered £10m for Diaby last off-season – that’s looking like an opportunity missed now! From other reports I’ve read we also have about 60+ players on our books, many of whom are ‘youth’ and are on loan or playing in the youth/reserve teams – we are hoping and praying that one or two may come good. No one else in club football has that kind of roster!

    Quite frankly, Bendtner, Shitmakh and Denilson (as examples but in no way an exhaustive list), need to go sooner rather than later. All have contracts going through to summer 2014. Between them these three players represent about £16m in wages, or about £160k per week for the next two seasons. I would happily see them shipped out for free to clear that kind of money off the wage structure and the spaces freed up in the squad.

    If we made them available on free transfers I don’t think there’s a team in the Premier League, or even some in the French, German, Spanish, Russian or Turkish leagues who wouldn’t be interested in them.

    All of those players are young enough to have re-sale value after 3 years of a 4 year contract. Don’t muddy the waters with signing-on fees and length of contract – they all apply to any transfer, not just to Arsenal players.

    If we could replace those three players with a Hazard or Gotze on £150k per week (spending the money in the TPA fund for the transfer and the freed up wages from the dross), then I’d consider that good business.

    Equally, if they decide they don’t want to move on, then that’s up to them, but I wouldn’t waste a squad space on them (much like Wenger did with Almunia in January), which means they know that not only will they not play for Arsenal, but they won’t play for their country. Now that might not apply to Denilson, but Shitmakh and Bendtner have been regularly capped for their respective countries over the last few years and they would need to think long and hard about the possible impact on their longer term career by taking such a stance as staying without a squad place.

    I believe they would all move.

    Whether Wenger has the balls for that kind of brinkmanship is another matter – he tried it last year with Cesc and Nasri and failed completely.

    • Matt says:

      Someone who’s probably a bit more coherent commenting on moving on the dross than I am. I can’t argue with his reasoning. It makes your reasoning sound like excuses and money grabbing 🙁

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      I find that Le Grove can be very anti-Arsenal. The articles seem to want Arsenal to fail just so they can shout “look, see, I was right, I TOLD you so!”

      I find their reasoning in that article laughable and it shows very little insight and knowledge into how football is run.

      For example “Bendtner Danish player of the year for most years” That isn’t exactly hard.
      “Champions League experience” Emile Heskey has Champions League experience.
      Selling for a reasonable price isn’t the issue it is wages

      These are the teams that could probably afford to pay up to £6m for him and their wages, % of turnover spent on wages and how much of a % Bendtner would cost with his £2.7m a year salary before add ons.
      Everton – £54m – 69% – 5%
      Fulham – £49m – 63% – 5.5%
      Stoke – £45m – 76% – 6%
      Sunderland – £54m – 83% – 5%

      5% of your total wage bill on one player is a massive amount of money when you have to consider that the wage bill also includes coaching staff and the rest of clubs employees from the groundsman down to the people on the turnstiles. If a club was going to spend that much on one player that would have to be of a consistently proven pedigree or with a big reputation in another league. Bendtner has neither.

      Carlos Vela:
      “Scorer of classy chipped goals” Yeah, when you are winning 4 nil.
      “Has bundles of pace” So does Aaron Lennon, Stewart Downing too.
      “Has bagged 12 goals and 7 assists in a very poor side in Spain” Andy Johnson got 21 goals for a team that got relegated. Yakubu has 16 goals this season. Performing well in an under-performing team just shows that you have skill. I don’t think Vela is necessarily dead wood as he never really gets an extended run in the first team and is always on loan. We probably could sell him but only to a Spanish side and outside of Barca and Madrid the wages are nowhere near the reported £50k that Vela gets. Out of all of the players most supporters think should be moved on he will probably be the easiest but wages will probably be a stumbling block.

      Chamakh: (This one made me laugh the most)
      “Previous top scorer of headers in the worlds premier club competition” – Why don’t we start him more then?
      “League winner with Bordeaux and one of their best players at the time” Gervinho was pretty good in front of goal in France too. Now he couldn’t hit a cows backside with a banjo.
      “Great build for Premier League” *not all parts may be working. Good size but no engine, tired out after 20 games and hasn’t managed to recharge fully in past 18 months.
      “Supreme 3 yard passing ability” to the opposition.
      “Previously rated at £15million” So was David Bentley.

      This guys post is all about how much they can sell for and that doesn’t cover the entire issue. Regardless of price someone needs to be able to afford their wages and that will have to be a mid-table club with European ambitions. Clubs that might be in a relegation battle won’t be able to afford to take the risk on big wages in case they go down.
      We can reduce the price as much as we want but we would still need to replace some of the players to make up squad numbers and where will we find the money to pay for these players if we are letting the dross go on free transfers or for a song?

      There will always be a blogger that serves every opinion and every agenda and Le Grove are fantastic at serving the opinion that Arsenal are crap, Wenger is an idiot, we should sell this player, buy that player, the board are corrupt, it’s all about profit etc etc. When it comes to club finances I deal in the facts available to the public and the facts are that most clubs cannot afford the wages of our dross so we either run down their contracts, send them out on loan and hope they play themselves into a contract elsewhere or we sell. Arsenal do all three depending on the player.

      To sell a player you need a buyer who can afford that player and then you need that player to want to join that club.

      If it was as cut and dry as some of these people think then we’d have sold these players a long time ago but it isn’t.

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