It's Not Lack of Player Investment That's Killing Arsenal It's Lack of Defensive Player Investment

Wenger has spent over £350m on players since taking over the reins at Arsenal in 1996, but it's failing to break the bank on defensive reinforcements that has failed the Gunners since 2005.
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Wenger has spent over £350m on players since taking over the reins at Arsenal in 1996, but it's failing to break the bank on defensive reinforcements that has failed the Gunners since 2005.


'Booooo' has become an all too familiar chant at the Emirates Stadium recently. Upon the full time whistle during the respective defeats to Blackburn Rovers and Bayern Munich, effectively ending Arsenal's chance of silverware this season, supporters vented their frustration to the point where Arsene Wenger all but turned to the crowd and, with a Mr Burns demeanour, asked: “Are you saying boo? Or Boo-urns?”

Of course, there is the odd Hans Moleman-esque response of quietly stating “I was saying Boo-urns,” but it was ultimately drowned out by the majority. As the abuse rained down across the Emirates, not to mention the vitriol cyber-hatred across Twitter following the respective FA Cup and Champions League losses, some quarters of the Arsenal fanbase, and Piers Morgan, have called for either Wenger to step down or the board to show him the exit door.

Many believe that a lack of investment in the first team squad has been the case for their yearly failings since the 2005 FA Cup win, despite earning a place in three finals - two Capital One Cup and one Champions League - and finishing second best for the Community Shield in 2005 almost eight years ago.

One can understand their frustration regarding the lack of playing staff. The figures released by Deloitte last month show that Arsenal are currently sixth in the footballing rich list, behind quintet Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Chelsea, the top four of which are, arguably, the biggest in their respective leagues.

The Gunners yearly revenue over the past 12 months increased an impressive 15.6% to £244.1m, a majority of which came as a result of increased matchday revenue and continuous progression to the latter stages of the Champions League - a feat they have achieved for the last 13 years; a competition best. In fact, the percentage was the fourth highest rise in the top 10, with only Manchester City, Chelsea and Juventus bettering it.

The likes of broadcasting and commercial growth have also attributed to the increase, while Arsenal remain one of only three clubs to have made a profit before tax, alongside Real Madrid and Barcelona over the 2011/12 season, as the Swiss Ramble points out.

However, it's important to note that a vast majority of their profit year in, year out comes as a result of player sales. Without this, the club would be operating at a loss. It reinforces David Dein's remark that Wenger will never pay for world class players because he believes he can create them.

Yet, it begs the question whether Wenger would splash out on a world class signing, should the funds be available to him? Fans have to look back to 1999 for the first time the Gunners spent more than £10m on a player since the 1992 inception of the Premier League.


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Arsenal paid Juventus £10.5m to secure the services of Thierry Henry as a replacement for the departing Nicholas Anelka, who joined Real madrid for a reported £23m. Despite not netting in his first eight games, the Frenchman certainly showcased his va-va-voom during his eight years in north London, netting an astonishing 226 times in all competitions.

Since his arrival in 1999, Wenger has spent more than the £10.5m Arsenal paid Juventus for Henry on 10 different players - Sylvain Wiltord, Jose Antonio Reyes, Aleksandr Hleb, Samir Nasri, Andrei Arshavin, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho, Lukas Podolksi, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud, that latter trio of which arrived last summer.

Furthermore, in the timespan Arsenal have made a profit on player sales each year on only four separate occasions, a result of the big money sales of Henry, Hleb, Emmanuel Adebayor and Cesc Fabregas in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011, respectively.

Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla aside, it perhaps being unfair to judge them on ability after less an a year in England, it can be argued that of the other seven signings, only two have proven their worth or have the potential to do so - Nasri and Oxlade-Chamberlain (this is based entirely on personal opinion, not fact).

With the other five proving somewhat disastrous acquisitions - again, personal opinion - one can understand Wenger's apprehensiveness to really spend big on players. Fabregas aside, Henry was the last genuine world class talent that the Frenchman signed.

When compared to Wiltord, Reyes, Hleb, Arshavin and Gervinho, the 63-year-old's decision to refrain from overspending on players that, to some extent, will let him down, no matter the huge fee spent on them, is understandable.

The implementation of Financial Fair Play in September 2009 may well've stunted their spending power, but since that date; five of the 10 aforementioned players to have cost more than Henry was bought for, including the reported £20m spent to bring in Cazorla.

Throw in Podolski and Giroud and Arsenal spent around £44m on new players last summer, not to mention the £8.3m paid to Malaga for left-back Nacho Monreal. It all adds up to the total figure of £367.05m that Wenger has spent during his reign at the club, recouping only £354.22m - a loss of £12.83m on transfers since 1996.


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Wenger, it appears, can't be accused of not spending the money available to him, regardless of the swap from Highbury to the Emirates in 2006. However, an important facet to point out is the fact that of the 10 players bought, none are defenders.

Granted, centre-backs Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker were all signed for £10m apiece, but that lack of substantial investment in the heart of the Arsenal defence is evident. Since conceding 31 Premier League goals in the 2005/06 season, that figure has increased every year, bar the 2007/08 campaign where the Gunners came within four points of the title, and having conceded 29 goals already this year; they're actually on course to see that figure drop from the 49 from last season, having shipped 1.2 goals per game last year compared to the 1.1 after 26 games this one.

Nevertheless, it's a problem that needs addressing and while Wenger appears keen to add flair players to bolster his attacking options, the lack of investment in the backline is telling, as proven by the above stats. It highlights a need to bring in a new defender this summer and it comes as no surprise to see Arsenal linked with Fernando Amorebieta and Angelo Ogbonna, the former which is available on a free come July.

However, with regards to the money spent compared to the money made by Wenger, those believing he never spends on new players will see that the club have made a loss during his time in charge. Not only that, but with Arsenal losing money unless they sell their prized assets, Fabregas and Robin van Persie for example, they have little choice but to cash in should the opportunity present itself.

It further solidifies Dein's comments that Wenger believes he can make world class players, not buy them, when, effectively, it's the only option he really has. Furthermore, would the Frenchman splash out significantly on big named players if allowed to do so? With the past history of personnel not living up to their price tag, coupled with the success of Henry and his relatively cheap transfer fee, it remains be seen, albeit, increasingly doubtful.