Wenger reveals the main reason behind his fights with Chelsea

Arsene Wenger has admitted that his fights with Chelsea at the start of Roman Abramovich’s ownership were because the Blues were spending money they weren’t making.

Wenger was the manager of Arsenal for over two decades and his main rival initially, was Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United.

However, the balance of power began to shift when Abramovich came to town.

He signed several top players for Chelsea and made Jose Mourinho the club’s manager in 2004.

The Portuguese boss became an instant hit as his team dominated in England with a rock-solid defence and powerful attack.

They could buy anyone they wanted and that seemed to trouble Wenger, who usually feuded with the Blues to vent his frustration.

‘My rivalry was more with the clubs than the persons, I never made any statements on a personal level,’ Wenger told Sky Sports via Football Daily.

‘I had a lot of aggravations with [José] Mourinho at the time because I felt that Chelsea were the first club that came in and spent money they didn’t earn.’

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Abramovic’s money was a game changer during this period and Wenger was not the only manager that felt Chelsea was cheating its way into success.

This is probably what motivated the owners of Manchester City and Newcastle United to buy their clubs, and it has created a new set of dominant clubs in the league.

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Tags Arsene Wenger

44 Comments

  1. This is exactly what I’ve been saying in a number of posts here. A few people get it, but it’s fair to say that a large number still don’t (or don’t want to) understand.

    With Abramovic it was not only the loans via holding companies, but also the gifts (equity injections).

    FFP rules were not agreed until 2010 and the first assessments didn’t start until 2011. The break-even requirements were not in place until 2013 and even then, the conditions for non-compliance didn’t happen until 2014/15 season.

    This was all quite a long time after Abromovic took over Chelsea in mid-2003. He had a long time to throw as much money as he wanted into the club and tilt the playing field in their favour.

    It’s no coincidence that Arsenal’s decline started after the 2004 Invincibles season – a combination of the big money entering the game at other clubs and the stadium rebuild out of the club’s own finances which completed in 2006.

    In 2008 Man City’s takeover happened and they also had a few years of doing whatever they wanted before FFP kicked in.

    Wenger was right to fight with Chelsea over this – they’re just a plastic club, buying success over the clubs who have earned it over more than a century.

    1. You are 100% correct and why fans cannot see what AW had to put up with, while still keeping us in the top four is just mind blowing to me.
      Well summed up, let’s hope your reply is read by those who continually knock our most successful manager ever.

      1. Strangely enough, city aren’t viewed in the same way as chelsea, in my opinion.
        Probably because they were still drawing crowds of over 30,000 when they were in the second tier of football and everyone disliked united anyway!!!!

      2. Thanks Ken – I won’t hold my breath though – I’ve posted on this subject before but still I see lots of comments from people who are clearly in the dark over the financial side of the game and how it translates to on-field performance.

        AW deserves far more credit than he gets.

        The Arsenal Board who floated 100% of the club’s shares deserve a kicking though – utterly dense to do that.

    2. It’s true that money brings you power but it’s far from truth that money brings you success. We have seen countless examples. Manu have net spent most money except manc but they are still quite a lot behind their rivals. Even Arsenal are among the big spender for past few seasons and we haven’t even got into top 4 for multiple seasons. Then we can see big spenders Everton, West ham, Aston villa fading away each season. We saw fulham, middlesbrough, getting relagated after spending big. So it’s clear spending money is not solution. Spending wisely and proper management is most which mancity and Chelsea are able to do. We have to appreciate that as their competitiveness has taken EPL to whole new level and today each premier league clubs are able to earn whole lot money than they used to.

      1. There’s a difference between money and BIG money.

        Abramovic helped himself to billions in Russia (he’s sanctioned for a reason) and spent a chunk of it on Chelsea – his priority was not a financial return, he was playing fantasy football with a real club. The guy at Middlesboro is/was a *millionaire*, but he’s a financial minnow by comparison – he was in there before the *billionaires* came along.

        The others are also not in the same league in terms of money. You now have Abu Dhabi owning City (pre FFP which makes a difference), Saudi owning Newcastle and a Russian oligarch whose money set Chelsea up before the others got going (also well before FFP – in fact 7-12 years prior to FFP, the longest advantage of any of them).

        It may not guarantee instant success for every club that gets some level of leg-up, but it only takes 2 or 3 and the top of the game is skewed – City and Chelsea occupy the top 4 every year and they wouldn’t be anywhere near that level without it.

        Even Leicester (Leicester!) managed to win the EPL with a big(ish) money backer – who has since died in an accident.

        The other difference is some of these people are in it to profit from the clubs (Kroenke and the Glazers) whereas others are using their club as personal/national marketing or just to have fun because they have more money than they know what to do with (Abramovic for fun and a bit of image-washing, Abu Dhabi and presumably Saudi trying to detoxify their image).

        And btw, the PL clubs are “earning” money… from you. TV subscription, 3 new kits a year etc. But in the end it belongs to the holding companies that the clubs are in debt to.

  2. Anyone for the German league’s “50+1” rule?

    They require a club to own 50% of its shares plus one. That means the club always has control of its own finances and destiny.

    I’m pretty sure that when the PL clubs went public, they didn’t envisage a scenario where all their shares would be bought up by a rich individual so that they were effectively selling the club to one person. Perhaps they should have allowed for it and kept their shares on a 50+1 basis.

  3. But people moan the Kroenkes don’t put their own money in. If they did and we win loads of trophies, then we are hypocrites. I’m happy with the self sustaining project and unlike the Glazers at Man U, the Kroenkes don’t rip us off.

    1. I guess you’ve no knowledge of KSE and their loans to Arsenal then?

      Just the enforced re-financing of the stadium loan from the original lenders over to KSE costs the club £11m a year in interest payments to KSE.

      All while Kroenke gives the LA Rams £1.23bn towards their stadium rebuild (note: “gives”, not “lends”).

      We’re hypocrites in the sense of celebrating the same financial advantage, but… everything Arsenal is getting from KSE is in the form of loans (with interest) whereas other clubs get gifts.

      One day those loans could see the club bankrupt – remember Rangers.

      Man Utd have terrible owners as well – iirc they just took £24m out of the club for themselves (consultancy fees etc). The difference with Arsenal is that at least the spending is producing results on the pitch whereas Utd has spent a fortune and they’re in a terrible state.

      The others have owners who are not in it to make a profit, they want to improve their image and they’re prepared to lose money to do it – effectively they’re buying popularity.

      1. Not to mention that when Kroenke bought out Usmanov’s shares in 2018, he “lent” Arsenal the £603m he used to do that via KSE… on which interest is due of course.

        I expect a law suit in the future over the ownership of those shares – if the money was lent to Arsenal to buy them, then they belong to Arsenal, not to Kroenke or KSE.

      2. 1) Did Kroenke really “give” the Rams a stadium?
        Don’t think so. The stadium is for both his own Rams and for Chargers. The latter are paying substantial rent. On top of that corporate entertainment around NFL is a lot bigger than in the PL, I believe, which means the stadium is a much better business case alltogether.

        2) 2 clubs have historically had owners using their own money to raise the level of the clubs, Chelsea and City. But the motives can be questioned for for both. IMO we are talking about sportswashing. Maybe Newcastle can now be added to that “club”.
        All other clubs are in a way on a level mplaying field, as they all need to be self sustaining.

        1. Why don’t you read up before you start typing?

          It’s a matter of record that Kroenke provided £1.23bn from his personal funds as an equity injection (essentially a gift) to the Rams out of a total cost of £3.08bn for their stadium rebuild costs.

          Your view of what is “historical” is highly convenient to your argument. The first time truly big money came in with a single owner was with Abramovic in 2003. That is when the rot started and THAT is what’s being discussed.

          We’r enot discussing the Elton John stuff that was a rarity and relatively small amounts, millions not billions.

  4. Wenger’s economic theories more suited to a debate among academics not real world and free market.

    His “spending money they didn’t have” philosophy would create a permanent hierarchy in the PL. Notting Forest, Fulham, etc… would never afford the players to compete.

    It would lock teams at the bottom protecting global brands at the top.

    Also “spending money they didn’t have” would have erased our rebuild last Summer and 150 million spent, right? How about this year’s spending?

    Rather the free market approach and a more exciting and competitive league. It’s not even close the old 3 horse race compared to what we have now.

    City and utd haven’t been outrageous in spending, Liverpool spent well after sales, spuds and us incurring a bit of short term debt though.

    I think it makes a better and more competitive league, just my humble opinion though.

    1. City and utd spending this year that is. Arsenal were biggest spenders last year, and among the top again this year.

      Complaints about spending seem hypocritical coming from our end.

      1. But I’m not looking at it from an Arsenal perspective, but in terms of “what’s best for football” – all clubs, over time.

        For change to happen, it needs people involved with the bigger clubs who have money to decide that change is needed, for the good of the game, not their own club.

        And… this is not “real money” that’s being spent, it’s loans from KSE, so essentially Arsenal borrowing its own future revenues, paying interest to KSE to do so (at rates set by KSE).

    2. It HAS created a hierarchy in the PL! A new one that has no bearing on what clubs achieved over their history.

      And Fulham etc can’t afford to compete, we can see that.

      Free market approach? haha
      Short term debt??? ROFL…

      Have you seen the debt incurred by Arsenal to KSE??? Please have a look at that before you comment further. It’s not short term – it’s both long term and enormous.

      1. I was referring to recent transfer activity, not stadium and refinance of long term debt.

        It is free market, that is if you grasp economics, and I have looked. The club (pre pandemic) brought in hefty profits from numerous sources. They will resume those profits, I would argue surpass.

        As for long term debt, we likely won’t see significant spending on transfers for quite a while.

        Defense is set, our next backup RB is academy product.

        Midfield is in place, with Lokogna, Vieira, Azeez, Odegaard, and Partey / Xhaka going nowhere for couple years.

        Saka, Martinelli, ESR, Marquinhos, maybe another winger coming?

        Jesus and Nketiah, I don’t see big spending anytime soon.

        Arsenal spent massively this Summer and last, and “the process” is designed to keep this squad together for several years and grow profit by massively reducing transfer spending.

        You clearly haven’t grasped the long term picture, but others can see the groundwork laid out, and how the club plans moving forward.

        Virtually all businesses have debt, it’s how it is structured and managed.

        1. So you lurch from one position to saying that it’s only about transfers, vaguely claim knowledge of economics and spout more vague stuff about “all businesses have debt”?

          There’s little point in a discussion with someone who has no idea and doesn’t intend to bother to try.

          Here are the real points for those who understand busness, finance and economics:

          (1) The overall debt is massive and if KSE pull out Arsenal will almost certainly be bankrupt (unless another rich twerp jumps in). That’s not sustainable, well-structured debt.

          (2) The recent transfers all created further debt to KSE as well. And the interest payments that go with that debt, at rtes set by KSE.

          (3) There is absolutely no reason to believe that transfer activity will stop for footballing reasons (only if the Kroenkes decide to stop it). It may not be as hyper as it is now but it will probably continue. But it doesn’t matter, the financial hole is more than deep enough.

          Ask yourself why KSE gave the Rams £1.23 bn for their stadium and only loaned Arsenal the stadium money (with £11m a year interest).

          I certain that it’s you that hasn’t grasped the long-term picture. Once these people leave football, the clubs they now own will be shafted.

          1. My friend if the economic situation is as you claim, how would the Rams and KSE survive after incurring BILLIONS in debt from financing their stadium?

            How would they ever get out of that financial hole?

            Leave economics to those who understand the subject.

            Your myopic, short term generalization of economics is frighteningly naive and I’ll informed.

            In spite of evidence all around you, so stick to the sports side and don’t venture into economics or finance, leave that to knowledgeable people.

            1. I’ve tried to engage in this “discussion” without disparaging you, but it seems impossible.

              You don’t even understand the difference between “finance” and “economics”. Sorry to have to say it, but you are financially illiterate – and you simply resort to insults to hide it.

              Did you even read the article in the link? These are FACTS – you cannot bat them away by saying that they can’t possibly be facts because *you* don’t understand how a business could work on that basis.

              The equity injection into the Rams’ stadium build is a fact.
              The loan to Arsenal for the stadium with £11m pa interest is a fact. Read the corporate accounts if you don’t believe me – or if you don’t believe the authors of the article I linked.

              And in case you hadn’t worked it out, the equity injection makes it *easier* for the Rams to make profits (in simple terms: by not having spend their franchise’s money they will make more profit) – however, it may make it more difficult for Kroenke to profit personally.

              The other key point you keep missing is that a business cannot simply restructure debt just because it wants to do so. Lenders look at the business’s ability to repay, based on projected revenues. Many football clubs have gone into receivership because they cannot find a lender who will refinance their loans.

              That is another *fact*.

              Once the big money people pull out of football and clubs must once again approach banks and similar lenders, the current debt levels will not be re-financed – the clubs will go bust.

              People think it’s “Kroenke’s money” that’s being spent here and the point I repeatedly try to get people to undrestand is that it isn’t – it’s ARSENAL’S MONEY provided from future revenues via loans from KSE – at interest.

              Please don’t waste any more of my time on this, you really have no clue what you’re talking about and you’re making so much noise that you get in the way (of helping people gain a genuine understanding of these issues).

          2. @IDKWI
            Your claim KSE have gifted Rams a stadium doesn’t hold up.
            As for The Emirates Stadium, the decision to build it was taken long before KSE had control of the club.

            1. It’s not “my claim”, it is a documented FACT. It is on record in the corporate accounts of both the Rams and Arsenal…

              It’s a matter of record that Kroenke provided £1.23bn from his personal funds as an equity injection (essentially a gift) to the Rams out of a total cost of £3.08bn for their stadium rebuild costs.

              It is also on record that the Arsenal stadium rebuild went over budget from £200m to £400m. Arsenal took out a loan for the overspend but when Kroenke/KSE took over they had the loan transferred to KSE and the interest on that loan means that Arsenal pays £11m per annum to KSE in interest.

              Did you even bother to read the link I posted below before you reached for your keyboard???

              Some people posting here are like ostriches – heads in the sand, only seeing what they want to see.

  5. And what’s the excuse to losing out to Raineri and LC Mr. Wenger?
    And the excuse to let go Kante for Xhaka?
    And thd excuse for not hiring Juan Mata?
    And the excuse for hiring clowns who could not match Drogba?
    Be honest to yourself and admit Mou hired more skilled and talented lads, not morons and I’d have the respect for you during the not so good times

    1. @Loose Cannon
      Now, let’s see you apply that same venomous critic to our current coach for his flurry of bad decisions…

      1. And Mou was a UCL winner with Porto, so whats the excuse for 1 final in 22 attempts?
        Well folks, the truth hurts! Mou was and will be remembered as a better coach winning the Europa with Utd and the Conference cup with Roma. Mr. Wenger would be remembered for that knock out punch on Mou, maybe professional wrestling would have been a better job rather than wasting our time and years at Arsenal

        1. Loose Canon, you forgot losing the UEFA Cup Final in 2000. Also he lost the CWC Final in 1992 while at Monaco. In Europe he was as much use as a 3 pronged plug.

                1. The one that Arteta managed to get knocked out off, despite having an away goal advantage that resulted in no european football for the first time in over two decades under Wenger and Emery.

                  I seem to remember Emery getting to the final on the back of Wenger’s seventh Cup final win – then Emery finishing 5th and qualifying for europe again – then, of course, the three pronged plug of no european football 8th and 8th under Arteta.

                  I t’s hard to judge MA in europe, as his only try, courtesy of AW and UE, was an abject failure.
                  Of course, we all hope he can deliver CL football, win the fa cup and get to a European final this season and emulate our previous two managers – anything less and we’ll all blow a fuse.

                  You’ve got to be in it to win it 🤔

                  1. Would that be the one where PEA missed a absolute sitter in the last few minutes that would’ve seen us go through ?

                    You’ve obviously forgotten that Arteta qualified for Europe on his own back by winning the FA Cup after only being in the job for less than a year, and then losing in the semi final against the king of the EL.

                    1. No, I haven’t forgotten that Arteta won the cup with the players he inherited, or that since then we have been knocked out in the 4th and 3rd rounds either.
                      Have you forgotten the successes under Wenger, as you never mention them?

                      But you seem to think that I’m against MA – I’m not and nothing would give me greater pleasure than seeing him become the most successful Arsenal manager.

                      What gets me, is when fans quote Wenger’s faults, but never compare those with his successes, which are much more important.

                      Yes, he wasn’t successful in europe, but he got our club into the CL despite everything that this article eluded too and, if one thinks logically, that’s exactly why he wasn’t successful against the clubs being bankrolled with impunity and no regards for the fair play initiative.

                      Perhaps, if fans like you and Loose Cannon acknowledged the positives as many times as you delight in trolling out the negatives, there would be a lot more unity within the fanbase?

                    2. Of course, despite Aubameyang missing that absolute sitter, he was awarded a reported £350,000 a week new contract… only to be given away for nothing six months later…. and now Chelsea want to buy him for a reported £28,000,000!!!

                    3. Just one final point HD, you mention the Aubameyang miss, but completely and conveniently forget to mention the Henry sitter he missed in the final against Barcelona.
                      That would have put us 2-0 up with ten men and then history would have been different for AW as well as MA.

                      That is the problem, in a nutshell, that I have with those who always want to bring up Wenger’s failures, but are not prepared to do the same with Arteta, while shouting out the successes of the latter, while ignoring the those of the former.

                    4. Ken, first you say “It’s hard to judge MA in europe, as his only try, was courtesy of AW and UE, was an abject failure”.
                      Then you say you haven’t forgotten MA winning the FA Cup.
                      Now correct me if I’m wrong, but Arteta finishing 8th didn’t qualify us for Europe, but him winning the FA Cup that season did.

                      As for PEA, iirc, it was 18 months after signing his new contract that he was turfed out.

                      As for Henry, yes he did miss that chance, but then again he’s never scored for us in any of the Cup Finals that he played in

                      If Arteta stays in the job for 22 years and plays weakened teams in semi finals, classes top 4 as a trophy above actual trophies and then blames the supporters for not winning the PL, you can be sure that I will be on his case loudly !!

    2. I tend to agree – you don’t need to be the biggest spenders to at least create a competitive team. Wenger kept on signing really good attackers, but couldn’t get it right with defenders/defensive mids – we just kept signing the wrong players. It got a bit ridiculous in the end – the only adequate defender we signed for years was koscielny, as he could just about deal with the openness of our system, but next to him was mertesacker, who is the opposite of ideal for facing counter attacks. This didn’t happen because we didn’t have enough money or our rivals had too much, it was just bad transfer decisions (or on field tactics) on our part.
      We also kept having important players leaving for the same reason – “we want to win things and aren’t being supported”. How was this allowed to happen over and over again? It seemed to me that it was because wenger couldn’t see what was missing or couldn’t find the right players, lost his edge in the transfer market to find the hidden gems as he used to (anelka, Vieira, Henry, Ljungberg, kolo etc). Leicester found those hidden gems and won the title out of nowhere. Newcastle had a brief period of decency through similarly smart signings. We got left behind in that regard.

      Finally, and importantly, it’s made out like we were just a poor club who couldn’t spend enough money to compete, when we were actually spending loads, and had a stupid wage bill. The big difference is that we wasted most of that money.

  6. LC, you also forgot the Invincibles, the seven fa cup wins, the three league wins, the two doubles, the two decades of european football, the two decades of top four finishes, the seven CS wins, the Emirates, the Hales End building, the first foreign manager to win the PL, the first manager to introduce dietary benefits to the PL, the first manager to take on player power regarding the drinking culture at the club, the first PL manager to make a £20,000,000 plus profit on a player, the first manager to take on Alex Ferguson and his mind games, the only manager to receive a gold trophy for managing a team through the PL unbeaten…. and, of course, the only person at the Arsenal who recommended MIKEL ARTETA as his successor.

    In the footballing world he was seen as a visionary, highly educated, honest, 100% loyal Arsenal man.

    He was head hunted by every one of the top clubs in Europe and was also offered the managers position at different European countries.

    I suggest that one finds the views of players such as Henry, Bergkamp, Vieria and Campbell, managers such as Ferguson, Pep, Mourinho and Arteta and ex Arsenal names such as David Dein and Bob Wilson.

    I think Arsene will always be remembered for the massive things he did achieve during his managerial career, while, it seems, a small, bitter group of (sadly) Arsenal fans will always want to sully his time at our club.

    I feel rather sad for all of them, even though they are such a small, group of people, who actually condemn him for being a human being, who, like the rest of us, made mistakes, when they think he should have been God, making no mistakes whatsoever.

    Hope that answers all your questions LC and don’t ever forget who recommended MA to become the next Arsenal manager

  7. I’ll re-post this, since it’s clear that many people posting in this thread have no clue what’s really going on and prefer to challenge facts with (ill-informed) opinion.

    Where did Kroenke get his Arsenal shares from?:

    http://www.thearsenalhistory.com/?p=13265

    Provides a history of the club’s finances – part 1 is also a good read (linked at the top of the article) showing how the Arsenal Board panicked when they floated the club and got it wrong.

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