Other clubs may have a transfer news round-up at this time of year. There’s no point with that at Arsenal, so here’s a money news round-up instead.
There’s a very good video doing the rounds with some highlights from Arsenal’s recent trophyless years, which shows some of the great players and great football we’ve still managed to enjoy during this Brasso-free period. For me it was also a sad reminder that we no longer have players of the calibre of Henry, Bergkamp and Pires, or even Cesc (though you never know on that one, eh?), all of whom were there last time we won something. Even more unfortunately, the video also features the recent words of well-known accountant Gary Neville, claiming that Arsenal are ‘virtually debt-free’, despite the clear evidence on the balance sheet of a debt well in excess of £200m.
Did I say ‘accountant’? I remember now, he’s not an accountant is he, just some bloke who used to play football and has proved himself good at tactics on a fancy screen. That must be why his information about debt is totally wrong.
“Ah,” say some people (usually ones who don’t like to criticise Arsène Wenger at all), “but the NET debt is only £98m, and what our Lord Gary Neville (who must be right because he loves Arsène) meant was that the debt is very manageable.”
Well, a) no one knows whether Neville meant that, as he has refused to reply to my tweets on the matter, so you’re just guessing if you take his words to mean anything other than they actually say;
b) no one is denying that the debt is manageable, but £20m a year is still £20m a year – so that’s one £10m player and a four year contract at £50k a week that is going in debt repayments for the next 18 years. And I think it would undoubtedly strengthen the squad to spend that money on players, don’t you? Even Harry Redknapp would make some good signings out of that lot. Even Mark Hughes, for God’s sake!
c) Yes, the net debt is £98m if you look at the latest published figures for cash held against total debt, but if you’re going to take that as the position to quote then you are accepting that Arsenal must hold on to all that cash – WHICH MEANS NO TRANSFER SPENDING! The war chest remains tightly locked. Arsène signs only players from the French third division on free transfers. Unless of course we can actually sell someone to raise money. Like Bendtner, Chamakh, Arshavin, Denilson, Djourou, Park, Squillaci – who have so far raised between them in transfer fees, er . . . zero.
So if we are going to have the spending spree that Gooners from all positions on the Arsenal-supporting spectrum seem to want – the likes of Higuain, Fellaini, Rooney, Cesc, perm any three from four – then the net debt is suddenly going to be back up close to £200m again. Still manageable obviously, but twice as big as it is now. I will be awaiting Gary Neville’s comments with interest.
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