Thursday, July 12, 2012

Are Arsenal Moving Ahead, Standing Pat, or Going Under?

After two strong signings (Giroud and Podolski) during the European Championships, Arsenal have been very quiet on the transfer market, despite important needs to address in midfield, defense, and now, most disappointingly, offense. After Robin van Persie's announcement last week that he would not sign a new contract to remain at Arsenal, the silence emanating from the Emirates has been deafening, despite calls from minority owners to open up the piggy bank.

Let's be clear about just what is happening here. For the second year in a row, Arsenal are about to lose their single best player. Why? Just one reason: money. Arsenal continue to operate in an alternative financial universe to its main competitors, Man U, Man City, and Chelsea. It maintains a salary structure rooted in the 1990s, while billionaire owners elsewhere spend lavishly, even recklessly. 


I have no idea whether Arsenal's efforts to maintain a reasonable budget are a matter of principle (as manager Arsene Wenger always seems to insist) or budget constraints (possibly relating to the building of The Emirates stadium). But whatever its basis, Arsenal's efforts to fight the tide of money in football is Quixotic. Decision makers at Arsenal have a choice: they can build a financially sound, profit-making football club, or they can create a club that wins championships. Cynical though it might sound, I doubt that even such a genius as Wenger (and he is a footballing genius) can manage to do both.


Until the FA or FIFA manage to implement a binding salary cap, Arsenal must play by the prevailing rules of the game or lose. As of now, they seem content with the later. They may manage to finish the league in the top three or four again this coming season, and a new team leader may emerge to replace van Persie. But what will happen when his contract is ready to expire?

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