As the weeks go by it is becoming more and more evident that Arsenal fans are in for an all too familiar race for fourth place. If they're lucky they will qualify for the Champions League for an 18th consecutive time. The level of consistency will again be hailed by some while the mediocrity will be lampooned by others.
There will be those who call for immediate change, as if their current manager Arsene Wenger has been actively preventing them from winning the title for the last ten years. But the Piers Morgan brigade who think Arsenal are befitting of a better manager and a higher finishing place are wrong.
In comparison, those who believe Wenger has done incredibly well to keep Arsenal as high in the table as he has done for all these years are also missing the mark. Looking at correlating data, it is clear that what Wenger has done is achieved the best that can be expected of him year after year after year.
Arsenal's position as the fourth biggest wage bill is about as consistent as their presence in the top four. They only fell out of it in the 2009/10 season, but were quickly re-established a year later. However, at no point in the last ten years has their wage bill been higher than Chelsea or Manchester United's, with Manchester City now joining the brigade.
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A book called Soccernomics dedicated a whole chapter to explaining how wage bills can be linked to a club's final finishing place in the league. To drive to point home, Sporting Intelligence crunched some data to prove the correlation. I've tweeted it below to prove it's existence:
Playing catch up
The truth is that Arsenal have been badly affected by the arrival of the billionaire benefactors like Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour. Their ambitious move to the Emirates Stadium stopped them from offering big wages, instigating the moves of players hunting for big pay days. Those big pay days were only possible because the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City set a new benchmark.
Now they have the ability to offer big wages and have been able to bring the likes of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez to the club whilst also handing big deals to their best performing players.
Still, they remain rooted to that fourth place in the wage bill well behind Manchester United (215m), who themselves are proving to be quite inefficient at getting value for money. They should be winning the league after spending the most money on both transfers and wages. Meanwhile, Wenger continues to achieve what can be expected of him.
King of consistency
To win the league when other teams are paying as much as £50 million more a year for playing staff would be a great achievement. However, finishing outside the top four, especially to Southampton, who themselves are bucking the trend with a wage bill under £100 million, would certainly be a disappointment.
Luckily, Wenger is the king of consistency. He usually meets his target, but rarely exceeds them. Imagine if he had the funds available to pay the sort of wages Manchester City do. Maybe then Piers Morgan would be happy to tweet #WengerIn.