On our website, onlinegooner.com, we’ve had a couple of articles in recent months from Russian Gooner Ivan Merc, breaking down the club’s spending on transfers and player wages and analysing its efficiency. He has exposed the myth of Arsène Wenger being financially constrained since the move to the new stadium, which rather blows a major reason why there has been a great deal of support for the manager in the trophyless years since 2005. Ivan’s analysis demonstrates that in football spending, between the summer of 2004 and 2009, Manchester United’s net transfer spend plus players’ wages was 8.5% more than Arsenal’s. The actual figures are around £522 million for United and £481m for Arsenal, a difference of £41m, or a little over £8m a season. Chelsea’s spending is almost double United’s, but in the five years under scrutiny, Manchester United secured six major trophies (not including peripheral stuff like Community Shields and a World Club Championship), matching Chelsea’s haul. What it demonstrates is that, with efficient spending and top management, it is possible to match clubs that are spending money like it’s going out of fashion. In the same period, Arsenal have won a solitary FA Cup, and that back in 2005. Remember at the beginning of this period, the Gunners had just completed the ‘Invincibles’ campaign, so the foundations were solid. Initially, both sides were blown away by Abramovich’s money coming good in the hands of Jose Mourinho, but United recovered and are – currently – the only proven challengers to those at Stamford Bridge. The point Ivan Merc is making is that financial reasons should not be used as an excuse for Arsenal’s inability to compete. If it were simply about money, then United would have been far less successful than Chelsea. £8m per season is not a significant sum at the level of Arsenal and United, and had the Gunners matched the spending at Old Trafford I suspect there would probably have been no greater success. United’s achievement, and stop reading here if you do not want some objective opinion that is going to move beyond abuse, is a result of buying the right type of player and their handling by the manager. It should be borne in mind that in the five years we are talking about, Liverpool spent more on net transfers and wages than either United or Arsenal, with a return of two trophies to United’s six (although the fact that one was the European Cup certainly bought Rafa Benitez a great deal of time on Merseyside). Soon after Ivan Gazidis took the job as CEO of Arsenal, he was outlining his plans to analyse all of the club’s staff in every department to determine whether they could be more efficient and produce better results. He promised changes where they were falling short. However, now the club are sitting on a heap of money while – it seems to many – the predictable problems continue on the pitch.
What worries me is that the motivation of the board and indeed the manager is more about the balance sheets than the trophy cabinet. We’ll never know, but if someone told me the manager was getting a percentage of the club’s profit, I really would not be surprised. There is certainly an element of smoke and mirrors to the club’s accounts, such as the ‘other operating costs’ accounting for up to 25 percent of the club’s turnover. How I’d love to see a breakdown of the £50m plus that goes under that particular column. Wenger has many loyal fans who are content to watch some sumptuous football, and can tolerate the lack of ability to turn it into silverware, the currency that really counts in the long term. Others are polar opposites who yearn for the days of George Graham, although it should always be remembered that his team played some pretty decent football themselves until 1992 and George’s decision to bypass midfield and play to the strengths of Ian Wright. For every AKB (Arsène Knows Best), there is probably an AMG (Arsène Must Go), or as another writer in this issue has it, a WLP (Wenger’s Lost the Plot). The real question for me is whether or not a different manager could be more successful. In terms of income, it is difficult to imagine, and that is presumably why the board are happy. It is rare for a home game to not sell out and the success the club have achieved with sales in the financially critical middle tier of Club Level and boxes is the envy of all in a period when