With money being splashed around in the Premier League, it’s time to wonder whether the poorer clubs stand a chance to win the top honours.
The Hard Tackle looks at the case from the eyes of a hopeful Gunner.
Jose Mourinho said that the Premier League title is being won by those that splurge the maximum and as comical as that may seem, from someone who has spent lots of dough to win trophies and also, someone who has spent lots of cash for a wooden spoon, it’s a fact.
It’s hardly a shocker within football circles or to anyone who is simply a smart observer and it’s one which bites back as far as one’s own memory. Blackburn were accused of buying the title, Manchester United and neighbours Manchester City have also splashed the cash to walk away with the trophy in the recent years.
Had Arsenal not invested in Wenger’s first 10 years in charge, it’s safe to imagine that the Frenchman may not have had a quarter of the success he enjoyed, even if he spent quite less than most of his competitors. Liverpool’s recent success in the league is also one that required hefty investment but it’s not exactly that simple, for if it were Manchester City would have won everything in England and delivered the Champions league to that extent, but they haven’t.
In Manchester City and Liverpool’s case, it’s hardly been an overnight success. But, they started by securing the services of the apt manager and from that point, success to some degree was assured. Yes, vast sums have been spent acquiring players. But, you have to have an almost analytical eye and the tactical nous to assemble the jigsaw pieces to find a clear image.
Yet, Klopp and Guardiola have suffered lean times and been frustrated by a lack of quality personnel, if not funds. If one were to use Manchester United or Everton as an example, both should have won the league in recent times and one can hardly accuse Chelsea of being frugal over the years in pursuit of success.
Roman Abramovich came to the Premier League to win it, not just to take part, make up the numbers or take up residence at Stamford Bridge to own the ultimate playboy toy. The Russian breezed into the English game and single handedly revolutionised the game in terms of the style of his ownership and his unbridled ambition.
He was almost like an advertisement to those fortunate to have an aircraft hanger full of cash and what could be achieved with it. Since those days, many have followed the same path and achieved the same results. Leicester’s premier league winning side of 2015, was assembled for the cost of two luxury sports cars but their success invigorated the Premier League. The underdogs stood as reminder that the sport is won by something more complex than money.
As the financial rewards from winning trophies and the revenue generated by television deals continue to increase, the need to compete grows and that requires money, lots of it. There will surely be a ceiling in the future because if not, a super league is inevitable. The football cake can only be divided into so many portions and there are only so many that can compete at the same level in financial terms.
Within the next ten years, perhaps sooner, a natural division will occur between leagues across the globe. It’s the nature of the more prestigious clubs to look after their own interests first and concern themselves less with the bigger picture, because that simply isn’t beneficial to them.
So, Mourinho’s comments are no more than observation and a statement of the obvious. With that in mind, let’s look at how the Premier League has now changed. It’s not enough to be in the top half, if it ever was and a top six and top four have emerged.
The clamour for those positions is fierce but slowly, it’s becoming no different to Spain, where it will be genuinely contested by the same clubs that have peeled away with their resources until such time they need to rebuild.
City were touted as the team to rule the division for the next ten years but with Liverpool’s emergence, it has shaken that theory to the ground. Within the next few seasons, Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs and Manchester United will have to try and keep pace with an inflated market with the need for additional sponsorship.
Instead of one sponsor, there may be several, not too dissimilar to Formula One, in an attempt to boost the coffers and meet an ever growing wage bill. Arsenal have been prudent to finance a stadium but success has been at a premium. It’s fair to speculate that they have been analysing the transfer market and looking to the future to find a solution to a long term problem.
At this rate, the top 20 players in the World will cost in excess of £200 million each, which already creates an elitist structure. So, it appears, that the Gunners are hoping to rely heavily on their youth academy and the scouts to provide a stream of players for the future and to avoid the escalating madness of the transfer market.
Perhaps, that’s a blueprint that everyone will have to follow and although supporters advocate big spending, overtime, that will be unsustainable. I suspect Arsenal have already reached their financial ceiling and cases such as Sanchez and Ramsey are an indication of their intentions.
Mesut Ozil was a sweetener because the club could not be seen to lose Wenger, Sanchez and Ozil at the same time and by way of placating the fans, they secured the German midfielder. His hefty wages, rumoured to be £300,000 per week has also meant a review of the salary structure for the future and with Lacazette and Aubameyang on a substantial income, it’s unlikely that they will be tempted to go down that route again.
The problem with all this reconfiguration is Arsenal’s current predicament. The general consensus is that they are a side woefully short of key personnel and short of the necessary funds to keep them in contention. Under the Kroenke regime, the planning appears unstoppable and irreversible.
Rightly or wrongly, Arsenal appear to be making significant changes behind the scenes, which ultimately, will be measured on its success but it’s clear that the landscape of football is changing with more loans, swaps and staggered fees before the madness actually breaks a high profile premier league club.
Success brings sponsorship, sponsorship allows greater investment and greater investment brings a greater chance of success. Welcome to the vicious cycle of commercialism, which perpetuates itself but not for all and not for those outside.
Right now, a group of premier league clubs have tentatively agreed to a super league in principle and despite assurances emanating from the Emirates, it’s a case of when, not if.