The Premier League’s resident preacher, Arsene Wenger, was at it again ahead of Arsenal’s clash with Manchester City. In comments reported in the Evening Standard, Wenger returned to a familiar theme in attempting to take the moral highground:
“I am a big fan of the way we do it, so I try to be successful with the way we do it. You can also do it the way Inter do, or Manchester City do. They buy the best players in the world and it works as well. What I want to show is it works our way as well. It does not annoy me [the other way] as long as they respect the rules. At the moment, the rules are like that and they respect them, so you cannot fault them. It is supposed to change [with UEFA’s new FIFA’s new financial fair play rule], then we will see.”
A terrible attempt at trying to hide his obvious contempt. City are the garish nouveau riche that just erected a massive mock-Tudor mansion next to Arsenal’s old money estate. Or at least, that’s how Wenger sees it. And that’s always been the problem with Wenger, the morally superior status he awards himself and his team. He does it with tackles, ignoring Arsenal’s woeful disciplinary record under his command, and he does it with finance too. Commenting on the disparity of resources in the Premier League, he said:
“The big test would be that everybody has exactly the same resources, the budget of a club is all that is involved — commercial, televisions, player transfers and gates.”
Wenger has a point here, and it is a view I have a lot of sympathy with. Before the Premier League there were more opportunities for smaller clubs to achieve genuine success, like Brian Clough winning the league with Derby County and Nottingham Forrest, taking over at both clubs when they were in the second tier. It is sad that such events wont happen again, but there have always been bigger fish feeding off little fish, and Arsenal are usually the big fish. That’s why the ‘our way, and their way’ preaching that starts to grate.
First of all, why is he bringing Inter into this? Let’s not forget, in the summer preceding their triumphant treble winning season, Inter sold Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Barcelona; a shrewd transfer that netted them a sizeable wadge of cash, plus Samuel Eto’o in return. To further enhance their team, Inter reinvested £12 million in Wesley Sneijder, who was surplus to requirements at Real Madrid (for added context, in the same summer Rafa Benitez splashed out £20 million to bring Albeto Aquilani to Liverpool’s reserves, and Wenger himself had recently found £15million to purchase Andrei Arshavin). Before Inter stepped in, the only English club that declared an interest in Sneijder was Aston Villa. If Wenger was too slow to realise a player of that ability was going cheap then that’s his problem, not Inter’s.
Inter also spent money on Diego Milito, who fired the decisive goals that secured the Coppa Italia, Serie A title and the Champions League. But honestly, who was calling him one of the best in the world before last season? He certainly wasn’t attracting much interest in England. His record in Spain and Italy was good, but he was a player in his late 20’s that had never played for one of Europe’s elite clubs. It was simply an inspired purchase by Jose Mourinho. Of course, over the years Inter have spent vast sums on recruiting big name players, but Wenger’s relentless moan about teams that spend money is sanctimonious and boring. It’s not like he doesn’t have a pot to piss in.
I’m not a huge fan of the City project, and there’s no denying they have been frivolous with their cash, but their purchases of Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli, and Adam Johnson are more a speculation on potential talent than an acquisition of world class performers.
When Wenger talks about Arsenal’s way, he is referring to their much lauded academy, but how good is it? In terms of producing genuine top class talent, I can only think of Cesc Fabregas. The current team has some good players that have come through the ranks, Alexandre Song is establishing himself, and granted Jack Wilshere looks like he could be the real deal, but most of the real talent at Arsenal over the past decade or so been bought in – Henry, Campbell, Bergkamp, Pires, Arshavin, Viera – the list goes on. Ok, some of them were purchased for fees that proved to be an absolute steal, but fact is they still had to shell out for them. How do you think Southampton fans felt when Arsenal snapped up Theo Walcott, their most exciting prospect in years, after a handful of appearances? I doubt they were toasting the Arsenal way.
The thing is, I’m sure if you offered a Premier League fan free tickets to any club other than their own, most would choose Arsenal. Everyone enjoys watching their football, and their ‘way’ is of course more sustainable than City’s. Personally, I have enjoyed watching Wenger’s Arsenal more than any other team since the Premier League was established; I just wish he’d get off the soap box.