LONDON – Arsene Wenger insisted on Tuesday there was no chance he would jeopardise Arsenal’s financial stability with lavish spending on new players during the rest of the January transfer window.
Monday saw Alexis Sanchez leave the Emirates for Old Trafford in a high-profile swap deal, with Manchester United’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan coming the other way.
Veteran manager Wenger has long been a believer in clubs not spending “beyond their natural resources”, and last week angered Gunners fans by saying there was no way the London side could match the reported £500 000 weekly wages on offer to Sanchez at United.
That is despite a report published by British-based consultancy firm Deloitte on Tuesday that shows Arsenal have leapfrogged Paris Saint-Germain into sixth in the global money league of the world’s highest revenue generating football clubs, following an annual increase of £70 million.
United head the list.
Arsenal face London rivals Chelsea, not averse to high spending under Russian owner Roman Abramovich, in the second leg of a currently goalless English League Cup semi-final on Wednesday, the often lowly-regarded tournament now representing the Gunners’ best chance of silverware this season.
They have failed to qualify for the Champions League, lie sixth in the Premier League and were knocked out of the FA Cup by Nottingham Forest.
Wenger, tight-lipped about Arsenal’s prospects of signing Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang during the January transfer window, also said Arsenal still faced financial constraints as a result of moving to the Emirates Stadium back in 2006.
“You have not to forget that we have as well financial restrictions form the banks because we have built the stadium,” said Wenger when told Arsenal had spent less on players than other clubs in the Deloitte top 10.
“It is important, we have to respect the financial plan. We work very hard to become richer and we achieve it,” the Frenchman, in charge at Arsenal since 1996, added.
“At the end of the day, we are a serious football club who have responsibilities, and we want to spend the money we can afford. If you cannot afford, you have to say ‘No, sorry, can’t do that’.
“After that, we have to spend the money in the most intelligent way we can on the transfer market that has become a bit out of control.”
Arsenal were last crowned champions of England in 2004, but Wenger said winning the title was about more than spending money.
“I’m convinced that the way football is going, it’s maybe not only to buy players with huge amounts of money, but have players in your team who care about your club, have a sense of belonging and a pride of belonging to the club.
“I would rather encourage a club to push more on the quality of our youth work, which we are doing, than go into a way where it’s only about millions and not so much about values.”
Sanchez left Arsenal just months before his contract was due to run out at the end of the season, and former Gunners defender Martin Keown accused the Chile international of being the “biggest mercenary in football”.
But plenty of other observers had no qualms over a move which appears to offer Sanchez a better chance of winning major honours, with Manchester United great and new Wales manager Ryan Giggs saying the forward was a “ready-made superstar”.
“He can combine both,” said Wenger when asked if the 29-year-old Sanchez had joined United for financial or football reasons.
“I think he goes to a great club and gets a great contract, so you can understand it when a professional player can combine both aspects.”