Premier League: Why Arsenal Are Not Realistic Title Contenders

Ryan Bailey@ryanjaybaileyFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2013

In an interview with The Daily Mail's Laurie Whitwell, Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech surveyed the landscape of the 2013-14 Premier League title race.

The Czech shot-stopper backed Chelsea to take the spoils next season, but pointed to the two Manchester sides as their main threats. City have a "great, experienced manager" on their side, while David Moyes "will find a great team," at Old Trafford.

Cech also paused for thought over a team who haven't won the league in a decade:

Arsenal are now under pressure. The manager is under pressure as everyone keeps reminding him of all the time since he won a title. They will want to show that they are there to challenge. It will be Chelsea and those three teams.

Clearly, the Chelsea keeper thinks the Premiership will be a four-horse race. Thus far, however, The Gunners have shown few signs of putting a serious challenge to the three sides who have widened the gulf at the top of the table in recent years.

Financially, Arsenal are in a good place. They always receive more in transfer fees than they spend. They recently negotiated a £30 million-a-year sponsorship deal with Emirates and another £30 million-a-year agreement with Puma.

In February, they announced profits of £17.8 million and cash reserves of £123.3 million (via The Guardian). Over the next three seasons, they will receive their slice of the eye-watering £5.5 billion Premier League TV rights pie.

With this positive balance sheet in mind, this was supposed to be a summer of spending. Over the past few months, there has been talk of Arsene Wenger having a £70 million "war chest" at his disposal.

The French manager has the exciting opportunity to blow the club's record transfer fee of £13 million for Sylvain Wiltord on a "box office" signing. The names Gonzalo Higuain and Wayne Rooney have been bandied about.

But so far this summer, Wenger has behaved in a typically Wenger-esque manner, signing French U-20 striker Yaya Sanogo on a free transfer from Auxerre.

A few miles down the street, meanwhile, Tottenham have laid out £17 million for Confederations Cup star Paulinho.

Out of the two North London sides, which is currently showing the most ambition?

Arsenal's feeble title hopes are reflected in the current odds offered by bookmakers. Manchester Utd, Manchester City and Chelsea all currently have odds of around 2/1. Arsenal's currently sit at around 10/1.

After a decade of falling behind in the title race, Arsenal simply must spend, if only to instill a belief that they are taking the domestic league seriously.

According to, The Gunners are in the advanced stages of negotiation for the aforementioned Gonzalo Higuain. They may lose out, however, if they do not increase their £21 million bid to Los Blancos' £25.5 million ticket price.

In The Sun on Tuesday, Jack Wilshere claimed they could win the title if they signed Wayne Rooney.

Provided the England striker still wants to leave Utd after discussions with new manager David Moyes, Arsenal would then be faced with the prospect of destroying their wage structure to bring him in. 

Nobody at the Emirates earns more then £100,000-per-week, whereas Rooney is thought to earn north of £200,000 every seven days. Would he accept a cut to move to London when someone like PSG may match or better his current deal?

Even if the Gunners do end up landing a Higuain or a Rooney, one player does not a title challenge make—particularly if that player is Rooney, whose struggles with fitness have increased over the past few seasons.

By getting in the conversation of signing players worth more than £20 million, Wenger is showing a long-overdue willingness to address Arsenal's trophy cabinet issues.

With a rumored £70 million to play with, this summer represents a very rare opportunity to gain some ground on the leading pack.

But actually spending all that money would completely go against Wenger's philosophy of home-grown development and frugal continental purchases. For this reason, it seems unlikely that Arsenal will spend more than £25 million of their "war chest."

Of course, a prudent approach can still bring success: Just look at the recent triumphs of Borussia Dortmund.

Yet with so many Premier League clubs exercising their financial clout to bring in the world's best stars, the days of a thrifty squad going all the way in England seem to be over.

Arsenal will still have an excellent season, and Arsene Wenger will undoubtedly procure Champions League football for an unprecedented 17th consecutive season. But make no mistake: The 2013-14 Premier League is not a four-horse race.


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