“Unique” is one of those wonderful words that can be equally applicable as compliment and criticism. Joey Barton is unique. Luis Suarez is unique. Jose Mourinho is unique.
Arsene Wenger has taken to describing Arsenal’s current situation as “unique”. In this context, it is a synonym for disappointment unparalleled in his reign. “Unique” means the probability of finishing fifth, sixth or seventh. “Unique” means Europa League football. “Unique” means the sort of decline that has brought Wenger’s future into greater focus.
The paradox of the second half of Wenger’s reign has been that the more imperiled Arsenal have been, the more they have seemed to need the Frenchman. His brinkmanship of balancing the books while steering them into the top four, often by the finest margins, has made him the fiscally-sound choice – part football manager, part economist, forever walking a wire without falling off.
And then Wenger undercut the age-old argument for keeping him in situ with his comments after Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to West Bromwich Albion. Coming from him, they were unique. If Arsenal end up outside the top four for the first time in his reign, he said:
Of course, on the sporting front it would be a blow but financially the Champions League does not have the impact any more that it had five or six years ago, because of the influx of the television money.
In short, Arsenal are primed to cope money-wise without Wenger. In some respects, he has done his job too well. They may not require him because he has insulated Arsenal against the shock of ejection from the elite. They have cash reserves of £100.5 million and no short-term debt. Even the growing probability Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil will leave comes with the likelihood that they would bring in further funds. Without Champions League football, Stan Kroenke’s asset would diminish in value, but not disastrously.
Wenger’s problem is that he has brought a realist’s view of economics to a surreal industry. It is easy to imagine him nodding sagely as he examined the 2008 financial crash. Lenders granting 125 percent mortgages to virtually anyone, banks exposed because they had too many risky investments? Of course the bubble would burst. Except that football’s has not.
Wenger presumed others would experience boom and bust while his constant carefulness would reap a reward. But Financial Fair Play has barely reined in the big buyers. The bottom has not fallen out of the television market.
The funding of the Emirates Stadium was predicated in part on an ability to remain competitive while spending less. Wenger did not see the billionaires coming, Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour spent more and Arsenal were no longer title contenders. Wenger’s next model entailed consistent qualification for the Champions League to give Arsenal a fiscal advantage over those shut out of a private members’ club. Then Premier League rights went through the roof and Europe became more about prestige than prize money.
Read the full article on eurosport.co.uk: Why now is the perfect time for Arsenal to move on from Wenger