Do Arsenal Care About Winning Trophies Or Are They Happy Being A Successfully Run Company?
Arsenal are rare amongst Premier League clubs, or indeed, most clubs at the top of world football, in being able to turn a profit every year. The North London club recently announced a £23.6 million operating profit for 2011-2012, with chief executive Ivan Gazidis pointing to their plans to stay in line with UEFA Financial Fair Play Rules for the next few years. In this way, while Arsenal have spent more on player wages than previous years, the club are targeting a sustainable model that depends on exploiting property on Queensland Road, and regularly qualifying for the Champions League. However, and while achieving a more stable financial footing than rivals Man City, Man Utd, and Chelsea, does this success offset the fact that Arsenal haven’t won a trophy since 2005?
On the one hand, Arsene Wenger has managed to get a lot out of a squad that regularly lacks the depth found in other clubs. An investment in youth, and some canny transfers from overseas, have ensured that Arsenal have been able to maintain an attractive brand of football that has kept them in the top four. Fifteen years in the Champions League is nothing to be sniffed at, and this season Wenger has relaxed his usual conservatism in the transfer market to acquire Lukas Podolski, Oliver Giroud, and Santi Cazorla. These signings promise to boost the youthful potential of players like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere.
In terms of year to year performance, Arsenal can point to their regular Champions League qualification, and ability to overcome rivals like Chelsea and Spurs to secure a place in the elite of the Premier League. However, that success has seen the sale of top players like Fabregas, Nasri, Clichy, Song and Van Persie to rivals over the past few years. Will Arsenal’s success, then, continue to depend on selling their best players?
A Selling Club?
Arsenal fans are certainly right to be wary of a financial model that means that world class players are regularly tempted away from the Emirates to Manchester City. While Wenger can explain the sale of Van Persie as good business considering the player’s age and injury history, any short term success in the league or Europe could lead to further exists next year. The challenge, then, is for Arsenal to reward player loyalty with trophies, an approach that only worked for so long for players like Fabregas and Van Persie. There’s also been criticism that Arsenal’s reliance on youth backfired in a thin squad last year, and one that has been substantially strengthened in the past few months.
For all of these problems, Arsenal are not in a bad position, but may have to be realistic and patient. If rivals are affected by the Financial Fair Play Rules, and forced to break up squads or lower wages, than Arsenal stand to be more competitive. At present, Arsenal have made a slow start to the season while Man City and Man Utd occupy the top 2 spots and seem to be getting stronger each week, this is especially true for the latter who are now 15 points better off than the gunners. The stable financial model might also make it possible for Arsenal to offer better wages if they do win trophies, albeit with less potential to make the kind of raids on top clubs routinely practiced by City and Chelsea. Before any of this can happen, though, Arsenal actually need to win some trophies and with Arsene fielding such a strong starting eleven away at Bradford in the League Cup quarter-final it seemed this was a trophy he actually desired. However they went on to lose on penalties meaning their most realistic chance of winning a medal lies with the FA Cup, a trophy they last won in 2005. Perhaps this will be what it takes to convince fans that the squad and club has a winning mentality.
But can they keep selling players and still win a trophy?
Liam Ohm writes and football and finance. With an in depth knowledge of the football business he believes Arsenal are a model club in terms of finances. In his spare time he scouts for local clubs, reviews matches and travels the country.