x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Arsene Wenger continues to work wonders on a budget with Arsenal

If the Premier League was based on how much your gross expenditure was where do you think Arsenal would finish in the table?

Arsene Wenger, centre, has closed the gap on the Premier League pacesetters with Arsenal's impressive form.
Arsene Wenger, centre, has closed the gap on the Premier League pacesetters with Arsenal's impressive form.

If where you finished in the Premier League was based on how much your gross expenditure, which, depressingly, is increasing, where do you think Arsenal would finish in a table based on spending since 2003?

Fourth? Have another go. Fifth? No. Sixth, did you say? Then you'd be right.

If any further graphic illustration were needed of the remarkable job Arsene Wenger has done in consistently qualifying Arsenal for the Champions League, playing football from the heavens and generating the money for a new training ground and a new stadium (ask Everton, Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea how difficult that is?), then a glance at the standings based on the club's net spend in the same period. It is even more compelling.

On that basis, Arsenal would be languishing in 19th, separated from the bottom by Blackburn Rovers. Yes, the same Blackburn side who are many experts' tip for relegation this season.

But Arsenal will not be flirting with relegation this season, nowhere near, as the financial table suggest they should. They will not compete for the title either and probably have their work cut out to qualify for Europe's premier competition next season but so they should when you consider the comparable outlay of the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea this summer.

Wenger has been implored to spend by the same people who would be just as quick to castigate him for an injudicious big-money signing or lambast him should the club run into financial difficulty. And anyway, spending vast sums of money brings no cast-iron guarantee of success. Wenger prefers the organic route.

His critics will argue, with his penchant for signing more reasonably priced youngsters from Europe, he has done very little for the England national team but he is not paid to. Besides, there are enough highly-paid executives and coaches at the English Football Association to do that. And if Wenger's main contribution to the England team ends up being Jack Wilshere, a once in a generation player who has been groomed playing alongside the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, then so be it.

Wenger was, however, guilty of turning the departures of the two playmakers this summer into protracted affairs, plunging their preparations into chaos, but calls for him to be fired, on the basis the club have not won a trophy for six years and the Premier League since 2005, is preposterous. On that basis, 19 of the league managers would be fired every season. He should be afforded eternal patience.

Yet for all the brickbats directed his way and for all the bouquets thrown at Andre-Villas Boas, in his first year at Chelsea, the two teams are now separated by just three points.

Since they were mauled 8-2 by Manchester United, Arsenal have won seven of their last eight games. Not bad for a team apparently lacking in mental fortitude.

kaffleck@thenational.ae


Follow The National Sport on @SprtNationalUAE & Kevin Affleck on @affers1178