Arsenal has run a tight fiscal ship under Arsene Wenger, but the club has shown signs that it is willing to spend more freely going forward, and this will be a necessary move for the Gunners to break their trophy drought.
It has been eight seasons since the team has been able to bring hardware back to North London.
In this current campaign, Arsenal is 24 points behind league-leading Manchester United—after being knocked out of the FA Cup in the fifth round by Blackburn—and faces a 3-1 deficit after the first leg of its Champions League matchup with Bayern Munich.
The club’s prospects to add a trophy this season are extremely bleak, and in response, The Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson reports that the team is willing to make changes to its policy on wages.
Arsenal has refused to pay any player more than £100,000 per week, but Wilson reports the following:
It is understood that Arsenal were prepared to offer Robin van Persie a new contract worth £140,000 a week last summer and are prepared to reach similar figures this year for the right player. Stevan Jovetic, the Fiorentina striker, is being regularly watched and Wenger retains a strong interest in Borussia Dortmund playmaker Mario Götze. Both would command transfer fees and wages well in excess of Arsenal’s previous budget.
In a perfect football world, every club would follow Wenger’s model. Teams with billionaire owners would not be willing to spend £100 million in the transfer market every summer while offering each new arrival exorbitant wages.
But with Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid and others throwing financial caution to the wind, Arsenal needs to find a happy medium between the way it has operated in the past and the way the richest clubs pay their players.
While Wenger is used to being a trend-setter in the business of football, he should look to Sir Alex Ferguson and United, as well as Tottenham, for an example of the type of compromise he should be seeking.
As Wilson’s report notes, United’s wage bill is only £17 million larger than Arsenal’s, while Spurs pays their players £50 million less than the Gunners.
It is certainly possible to be responsible about offering wages while also giving select players a wage above £100,000 per week. Not only is the club able to do this, but it must make this change if it hopes to finish about third or fourth place in the near future.
The policy has created a vicious cycle. Top players depart for clubs where they will get paid much larger wages, and as more and more world-class talents leave the Emirates, fewer wish to sign with the Gunners.
The club’s inability to keep Robin van Persie despite its willingness to break the £100,000 barrier is a sign that it acted too late. The Dutchman’s exit fell in line with the departure of players like Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Thierry Henry.
To illustrate the point, The Telegraph created a graphic that shows the number of trophies that stars who left the Emirates went on to win with other clubs.
Not only did van Persie want a higher salary, but he also wanted to compete for titles, and he did not see the talent at Arsenal necessary to do so.
Adding exciting young players like Stevan Jovetic and Mario Götze would be a fantastic step toward creating the type of lineup that could compete for a league title.
The club knows that it must pay these players more than £100,000 per week, and the fact that it is willing to do so is an extremely positive sign for its prospects to win a trophy in the coming seasons.