Arsenal can’t compete with the Premier League’s richest clubs, according to the club’s Chairman Peter Hill-Wood.
Most Gunners fans will not need to be reminded that Hill-Wood’s interviews can range from informative to blusteringly baffling, but he can never be accused of mincing his words.
His latest interview, in the London Evening Standard, has been billed as the Emirates Stadium board admitting they can no longer keep up with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea.
While this isn’t exactly what he said, one can sometimes wonder why the opportunity to report as such is given, especially from a man who has been in the game for so many years.
Of course, when the 76-year-old chairman was speaking about not having the means to challenge the aforementioned clubs, he was talking about financially, not about the prowess of Arsene Wenger’s side on the pitch.
On the contrary, in fact, Hill-Wood claimed he thought the Gunners had a good chance of challenging for the Premier League title and, after the convincing win at Liverpool last Sunday, it does not seem so absurd a notion.
It was a reassuringly solid victory against a side that, despite their own problems, are very dangerous going forward – it appears to have been forgotten by many that only individual mistakes prevented them from defeating the reigning Premier League champions little over a week ago.
However, the optimism coming from the win at Anfield and, especially, a third straight clean sheet – Arsenal supporters will have been rubbing their eyes in disbelief at the competence Wenger’s team showed at the back – needs to be tempered a touch.
Perhaps the timing of the interview has something to do with this, especially when the club ended another transfer window in profit from personnel changes - expectations rocketing so early in the season is tempting fate.
It has become almost obligatory to mention the fact that Arsenal have not won a trophy for nearly eight years but Hill-Wood was surprisingly, maybe infuriatingly, content with the whole situation.
“It is not a worry to the board that we haven’t won a trophy since 2005. It would be lovely to win but it’s not that easy. Liverpool haven’t won the title for 20-odd years,” he said.
Hill-Wood also insisted the club had ambition and that they were attempting success without having the financial backing of some of their more affluent opponents.
“We’re very ambitious and want to win but, if you don’t have billions of petro-dollars to throw around, you’re going to have to do it some other way,” he added.
“That’s what we’re trying to do — with skilful selection of players.”
Nobody can hold it against the club for not having the same resources as teams like Manchester City and Chelsea, but the “skilful selection of players” is precisely one of the issues that has upset fans.
Recruiting new quality signings has been directly affected by poor selection of players and the willingness to pay large salaries to those who probably don’t deserve it.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but the desperation with which the club have been trying to offload unwanted players the past two seasons, with no great success, shows that selection of players has left a lot to be desired at times.
Ambition is signified by doing all you can do to achieve your aims, but Arsenal’s healthy bank balance and transfer profit margin show they have not exactly used their resources fully.
Wenger often insists he will not spend money for the sake of it, claiming that only special talents are what he is looking for and that he does not want to stifle the young players in his squad with players that will not improve it.
There must be frustration among many fans when calls to spend the money are seen as a means in itself, nobody is that silly, but that spending a certain amount of money can get you a higher calibre of player.
As for stifling the talent; Jack Wilshere has quickly become one of the most important players at the club, despite him having a number of first team regulars playing in front of him when he first came on to the scene – quality will out no matter what.
The Arsenal board will be hoping the side’s current solidity can continue, or some further awkward questions will be asked over their willingness to ship in cut-price replacements for the stars that have left.
Wenger has recruited shrewdly with the great value signing of the talented Santi Cazorla and energetic Lukas Podolski, but Olivier Giroud – Robin van Persie’s nominal replacement – has struggled to impose himself on the Premier League just yet.
Giroud’s current failure to convert chances will be a worry for all concerned at Emirates Stadium, as the bench is hardly brimming with striking options and the sight of Marouane Chamakh warming up doesn't fill one with confidence.
It all seems a bit of gamble as to whether it will click and, with the horrors of last season still fresh in the memory, Arsenal fans will not want to experience any more uncertainty of that kind.
So, can Arsenal compete with Europe’s bog boys? They have taken a punt and the early signs look good, but discontent is not so far from the surface any more at Emirates Stadium and a failed gamble will not go down well.
The Frenchman has almost completely remodelled his team's attacking department with players who have never played in the Premier League, so there is no guarantee it will be successul over 38 games, and the 'compact' nature of the squad - many of them have poor injury records - means any loss of the current form could be felt more severely than if one or two more experienced players were there.
However, it isn't often wise to question Wenger's judgement, as those who called for his sacking eventually found out last season.
‘In Arsene we trust’ is a famous Gooner slogan, and the board have certainly bought into it, it’s just the squad they haven’t invested wholly in – everyone connected with the club will be hoping said trust is rewarded.
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