Revealed: The Method Behind Wenger's Cut-Price Madness
IT HAS taken this writer a full 24 hours to crash land after that volcanic eruption at Wigan’s soulless DW Stadium yesterday.
But the soul-searching has been worth it. The tears not spilled in vain. Because I’ve worked out what Arsene Wenger’s doing beneath that dust-cloud of Gallic quotes. How his miserly ways will turn the German-speaking Frenchman from Scrooge to Scrumptious. Honest.
Look, there’s no getting away from the fact that his carefully assembled bunch of foreign youngsters self-destructed yesterday. Throwing away a 2-0 lead to go down 3-2 against a relegation-threatened, gormless bunch of Latics when the title was there for the taking is inexcusable.
Sure, Gooners will be blaming Lukasz Fabianski for the abysmal 11-minute collapse. Neither he nor No1 Manuel Almunia – allegedly unfit for yesterday’s game – are truly world class goalkeepers (we will neatly forget the Spaniard’s first half display against Barcelona two weeks ago).
Others will point out the lack of a striker which leaves Arsenal constantly struggling for the goals their dominance deserves (though possession was split 50-50 yesterday, with Wigan (13) having more shots than Arsenal (10)). With Robin van Persie injured and Nicklas Bendtner offering two left feet, they argue, Marouane Chamakh should have been purchased from Bordeaux in January... not left fretting in France for another six months.
And then there’s the injury distraction. Since William Gallas was crocked after Christmas, they’ve conceded goals the way air-controllers cancel flights at Heathrow. Then there’s Van Persie, just back, Aaron Ramsey, Kieron Gibbs, Thomas Vermaelen, Andrie Arshavin and Cesc Fabregas, who will probably be wearing a Barcelona jersey next time we see him in club action.
But forget all the smoke and mirrors. I have seen beyond them. A simple look at the total net-spend of the top clubs since the Premier League began in 1992 explains everything. Take a squint at these figures from Sky Sports News today:
Manchester City: £301m
Manchester United £139m
And United’s figure is eased significantly by the £90m sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid last summer.
It’s clear isn’t it? Arsene Wenger is not worried about the trophy cabinet which hasn’t seen as much an egg-cup popped in for six years.
Monsewer Wenger isn’t concerned about missing out of the big signings, the star names. He’s not bothered when he loses Mathieu Flamini and Thierry Henry when they demand huge pay increases. All that matters is the bottom line.
Arsenal have their new stadium. They have a strong, young squad (though clearly, not one strong enough to win silverware). And the club operates in profit despite the move to the glossy Emirates Stadium.
That’s clear when he says after yesterday’s embarrassing capitulation: “Tottenham and Manchester City can still catch us, so we have to win at least one more game.” Aaargh.
Here’s the master plan, the vital bit: he’s looking ahead to the time when Roman Abramovich demands his money back at Chelsea, when Abu Dhabi’s oily masters decide Manchester City aren’t really all that, when Daniel Levy stops Harry Redknapp’s profligacy at Spurs, when Manchester United and Liverpool fall foul of their dollar-wielding owners as they scuttle back to Yankee Doodle land.
And then, when English football runs as Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini want it to – debt-free – Arsenal will be top dogs. Sadly, they’ll be top dogs in a Premier League of poodles; an edifice which will collapse even more spectacularly than Serie A did at the start of the century.
But given a few more recessions and the odd volcanic dust cloud or two, that might not be far away. Thriftiness will soon be next to Godliness in the footballing lexicon. Come on you cost-effective Gunners!