(Arsene Wenger’s reaction upon hearing the news that Sir Alex Ferguson is to retire as manager of Manchester United)

Arsene Wenger’s attempt to achieve godlike status with Arsenal is faltering due to his failure to compete in the Champions League and Premier League for the last few seasons. By compete, what I mean is still be in with a realistic chance of winning both competitions in March.

Having brought in some excellent young French players in the early years, the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires, Emmanuel Petit and Sylvain Wiltord spring to mind, he has recently had to resort to spending big on famous names, with the likes of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez coming to the Emirates. Oh, I nearly forgot, and Danny Welbeck.

You get the impression that this isn’t the Arsene way. He doesn’t like to spend £40 or £50 million and only get one player, he used to expect four or five or even more for that kind of outlay.

One of Arsene’s great strengths, from an accounting point of view, was that he always appeared to treat the Arsenal bank account as though it was his own. That this depicted him personally as a very frugal man did not bother him at all, even when the fans pleaded with him to spend some of the money available once the shackles of funding the Emirates were off, he remained confident that he would only spend on players who would improve his team and that he wouldn’t pay over the odds for them. He constantly pointed out that there was nobody of quality available in the positions he wanted, meaning that he didn’t think they were worth the money so, therefore, he would not pay it.

Unfortunately for Wenger, challenging at the top end of the Premier League meant that, at some stage, even he would have to spend big money. Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool were all doing it so, if he wanted to stay at the top table, he had to as well.

This is where, to me, some of the enthusiasm seems to have gone from Wenger. He doesn’t appear to like the way the game has gone and sees the Premiership title as a race between the clubs who have spent the most money. To an extent, he is right. The team who has spent the most money won’t necessarily win it, but they will almost certainly finish in the top four and take a Champions League spot.

Wenger preferred the days when it was between the “best” teams and the “best” managers, regardless of money spent. Having said that, prior to the takeovers of Manchester City by Sheikh Mansour and Chelsea by Roman Abramovich, Manchester United and Arsenal were frequently the biggest spending clubs in the Premier League.

If proof of the power of money were needed for Wenger he only had to look back to the Blackburn Rovers team which won the league back in the 1994-95 season. This team had been expensively assembled using the millions of Jack Walker, a local steel magnate and Blackburn Rovers fanatic, and boasted a manager in Kenny Dalglish who was in his prime. It was a feat, however, that they were unable to repeat and Sir Jack Walker passed away in 2000, safe in the knowledge that his beloved team had at least achieved one Premier League title in his lifetime.

So, since the inception of the Premier League, money has always had a major say in who would eventually win it. You only have to look at the wealth of the previous winners to see that. Other than the year Blackburn won it, one of the big four has won it every other year.

So, if the playing field ever gets completely levelled, If the amount of money a club can spend on transfers and wages is capped to give everybody an equal opportunity, and if takeovers by billionaire foreign investors are banned, the game may return to the one Arsene Wenger liked before. He may find his enthusiasm coming back, so much so, that he may then be driven to achieving the godlike status he probably thinks he deserves, and most Arsenal fans, (some begrudgingly), also think he deserves.


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