Arsene Wenger's prudence in transfer market detrimental to Arsenal's title hopes

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When Arsène Wenger arrived at Arsenal in 1996, the English football landscape was markedly different to how it is today. The Premier League was in its infancy and not yet a billion-dollar industry with a world-wide audience.

Serie A was the dominant force in terms of income and the transfer market. Worldwide stars like Zinedine Zidane and Pavel Nedved were flocking to cash-rich Italian clubs Juventus and Lazio respectively.

The Brazilian all-time great, Ronaldo de Lima, would follow them a year later in a $27 million move from Barcelona to Inter Milan.


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The then-best player in England, Eric Cantona, cost Manchester United under a million when he signed from Leeds. The entire Arsenal back-line of Nigel Winterburn, Tony Adams, Steve Bould and Lee Dixon, cost a fraction more.

Wenger, with a keen eye for youthful talent and contacts of the many in French football, was ideally suited to this environment. Patrick Vieira and Nicholas Anelka were plucked from relative obscurity for a combined £4 million.

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Nigerian Nwankwo Kanu would arrive from Inter Milan in 1999 for a similar fee. Most infamously, Sol Campbell was secured on a free from bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

As the trophies kept coming during a golden period for the Gunners, Wenger found himself lauded for both his managerial genius and his shrewd eye for a bargain.

The Noughties saw Arsenal leave Highbury for the Emirates stadium, which coincided with the rise of Roman Abramovich's free-spending Chelsea. Whilst Gunners fans looked on enviously at their London rivals' incredible splurging, their club toiled to pay off debts incurred by their new stadium.

Again, Wenger worked his magic in the transfer market. Cesc Fabregas was poached from Barcelona at the tender age of 17 for a arbitrary fee. He joined Robin van Persie, another young star picked up for a paltry sum from Feyenoord in 2005.

As talented as Wenger's new kids were they lacked that little bit extra to get them over the line in the title races of 07/08 and 10/11, finishing third, despite leading the table for long stretches. As football lurched through the economic boom Wenger's prudence was still admired.

Times have changed, however. In a world where television possesses so much power in the way that football is ran, money rules football. Arsenal, of course, are such a side to have reaped the benefits of television's growing prominence in football, and, according to Forbes as of May 2015, were ranked as the seventh richest club in the world and completely debt-free.

Coupled with their wealth, Wenger has steered Arsenal back into the top three of the Premier League - a prime position to further expand and improve.

The time for prudence is over. Arsenal are currently at their strongest since that of the Invincibles and arguably just one or two world-class signings away from a title-winning side - it's time to flex their financial muscle.

Wenger has always stuck by philosophies and you can't help but respect that, but if Arsenal are ever going to re-establish themselves as title contenders, the Frenchman must adapt suitably to the ever-changing landscape of football.

He must gamble by over-spending to acquire targets, just like his rivals do. Some signings might not pay off, but the ones that do will win titles. In the modern era principals do not win titles - money does.

Fans forgive gambles that fail, what they won't forgive is inertia.

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