Putting profits before trophies costs Arsenal another captain

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.

Robin van Persie

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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  1. Not Fabregas

    Fabregas took a wage cut, waived a loyalty bonus Arsenal owed him and in general acted fairly well. The taking a wage cut is key here. He moved to his boyhood club, I respect that. RvP has shown no loyalty to Arsenal who had to put up with his injuries and it’s not so much that he’s leaving. I would too. It’s that he has devalued himself drastically by coming out with this. He is worse than Nasri. If only Adebayor had raked his face harder. Robin Van Persie is worse than Samir Nasri. FACT.

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  2. Gordon

    Who cares? No big deal. Arsene/ Ivan/ Peter/ Arsenal knows best

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    • Gordon

      It was a sarcastic remark btw. The problem with the people mentioned above is that they viewed too much 9gag.com and bought into the YOLO meme. By doing exactly stupid things like tripping over their own legs and screwing their own arses.

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  3. Andy

    Buying young players and waiting for them the ‘mature’ is also false economy. By the time you have paid them over say 5 years and the transfer fee i.e Theo, how much have we paid (or should we say gambled)? You probably could have bought an proven experienced player on a 4 year contract.
    RvP leaving says more about the state of our club rather than RvP.

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  4. Arjen

    The reason our club strives for profits is to ensure that we don’t need no Arabian sugar daddy helping us out to buy the best players.So what if we lost RVP,the guy would get injured anyway,what would be the point of that.

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  5. ABU

    Let him go in clean faith while Hunteller should replace him. Man Wenger its time to get Hunteller in Gunners.

    Mombasa, Kenya.

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  6. Ukeme udoh

    Up gonners! I think i know the problem with Arsenal. Arsene and the Board are traitors. They are deceiving us the fan. Or you think they didnt know that RVP will not sign? They new and they like it because, atleast, the board wil make profit that’s why AW bought Polsk and Giroud. That unarmbicious board shoud be sack if not, Arsenal will continue like this for the 10 years

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  7. The BearMan

    I really believe many Arsenal fans mis-understand RvP’s motives. The lad has options here:

    1. Collect wages from Arsenal season after season, play good football and Hope to qualify for a CL placement end of season!

    2. Challenge Arsenal to bring in a few decent player, get rid of players from the team not fit for the reserves squad in the junior league, and go all out to prove Arsenal is once again the No1 team in the PL;

    One the one hand be a good lap dog, on the other throw down the gauntlet!

    A challenge to the Arsenal Management, Board, players n fans! Let us go all out for victory!!!

    Shoe on the other foot, what choices will you make?

    What is at stake here, simply this, “Being a MAN or mouse”.

    Does Arsenal have to break the bank to change that? NO!

    Just Courage!

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  8. Mohd Isa

    The headline sums it all up. After the RVP affair has been put to rest and the gunners fail to challenge,that’s it. Arsenal are a selling club.
    It will be mid tabel team along with the likes of Villa and Everton. I need not say more.Fans can forget about Wenger and his desire to win in style. Instead it be one beating too many before the board sack him.

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  9. The Saint

    I’m very disappointed as any fan of more than 30 years like me would be but I don’t blame the player; I blame the board and I think we should give David Dein and Usmanov a chance to have a go; they can’t possibly be worse than the current board.

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  10. ArsenalisYourDaddy

    a) Mail Van Persie his sponsored boots.
    b) Tell him not to bother showing up, so he has the time negotiate a new club.
    c) Sell him for any offer over $15 million to anyone outside the EPL.

    Robin has cost the club $15 million in transfer fees(he was worth 30, but now ?), the fees we could have used to purchase another striker. Double ass kick !

    He will poison the dressing room. He is not needed for the pre-season. He can go have dinner with Nasri.

    Arsenal does not need oil Sheiks and Russian criminals to fund our club. if Abramovich wants to pick the starting 11 for Chelsea, Di Matteo will simply have to say “Yes, Sir”

    For 25 years my support for Arsenal has not waived nor faltered. You FIFA playing twitter fans need to get into the real world.

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  11. Jimmy

    We finished 3rd last year and just added two experienced international strikers. Personally I believe that we will add a couple of add a couple more players between now and the end of the window. Robin comes out and everyone rightly gives him stick because we are moving in the right direction. Then Usamanov comes out and all of a sudden everyone is in the depths of depression, the board need to go, we’re going to get relegated. For goodness sake, grow up.

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  12. Dele Dex

    Kudos 2 u Rvp..u’re nt to be blame,,can u all jst imagine Torres dat score jst 20 goal in a season nd winning 3 trophies..huh?,,i tink we shud let him go since our board’s can’t made some amendment,he need achievement 2 tell his kid,nt emirate cup…i love u ROBIN,u mean alot 2 me VAN,,u alwaz make’s me proud PERSIE.

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  13. Davesraves

    It’s not his reasons for leaving that most people argue about, it’s the bad grace and lack of gratitude in which he did it, Cesc or Thierry would be welcome back (even after their playing careers are over) I doubt rvp will get the same treatment.
    So what you’re saying might be true, but it’s not why the fans are angry. Simply Arsenal made him , stood by him, and he threw it in everyones face particularly Wenger.

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  14. Arsenal Til I Die

    Profits… do you know how much profit Arsenal make… not alot. the money that comes in goes out.

    You are asking the club to spend more than the income. Do you do that in your life? If you did your house would be reclaimed and your bankrupt. (quick look north to rangers….) it is the simplest of simple economics, yet there seems to be a higher than average percentage of thick Arsenal fans out there that think because other clubs are run as a rich kids play thing, they all should be.

    Van Persie who has had serious injuries fro 7 of the 8 years he has been at Arsenal, Rape accusations etc. has shown no loyalty, to Wenger or the fans.

    Would Arsenal have won a trophy if all the City boys had stayed? would City of won the league last year if that was the case? The fact is they have bought the league, tapped up our players and doubled their already stupid wages.

    Unless Arsenal are running at a huge Debt (City lost 500 million in the past season) these players will leave. So what. City can only field 11 players.

    The greed of the players is to blame, not wenger, no the board. the actions of Red & White holdings is not the actions of someone with he best interest of the club – that is clear to the biggest idiot.

    My advice, if you don’t want to get behind the team and support the team regardless of who wears the shirt. Please do fuck off, go support City or Chelsea. Don’t moan about it – do something about it and Fuck off. It’s that easy. No one makes you follow the Arsenal.

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    • Gooner Steve

      Why do idiots like you think that because I have an issue with the way the club is run I therefore don’t support the team? You can still get behind the team AND disagree with transfer policy. I get behind them as much as the next man, so telling me to fuck off because I disagree with club policy is ridiculous.

      Point out the part of my article where I say I want Usmanov on board. Then re-read this line: “Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling for us to spend £50m every transfer window.” I don’t want us to spend like Man City, we can achieve greatness again by buying a few more finished articles and a few less promising youngsters. No major overhaul needed.

      Morons like you prefer to blame our malaise on greedy players rather than look at what is actually happening inside your club. I don’t know whether that’s because you’re so biased you won’t hear a word said against Arsenal, or because you’re a plank. Judging from your post, I’d say both.

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  15. clockendjim

    Whereas I am very disappointed with Van Persie, who of you in all honesty could resist an employer that comes to you and says he will double your wages ?
    This very unwholesome scenario has been created by the arab millions being poured into Manchester City. Before this, how many of our players would have left for the mid-table City that used to be.
    Wages of £250,000 per week are obscene. I just hope the UEFA fair trading rules correct this insane situation, then the Arsenal business model will make sense. Until then it looks as if we will struggle again for that 4th place in the PL.

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  16. arsene knows

    wow so much nonsense spoken here and elswhere! there IS A PROBLEM! there has been since the day danny fizman in spite kicked dein out 7 years ago, that had been brewing for a decade, the irony is of course danny booted him out for bringing kroenke in and then on his death bed sold out to kroenke to stop david getting back in via usmanov, this is the REAL STORY everything else about arsene and gazides is a side show, they are managment both doing there best and to be fair they have done very well under the circumstances, under dein arsene won doubles, unbeatables and thierry thru witht he keeper to beat in paris… the problem is danny took over but didnt have the same skills to run the football side and then his spite for david (i know the story but its just childish ego nonsense really)then kroenke bought in his mate gazides from usa soccer and he has no vison whatsoever i personally asked him this question at the recent Q&A, he just waffled for 20 minutes about our business model and other clubs it was pathtetic, however usmanov has come out with his vision, now some people dont like him for his supposed background, i cant comment as i dont know him or his background but what about kroenkes background? how did he get his money? off the back of his wife thats how, good for him but im not sure i see what others see in writing off the richest man in the uk who has now come out with the vision we all want, to get rid of the debt and build a team to win trophies!
    here is the stark choice stay with kroenke and his manager gazides who have no vision whatsoever but to follow fizmans which failed…
    or usmanovs which is to win trophies and pay off the debt and im sure to bring dein back
    i hate kroenke this american who says nothing owning our club.

    as for van persie, he makes me sick, in my view we should not sell him, see out his contract and buy another striker next summer to replace him and but the 4 players we need to compete ie a goalscoring winger, a defensive midfielder, a right back (maybe a left too depending on how gibbs/santos does and a goalie, do i blame him going well no i understand its his last contract and he wants a change like many players but if we still had cesc, nasri and had the class around him he would not be going

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  17. Sun10

    I loved RVP like every other fan during his tenure at Arsenal and still love him. I admire the way he has conducted himself throughout. Even in his decision to leave Arsenal, his concern for the club and fans is evident when he came out and clearly stated his position. It gives the club ample time to think and act.
    Ofcourse it pains me to see him leave the club. But I wont blame him. I won’t cry out calling him disloyal. Calling him disloyal itself is disloyalty from fans towards a player who was the only source of light during the times of doom and gloom that is last season(even if its just one season). Even in the limited time he was on the pitch in previous seasons, he has always performed.
    He was a true Talisman and Captain for us. He is as much Gunner as Fabregas is or (dare i say) Henry is (Except that Henry had a able team by his side to win trophies). They all left when we needed them the most. BUT this club will survive. We will always be there amongst the top teams thanks to our greatest Manager of all time Monsieur Wenger.

    The serious question this has posted is not on the technical or tactical ability of this club on the pitch (nor its about how much RVP wanted to get paid), but off it.
    It is now a question of, whether we would ever be able to hold on to our top players?
    Even if we create another RVP and Henry in Podolski and Giroud, will they stay? What example are we setting to our young upcoming players?
    What will happen to the image of the club among new fans, new markets? Who is the new face of the club?

    More importantly, When the club’s ambition and the club captain’s ambition doesn’t match, what does it indicate?
    Is the club not serious enough to compete for trophies?

    When this RVP new contract situation was getting dragged, I felt this would show the true ambitions of this club. And it has now come to light for all to see.

    Inferences that can be drawn from this situation (though we already know it, it just underlines it):
    1)We have strict budget to operate, we will not jeopardize the financial stability for anyone. It will be the situation (hopefully only) until the club pays off its stadium debts.
    2)We have long term targets to be successful and any short term success would be a bonus/miracle.
    3)We have minimum targets to aim for and the board and admins will be happy as long as they are achieved. (Or Expect no drastic action from the board as long as Arsenal continue to finish top-four)
    4)Pin all your hopes in just one man – The Manager. Any one else may leave, (Captain, players, Directors, Assistant Manager )
    5)Expect the ticket prices to go up this year and every year until….

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  18. arsene knows

    sun 10, there is NO board, we have a majority owner (think abramovich) his name is kroenke, everything about arsenal the buck stops with him, one man, on his watch he has said nothing at all, has sold nasri, cesc and now van persie, his front man gazides just simply says his bosses mantra of self sustainability, ie do nothing, invest nothing leave arsene to cope, his vision is NOT to invest NOT to win trophies EXACTLY like his american sports teams all of which WIN NOTHING and are total crap, his st louis rams are the worst team in the NFL

    wake up gooners, you may not like usmanov for whatever reasons but our problem is we are owned by someone who has zero vision, the ONLY person we have to rely on is arsene, he has done well to keep us in the CL just about but thats about all we can hope for until kroenke goes and that looks like for decades to come!

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  19. Cabbie

    “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.”

    Spot on, nothing more to be said.

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  20. DanS

    One problem with the idea of benching or selling RvP during the past year is, who would we have replaced him with? We were stunningly shallow in regards to goal scorers last year. I frequently commented that I thought we’d finish 6th or 7th. Were it not for RvP 8th or 9th was likely. But the past is the past. Now that he is on his way out the door, I wish him well. Like many I think this summer’s signings will greatly improve the team. Will we contend, nope. But, I feel much more comfortable about a Champions League position at the end of the season, than I did this at time last year.

    If anything, I think Arsenal are starting to transition from pure selling club, to a more stable youth-veteran mix. So we should consistently start to finish in 3rd and 4th, without worry of dropping below 4th. But unless we start to splash out serious cash, and show a willingness to both DEFEND and attack, we’ll have trouble getting the right mix of players. Like you said with John (boneheaded decisions) Terry, players will stay for less money if they know there is a commitment to winning. I think Arsene has a commitment to a philosophy of football, winning is a very close second. Unfortunately they don’t give out trophies for most attractive football. So the philosophy will have to give a bit in order to challenge for 1st and 2nd. If Arsene is willing to give a little, ManU, City, and Chelsea will need to watch the fuck out because we will outplay them. We just need that little bit of toughness and dirtiness.

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  21. Nico

    Steve – spot on!
    We will always support them but don’t have to agree with the transfer policies. The way the club is run is something we should be proud of as it is unique in the top 4 which is where we are year in year out. Just need that little more investment on quality experienced players and a win of the title or Champions League and we could be on a successful journey with respect to trophies.

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