Why is Arsène Wenger not spending money?

Why are Arsenal not signing anyone lately? Another topic where Arsenal fans as a whole are never going to agree, but with £200m+ in the bank I think we can agree there are two basic possibilities:

  1. Stan Kroenke won’t let Arsène spend
  2. Arsène doesn’t want to spend

Clearly the second option could be for a number of reasons, so let’s just deal with the first one first.

It’s widely accepted that Arsenal could spend £100m of their cash reserves this summer without causing even an intake of breath from their bank manager. Bear in mind that big player purchases are paid over three or four years, so a £50m player only needs to be funded to the tune of £20m maximum right now, plus wages and agents fees, so let’s say £35m this year as top whack for a player advertised as a £50m purchase price. I’m talking in round figures for simplicity, but it’s not out of the question to say that even allowing for the purchase of Xhaka, two £60m players could be bought this month without causing a problem, especially as several high earners have left the payroll since the end of last season.

So does Stan Kroenke mind spending £50m or even £100m?


Almost a British record signing (one of Arsene’s early ones)

There’s nothing to indicate that he does mind. He understands that a certain level of success is needed to keep the crowds coming in and continue to increase the value of the club, which he clearly cares about. He won’t put money in and as we know he’s started taking a few million out each year in ‘fees’, but as long as Arsenal is self-sufficient and profitable there is absolutely nothing to suggest he’s ever blocked or intends to block any spending by the manager – within the bounds of available cash of course, which we’re taking to be £100m or thereabouts. To be clear, the manager has a certain amount to spend each year, and if he spends it all on wages then there’s none for transfers and vice versa, but the position at present is that the wage commitments mean there’s plenty left over.

In any case, if Kroenke was blocking further spending wouldn’t Arsène at least be hinting at that? It wouldn’t do anyone any good to block purchases that the manager wanted if the club could afford them, but if it was happening wouldn’t Arsène say so rather than take the flak? If he wants what’s best for Arsenal and he believed that a purchase was needed then surely he’d say if it was blocked; it would be illogical not to. Kroenke is happy to keep spending to a minimum – one reason he gets on so well with Arsène – but that’s different to blocking it.

So I am ruling out ‘Kroenke won’t let Arsène spend’ as a reason for lack of player purchases.

What a smart looking young man. Definitely worth £3m a year

What a smart looking young man. Definitely worth £3m a year

In that case, why would Arsène not want to spend? A few possibilities:

  1. He knows he’s in his last season and wants to leave the money for the next man to spend. This seems to be a popular choice among Arsène supporters. He is so selfless that he is willing to sacrifice personal glory for the greater good. Except it’s not for the greater good of Arsenal, is it. No incoming manager is going to mind having some top quality players to work with, and what sense does it make not trying as hard as possible to win the title this season? If you lessen your chances now, you don’t necessarily improve them next season as a result, because anything could happen. (Note that Ivan Gazidis is starting to look more and more daft as his predictions of glory ‘next year’ or ‘by 2014’ keep failing to materialise.) Things change, and if you don’t take advantage when you can then you probably miss the boat. And the squad or club is not weaker by spending the money now instead of next season; next year there will be just as much money coming in as this year, the war chest won’t remain empty. Even if fans can’t all see this Arsène surely can – after all, his greatest supporters are always telling me what a brilliant economist he is.
  1. He thinks he needs to save enough cash to offset the stadium debt. I saw this put forward as a serious theory on twitter. But why? What sense does it possibly make? I can only imagine the person who thought it up thinks that Arsène feels responsible for the stadium debt so feels he must make enough to offset it. But what’s the point? The debt agreement means it’s not going to be paid off early, however much cash is in the bank, and as the years go by the repayments (which are a similar amount year after year) become a smaller part of turnover, so it’s less of a problem. Ridiculous theory.
  1. He is a bumbling fool who is getting everything about transfers wrong while everyone else is getting it right. Some people clearly think this, but it’s as daft as number 2. He beat all the other big and big-spending clubs over 38 games last season, so assembling a squad is not his problem. The problems are more things like raising the level for big games and being tactically astute enough to win one-off matches and compete in Europe. I’d say it’s the coaching that’s failing, not the assembly of the squad.
  1. He wants to win the title with as little spend as possible just to prove it can be done – well, too late, Leicester already did that one. There is an element of this, though, in my opinion, but it’s not a big part of the equation. Arsène has always wanted a level-ish playing field. Not too level, but he has shown consistently over the years that he wants to prove it’s possible to compete without throwing money at every problem. However, not to the extent that he would deliberately handicap himself by leaving an eight-figure sum in the bank.
  1. He’s just very picky about who he signs. For me this is by far the biggest factor. He believes very strongly in squad harmony and having players with the right temperament as well as skills. He wants the squad to gel. He wants players who won’t cause trouble. So if he doesn’t think a player ticks all the boxes then he’s not interested.

Allied to this is his idea of value: he won’t pay more than he thinks a player is worth. We’ve seen this time after time over the years. You can argue the rights and wrongs of Arsenal’s negotiating, but ultimately if Arsène doesn’t find the right player (in his eyes) at the right price (ditto) then he’d rather work with what he’s got. And that in a nutshell is why there is still a lot of spare cash unspent.

Of course the next question is whether Arsène is right: Is his judgement sound? Does he know what’s best anymore? Do his principles fit the modern game? Either way it plays right into Kroenke’s hands: money rolls in and Kroenke has publicly said he’s not bothered about titles.

"Seriously, even I have no idea if my hair is real."

“Seriously, even I have no idea if my hair is real.”

This should be stating the obvious, but spending money is not a guarantee of success anyway. It usually improves your chances, but however much is spent by Arsenal it will still be hard to go from second to first. (Far easier to spend your way from, say, fourteenth to sixth.)

But many fans will actually be appeased if Arsène goes out and buys two expensive players in whatever positions they think are most needed, regardless of whether they’re any good or make the team work better as a team. It’s easy to spend £100m and end up no better off than we are now on the pitch.

So love Arsène or hate him, if you think lack of signings is the biggest problem you’re sadly mistaken. Last word to Ricky G (@geezypeas), whose comment this morning inspired this post: “You need the right players and the right combination, spirit and some luck. We could easily buy a great centre forward and a centre back and finish lower than last season”

Twitter: @AngryOfN5


14 thoughts on “Why is Arsène Wenger not spending money?

  1. If Arsene doesn’t sign a striker and a Centre Half, he’s going to be on the end of some continuous booing after every loss and disappointing draw. Not the best way to exit the club after all these seasons of hard work, but perhaps he’s too stubborn to care?

  2. I think that wenger should have gone a couple of seasons ago as tactically he is useless never does a sub until 60-65 mins even when its obvious at half time that a change is needed
    I would also like wenger to remembered for all the good he’s done for the club and go out a hero
    Instead he is going to be remembered as a miser the nearly man and a man who runs Arsenal like its his club and his alone sam alladyce when he was at blackburn yes that long ago showed up how long defencivley poor we have been then tony pulis did it as well
    The bfg is not top draw who is slower than a slothe !! We don’t attack as a team and we definately don’t defend as a team this has been a problem for years and it won’t change because wenger doesn’t know how to
    Also when you sign big names it gives the big names at the club a lift and this gives everyone a lift and sends out a statement of intent a point missed by wenger and finally when you get rid of an icon and a player who makes grown men go weak a player who is arsenal through and through and isn’t blinkered and a player who when you enter london colney gives everyone associated to arsenal a buzz i’m talking about how wenger has got rid of henry and why because it doesn’t matter how old you get your eyes don’t lie brcause henry has called it and wenger doesnt like it
    Henry made the mistake of thinking it was AFC not anymore its AWFC yes he’s become a meglomanic and the rest of the world are all wrong sorry to rant but its how i see it and i find it depressing he can’t see it !

  3. Seriously this is a load of bull. So what u are saying is, in Wenger’s estimation, that there’s no players that fits he estimation of the “right player” available in the desired position, remember, he himself said he’s willing to spend the money. So is this current crop of players the “right players” ? Is this the skill level and temperament he looking for?. I doubt it very much. Personally I think Wenger is being handicapped in matters of transfer by his employer(s), and the reason he hasn’t walked out on his job is (1) he loves the ARsenal and considers the club his own, and (2) He said it himself, he scared of life after football. So to keep his eight million pounds a year job, he buckles down, take what is dished out to him and do the best with whatever he gets, or whatever he has to work with, and keep spinning a bunch of philosophical and intellectual (on a footballing level) bullshit, to cover for his unambitious employers, and keep his job.

  4. This is a great, level headed article. I agree but I think one word was missed and that’s ‘too’. Arsene is too picky about who he buys. Squad harmony is a must however, in almost all championship winning sides, there were a few rows and a few characters who got under each other’s skin. I think Arsene just needs to work on his ability to deal with edgier characters as he did with Vieta, Petit et al. For example, in most cases you can’t have a ‘nice’ defensive midfielder. You need a warrior, and too get that requires dealing with a minor ego.

  5. You’d be an idiot to even suggest that Wenger would be given money, say 100 million, and he would simply refuse to spend it! Only bloody Wenger haters like you will believe that . Maybe you haven’t read Kroenke say that the most important thing in sports isn’t winning but building a brand! Neither have you read Garzidis say Arsenal cannot ‘outgun’ their main rivals in the transfer market. And these are the men who hold the money strings.
    Problem with Wenger is that the man is too ‘class’ to come out and say: sorry I can’t buy players because I’ve not been given the money. And that’s also because of his deep affection for the club. He feels as part of the project. Maybe the day someone else takes over from him, then we shall know the real truth behind Arsenal’s frugality in the transfer market.

    • There is nothing to suggest Arsene Wenger is being held back from spending money, in fact, the season he signed Sanchez, he spent upwards of £95 million! 11/12 he spent £53 million, 12/13 around £52 million, 13/14 £42.5 million, so since 11/12 he has spent almost £300 million!
      In that time, the only players of note he has signed, meaning those who are still in the first team or regularly used are: Mertesacker £10M, Cazorla £20M, Giroud £13M, Oxlade £12M, Monreal £8.3M, Ozil £42.5M, Sanchez £35M, Chambers £16M, Welbeck £16M, Elneny £5M and Cech £10M – a total cost of £187M – I admit all these are good buys, except maybe Mertesacker and Chambers, possibly Giroud. The rest has been wasted – OVER £110M!

      So, looking at the excuses Wenger makes:
      1. Not enough players on the market
      2. Costs too high for players
      3. Don’t want to waste money

      All these excuses are blown out of the water by the statistics. If we look at the endless list of players he could have signed since the financial shackles came off around 2010 but didn’t, it clearly shows a pattern of incompetence in the transfer market, not being aggressive enough, not being willing to pay the extra 10million for the right player. He says he does not want to waste money (not in so many words), but the number of duds he has ended up signing, if he just paid, lets say for example £85m for Griezmann or Lewandowski, someone who will more or less guarantee you success, it would actually work out cheaper in the long run than signing 4 or 5 £15 million players and only one working out. This is something Wenger does not seem to understand.

  6. You forgot to add the amounts of prior year portion of purchases to this year’s spend, if indeed they are purchased over three to four years.

  7. Ogban stop talking rubbish

    They have all come out at one stage or another and said that we have the money to spend, they have all said that we can spend what we need to on players and that we can buy any world class player (except messi and ron)

    If wenger loves this club, continual lying to fans and misleading them saying he has the money to spend and their is no restrictions placed on him, so they then renew their season ticket all and he can appease the board and take home 8 million…How does that sound like someone that loves the club-if you AKBs actually stopped and listen to the crap you say….

    If Wenger felt that the new signings he wants can push the team to glory and that he’s not allowed to buy the players he needs then after 12 years he should have told the fans… that would actually show loyalty to arsenal FC..

    What you are saying he is doing is lying to us basically and making it sound like its for our own good.

  8. Think you’ve nailed it here, Phil.

    Wenger is just very peculiar about who he signs. They are an extension of his personality; bold, abrasive figures who would cause unrest or challenge him are worked out of the club. Players like Cole, Gallas, Bendtner, and van Persie must be major regrets for him. Lassana Diarra allowed to go rather unceremoniously. Ozil, Giroud, Cazorla, Arteta, Gilberto, Toure – these are very much his preference. Good-natured, even temperaments. Intelligent or very coachable, approachable players.

  9. Ogban, are you serious? How long exactly have you been supporting AFC?

    This happened 9 years ago:

    “Near the end of the 2006\7 season, a meeting was held between Arsenal’s then-chairman Peter Hill-Wood, owner Danny Fiszman and manager Arsène Wenger. The three sat down for dinner at Wilton’s, a posh restaurant in London’s West-End. A pivotal moment in the meeting came when Fiszman asked Wenger what would he do if he were given £100m to spend in the transfer market. Wenger replied simply: “I will give you the money back”

  10. Look,we all know that we will not be winning the league this season.And what we also know is that Arsene Wenger will not get sacked this season.The only thing that can be done,is for fans by applying pressure (many ways to do that),and uniting (or form a majority) can prevent the club from offering Wenger a new contract.
    On the pitch it’s not working for us anymore,we’ve been seeing it for years and years now.I mean,it has been 12 years since we last won the league.We just got predictable,and basically all of the teams that we play against,know our style,what tactics Wenger will use,because it’s too old now.The second part of it is,the nature of the transfer market today dictates that you have to spend big to stay competitive,or maintain the level of ambition that you have,and i think that Arsene Wenger does not want to accept that.Furthermore,i’m afraid that if he sticks to what he believes this window,then we are going to pay the price for it heavily (no top 4 this season) simply because a whole lot of other clubs have shown more ambition than us (literally Crystal Palace is showing more ambition than we are,Everton also,without mentioning Liverpool,Chelsea and the rest…).
    At the end,football managers are judged on success delivered on the pitch,and he’s done wonders for our club,but we have to be honest and say that 12 years without a league title is not a success.Never winning the Champions League,and 10 years since we were last in the semi finals of it is not a success.
    Basically,where i stand on this whole Wenger thing is that we all know he’s not getting the sack this season,but i don’t want him getting a contract extension,simply because he does not deserve one.3 league titles is 20 years,12 years since the last one does not make you a success.No thank you,myself and many other Arsenal fans are done with that and we want to be winners,1st place,competing,winning,and being a force in all the competitions that we are in.

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