David Dein has backed Arsene Wenger’s policy of making, rather than buying, superstars stressing the Frenchman is an artist who won’t ever resort to spending big-money just for the sake of it. Calling on critical fans to trust the manager’s judgement, Arsenal’s former vice-chairman also took the opportunity to underline his close friend’s achievements since arriving in 1996 while stressing that he’s working harder than ever to achieve further success.
Speaking to the Footballers’ Football Show last night, Dein shied away from tackling questions on specific financial matters choosing instead to diplomatically defend the man he brought to North London while highlighting how much the football landscape has changed since he was ousted from the Gunners board in 2007.
“When I was there it was Arsenal and Manchester United vying all the time. Now all of a sudden you’ve got Manchester City, Chelsea and Spurs chomping at the bit and Everton come up fast. At some stage Liverpool will have a resurgence. It’s very competitive.”
Asked whether finishing in the top four was enough for a club of Arsenal’s stature, Dein refused to answer directly, preferring to draw attention to the difficulty of maintaining the standards set in 2004.
“It’s difficult for me to say, it’s a delicate position. When you’re used to winning trophies and when you’ve fans who remember a team going 49 games unbeaten…now that’s a hard act to follow. Where are all those world class players?
“I was in Brazil the other day and had a very nice dinner with Gilberto Silva, who is a very, very genuine guy and I said to him, ‘what did you think of the Invincibles?’ He said, ‘when we went out onto the pitch we didn’t think we were going to get beaten and what’s more the opposition didn’t think they were going to win.’
“It’s a different story today, you’ve got strong teams out there. Arsene is doing his level best. I know him very well as you can imagine and he’s working the hardest he’s ever worked to try and bring success to the club.”
Responding to the criticism which has been levelled at Wenger, despite his efforts to halt an enduring trophy drought, Dein stressed that Wenger was relentless in his effort to improve the club.
“He can only do his best and he is doing his best. Whether he has brought in the right players is another story, but I know he’s trying really hard. He’s more focused than he’s ever been to bring success to Arsenal Football Club.
“He has transformed the club. When you look at the state-of-the-art training facilities, the wonderful stadium and the squad. It’s a good squad, but whether it’s good enough to win trophies is another story. That’s debatable and that’s what has the fans talking all the time, in the classroom, in the playground, in the offices, in the pubs. We’ve all got opinions.”
Probed by former Liverpool managing director, Christian Purslow, as to why Wenger won’t spend cash when he has the funds available to do so, Dein underlined that his friend’s philosophy and mentoring qualities would always dictate his attitude in the transfer market.
“Firstly, buying big name players only guarantees you one thing; a big salary to go with it. Secondly, Arsene Wenger as an individual, one of his greatest skills is that of a teacher.
“He will get an average player to a good player, a good player to a very good player and a very good player to a world-class player. He’ll get Nicolas Anelka, pluck a Cesc Fabregas, a Patrick Vieira, a Thierry Henry virtually from obscurity and make them into world-class players. That is an art form.
“Buying the finished product for 30, 40 or 50 million pounds? Anybody can do that. But they’ve got to work, they’ve got bond and blend into the squad to do well.
“[Selling them at their peak] That’s a different story, I accept that, but it depends who is coming through the ranks.
“It is a shame, the fans don’t like it when a world-class player leaves. Against that you’ve got to back Arsene’s judgment that he knows who is coming through.
“Who would have thought they’d have a young Jack Wilshere coming through? Liam Brady is doing a great job with the youth development scheme to make sure there is talent coming through. You’ve got to develop your own because in the end that is the future as well. Making sure your Academy is working well so you’ve got your own talent.”