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Concerns over a lack of transfer budget at Arsenal are nothing new.
From the moment the plans to move from Highbury to the Emirates were given the green light, the purse strings have been tightened and Arsenal have struggled to match the financial clout of their rivals.
Obviously the move from Highbury was supposed to be so the Gunners could enjoy the same sort of riches of Europe’s other top clubs, but it came at a time when Russian and oil money totally changed the football landscape.
It’s been 12 years now since Arsenal played their first game at the Emirates and as we head towards the January transfer window, once again all the chatter is that there will not be much money to spend on improving the squad. Despite having an owner worth an estimated £6.5 billion, the self-financing model at the club will continue.
“We have a self-sustaining business model at this club,” said new managing director Vinai Venkatesham in October.
“That means all the investments we make on the pitch are funded by the revenues we generate off the pitch.
“And we’re really confident we can be successful with this model. The ambition we have for this club is completely possible to be achieved in the business model that we’ve got.”
In recent estimates made by the Arsenal Supporters Trust, the club is forecast to have around £40 million available to spend next summer – the sort of cash that Manchester City have no problem splashing out on one squad player.
The AST believe Arsenal are heading for a £70m loss for the 2018/19 season (before any player sales) mainly down to the lack of Champions League football and a wage bill that is running at unprecedented levels.
The new sponsorship deals with Adidas and Emirates will kick in from the start of next season which will ease restrictions slightly, but the fact is Arsenal simply don’t have the financial clout to be able to compete with the likes of City, Chelsea or even Liverpool.
So this must be a major concern right? Well, no actually. Obviously everyone wants as much money to spend as possible, but it shouldn’t be seen as the be all and end all.
The truth is, Arsenal have never been a club that has gone out and just thrown around cash during a transfer window without looking to balance the books.
If you go back and look for examples of when Arsenal have ended a window having spent £40m more than they have brought in, you won’t find many. The summer of 2016 stands out as a bit of a one-off in that regard.
The fact is, if Arsenal are going to stay competitive right now and build something special under Unai Emery, they just need to be clever in the transfer market.
It’s tough, but there are excellent deals still out there that can certainly take the team up a level. Look at the summer just gone, Lucas Torreira arrived for around £27m and Matteo Guendouzi for just £7m.
For under £35m Arsenal brought in two top quality midfielders who have vastly improved the squad at the Emirates. This is why Sven Mislintat was brought in as head of recruitment.
The work he did in Germany saw Borussia Dortmund go toe to toe with Bayern Munich and for a time they can out on top, winning back to back Bundesliga titles.
Working with a budget that was far lower than that being splashed around at the Allianz Arena, Mislintat did some wonderful business and allowed Jurgen Klopp to work his magic on what turned into a special group of players.
Mislintat, or Diamond Eye as he became known in Germany, is arguably the most important man at Arsenal now. If the club are to close the gap on Manchester City and get back competing regularly in the Champions League again, he has to get the vast majority of his transfer business right. There is only so much Emery and his coaching staff can do on the training ground.
And the signs so far have been good. What Mislintat has already done at Arsenal has been very impressive. The capture of Torreira shows that with expert scouting, top quality can be signed at a fraction of the cost of what others are paying. The same goes for Guendouzi.
Unfortunately injury has stopped us having a good look at Konstantinos Mavropanos this season, but the young Greek centre-back – Mislintat’s first signing after arriving at Arsenal – showed in flashes towards the end of last season how much potential he has.
Mavropanos cost under £2m but the performance he produced at Old Trafford towards the end of last season was one of a multi-million pound centre-back.