I’m very disappointed in van Persie’s announcement. Partly because we’re losing a world class player, but mainly because he has reduced the chances of us getting a decent transfer fee for him by openly declaring that he wants out. I thought he had more class than to publicly criticise the club — the supporters and Wenger deserve better.
I’m also disappointed that the board have allowed another key player to get to within a year of his contract ending and effectively hold us to ransom. Did we learn nothing from last summer? After the Nasri fiasco, surely the board should’ve had a meeting and decided no key player would be allowed to get lower than the 18 month mark without signing a new contract or being sold. Sadly, it’s just another example of the poor way our club is run that has contributed to us losing three world class players in less than a year.
A lot of Gooners claim wages are the sole reason for these departures and Nasri, van Persie and Fabregas are greedy and ungrateful. Maybe — only they know. But if that’s the case, why aren’t Man City luring players from other big clubs? All Chelsea and Man Utd players could double their salaries at Man City but you don’t see any of them jumping ship. In fact Man City offered John Terry £250,000 a week three years ago in their very public pursuit of him, but he turned them down to stay at Chelsea for less money.
Vieira, Henry, Fabregas and now van Persie - another captain abandons ship
van Persie has said he wants to leave because the club lacks ambition, no doubt referring to how much we’re willing to spend on transfers and wages. I agree with him, but want to analyse this in more detail.
Arsenal’s financial model is one every Gooner should be proud of. We are a self-sustaining club and play our football in a state of the art stadium which we paid for ourselves, mainly thanks to the excellent work in the transfer market of the shrewdest manager in the game.
Arsene Wenger has many faults but he has delivered Champions League football 15 years running and made a profit of £21m in his transfer dealings since 2004. That is a tremendous achievement in an age where managers backed by sugar daddies spend ridiculous amounts of money without having to worry about balancing the books.
When the club decided to build Emirates they realised they needed to profit from transfer dealings to pay the bills. So they abandoned the usual approach of mixing talented youngsters with experienced pros and utilised Wenger’s uncanny knack for polishing up rough diamonds by concentrating solely on buying and developing young talent to sell at a later date for huge profit.
The strategy began in the summer of 2006. Over the next three years Wenger got rid of 10 players over the age of 26 to make room for some youngsters:
Bergkamp, Cole, Pires, Campbell (all in 2006)
Henry, Lauren, Ljungberg (all 2007)
Lehmann, Hleb, Gilberto (all 2008).
That’s a lot of winners, experience and mental strength there — nine of them were Invincibles. During the same period he brought in the following players aged 22 and under:
Bendtner, Mannone, Traore, Diaby, Adebayor, Walcott, Vela (all 2006);
Merida, Denilson, Fabianski, Barazite (all 2007)
Lassana Diarra, Ramsey, Nasri (all 2008).
You can see the change in emphasis. The club started to focus on luring the world’s most promising but unproven young players by paying them more than they could earn elsewhere at such a tender age. It has worked in so much that they’ve profited in their transfer dealings whilst paying for the stadium and delivering Champions League football, although the ones that don’t make it like Bendtner, Denilson and Vela have been difficult to shift because they’re stuck on big wages that other clubs won’t touch. Hence they’re farmed out on loan until their contract expires.
Here’s the key point though — while this transfer strategy is successful off the pitch, it makes it extremely difficult to challenge for silverware because in order to develop your assets (the youngsters) you have to play them. Youngsters make mistakes as part of their learning process, so the more youngsters you field, the more mistakes you make.
Crucially, this alienates the few top drawer players we have who want to win medals. Look at it from Henry, Fabregas, Nasri and now van Persie’s view — they are world class players who link up with their national team and play with other world class players. At Arsenal, they play with Denilson, Diaby, Bendtner, Almunia, Squillacci, Ramsey etc. Mostly average kids or cheap old pros, none of whom are fit enough to lace their boots.
So why should they stay? I can’t imagine van Persie 30 years from now sitting his grandson on his knee and telling him proudly that while he was at Arsenal operating profits rose every season. van Persie is almost 29 and has two or three good years left in him. Is he going to win anything at Arsenal? Not likely. So why shouldn’t he move on to try and win things? It’s not his fault the club operate a policy that prioritises profits over trophies.
In that sense I understand van Persie’s decision just as I understand Arsenal’s transfer strategy. After all, we needed to pay for the stadium somehow. But where the club are going wrong is in continuing this strategy even though debts are now down to a manageable level. As long ago as February 2010, Ivan Gazidis said:
“The debt that we’re left with is what I would call ‘healthy debt’ — it’s long term, low rates, very affordable for the Club, and it’s effectively a mortgage on our stadium which generates revenue for the Club.”
That’s great news! So why are we still pursuing the same strategy then? I too have a mortgage Ivan, but I’m not living on bread and water until it’s paid off in full. Why are so many of our squad still promising youngsters while other clubs have back up players who are experienced and can be relied upon when needed?
Because our club is still essentially a development academy to nurture young talent which we can sell to Man City or Barcelona for a nice profit — last season we had an incredible 22 youngsters out on loan. In the meantime the board insists there is money to spend, promises fans we will be much stronger next season and once everyone’s renewed their season tickets they sell our best players. Kerr-ching!
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling for us to spend £50m every transfer window and a good youth strategy is very important, but we have got the balance all wrong. It took until last August to finally bring in solid, experienced pros like Mertesacker and Arteta and I’m pleased we’ve added Giroud and Podolski to that list.
If only we’d bought more of their ilk and sooner, the likes of van Persie and Fabregas might have been persuaded to stay. We need to buy more established internationals and fewer promising kids because if we don’t, Vermaelen or Wilshere could be on their way next as we will continue to lose our best players.
Do the board and Kroenke care about that though, or are they happy to continue being profitable and finishing fourth? I think they couldn’t care less who leaves or how many trophies we win, just as long as we keep making money.
And that is why van Persie is going.
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