Arsene Wenger has defended his record as Arsenal boss in recent years despite the well-known fact the club hasn’t won a trophy since swapping Highbury for the Emirates.
Asked ahead of this evening’s crunch clash at Goodison Park to comment on David Moyes’ achievements on Everton’s tight budget, the boss took the opportunity to ram some home truths down the throat of assembled journalists by pointing out that for all the speculation over the last seven years he hasn’t actually had a war chest full of gold bullion lying about for massive transfers and expensive contract extensions.
Indeed, in the face of criticism both in the media and from the terraces, the boss was as frank as he’s ever been about the financial ties that have been in place for the best part of a decade stating that he knew it would be tough to compete at the top but that he opted to stick around in North London and guide the club through troubled waters all the same.
“Of course I admire him [Moyes] but I can show you our transfer balance over the last 16 years and you would be astonished,” said the boss.
“People forget we built a new stadium, that we had to go through limited resources, that we maintained the club at the top and we didn’t have the money available.
“I accepted to stay and to do that. And I went through it. We maintained the club at the top and we are now going toward a period where we will be able to compete again financially with other clubs. It was an exciting period but a difficult one and you needed to be strong.
“We just qualified for 13 consecutive years in the last 16 of the Champions League and, even with all the financial resources we have now, it is not sure we will achieve that in the next 13 years.”
Coming a few days after Arsenal announced a significant increase in sponsorship cash from Emirates, the boss said that he is now looking forward to operating on a more level playing field with big-spending Premier League rivals.
“We are in a position where we can compete with the clubs for the transfer period. If you look at the recent years, we have lost players and not small players.”
Fans will of course be forgiven for waiting to see if this is indeed the case before believing it.
The club (acting as any business would) has been all too happy for stories of financial health and meaty available transfer funds to float in the ether. Building up expectations each summer ahead of season ticket renewals only to lower them again by Christmas is cynical behaviour and has done little for fan relations in the long-term.
That being said the board were hardly going to declare an inability to compete from the moment we moved. The billionaire ownership model was in its infancy, the team was still competitive and any suggestion of lowering expectations at a time when there were 60,000 seats to sell would have been business suicide.
Presumably they did what they did with Wenger’s permission, with each party aware that the burden would fall on the man in charge of affairs on the pitch. That the boss has stuck around for the duration is testament to his loyalty.
He’s no martyr, he’s been handsomely rewarded doing one of the best jobs in football, but it does seem hard to believe many could have done better in the same situation.