Sale of African Assets Leaves Arsenal With Questions To Answer

Alex StampCorrespondent IJuly 28, 2009

WIGAN, ENGLAND - APRIL 11:  Mikael Silvestre of Arsenal is congratulated by Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor after scoring the second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Wigan Athletic and Arsenal at The JJB Stadium on April 11, 2009 in Wigan, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

The news that Arsenal are selling their defensive stalwart Kolo Toure will not be greeted warmly by Arsenal fans who, less than a month before the season is due to begin, are wondering whether Arsene Wenger will heed their cries for reinforcements or whether they are to exit the summer in a weaker position than they entered it.

The sales of Adebayor and Toure have netted the club in the region of £40 million, but whether their sales will have done terminal damage to Arsenal’s title chances is a matter of debate.

Wenger, when announcing that he had accepted a bid from City for Toure said: “We have seven centre-backs and I am in the position where I have to play some in midfield but of course Kolo is a very good player and we will see what will happen in the next 24 hours.”

While Wenger is no fool, the fact that he considers Silvestre, Senderos and Alex Song—a midfielder—as part of this company will worry Arsenal fans, as will the inference that Wenger feels such a group will be sufficient.

While Toure may have peaked, though that point is debatable, he still remains a highly experienced and, on his day, capable defender.

While a line of argument could be said that acquiring £40 million for two players who would miss large parts of the season due to the African Cup of Nations is a good move, that Arsenal have been so willing to sell to Manchester City—a club with their sights set firmly on the club’s Champions League place—will be a worry to Arsenal fans.

One idea behind this willingness to sell to the Eastlands club could be that Arsenal simply didn’t believe that they would receive bids for that amount of money again.

Yet this simply opens up the arguments of how financially sound Arsenal currently are at the moment.

If, and this is a big if, Arsenal are on as sound a financial footing as they claim to be, then why the need to sell players who could contribute greatly to the team’s fortunes over the next season?

Perhaps Wenger has felt the need to sell as he has spotted players of superior quality and promise available at a lower price and felt that the time was right to sell and then buy other players.

Certainly the likes of Huntelaar, Demba Ba, Mahamadou Sakho and Neven Subotic are replacements which could be acquired at a lower cost than those which were sold.

And if this is the case, then the next few weeks could be crucial, for the players he would have to sign would have to be acquired quickly in order to be bedded in time for the beginning of the season and the Champions League qualifiers which swiftly follow.

However, if money were not spent, then clearly questions must be raised about how viable it is for Arsenal to challenge for the league and Champions League year on year if they can make £40 million on transfers and not reinvest any of the funds into a team which clearly needs reinforcements.

Furthermore, if indeed the club are financially hamstrung, then further questions must be asked about the current board's decision to reject a proposal by Russian shareholder Alisher Usmanov over whether to hold a rights issue or not.

The proposal by Usmanov was to issue new shares in Arsenal to existing shareholders, where they would be invited to purchase new shares in the club and, as a result, would invest into the club almost £150 million. However, this proposal was rejected by the board because “the club has a very efficient capital structure with long-term debt on attractive interest rates.”

The idea that Arsenal raise money from shareholders to spend it on "one or two players in an inflated transfer market" was deemed unnecessary.

Yet if the money Arsenal make from the sales of their African stars is not appropriately invested back into the team, then the board could face some awkward questions—not least from Arsenal fans who pay among the highest prices for tickets to home matches yet are having to offset this with a decline in achievement, results and quality.

If the board is financially in a situation where they are under no pressure due to finances, then why are they not forcing the issue to Wenger that the money must be spent to improve specific areas in the team?

If they are feeling the pinch, then the questions must be asked about why a club, which prides itself on being one of the more well-run clubs in the league, has allowed itself to get into this position, while rejecting out of hand any proposals which will, in the short term, allow Wenger to strengthen his team.

So if Arsenal do have money to burn or just simple money troubles, the next few weeks could provide Arsenal fans with the answers they either dreamt for or dreaded. For the club, the board and most importantly the fans, this could be the few weeks that could really tell us what shape Arsenal really are in.