Spending money is not the answer to Arsenal’s problems, and it never has been

Simon Rice
wenger 300x225 Spending money is not the answer to Arsenals problems, and it never has been

Arsene Wenger pictured during the recent FA Cup defeat to Sunderland

Arsenal fans are growing increasingly frustrated by the situation at the Emirates – the lack of trophies, the lack of quality players, the lacklustre performances.

As The Independent reported earlier this week, the Arsenal Supporters Trust are to ask some difficult questions of the club, with the greatest gripe among fans being the perceived lack of activity in the transfer market.

Arsenal regularly report huge turnovers and state that there is money to spend should Wenger wish to. Yet he seems reluctant. During the summer key players Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy left the club. They were replaced by Mikel Arteta, Yossi Benayoun and Andre Santos. You don’t need to be a professor to know that the replacements do not adequately fill the shoes of those who left the Emirates – some Arsenal fans would argue they’re not even fit to clean the boots of those who left.

The wisdom goes that if Arsenal spent more money in the transfer market – the chances of ending what at the end of this season will be a seven year wait for a trophy will improve. It seems like a simple equation – but does it add up?

We’ve looked at Wenger’s 16-year reign as manager to see how his spending patterns have altered.

Analysis shows that since Arsenal won the FA Cup in 2005 (their last trophy), in only one season has Wenger had a net spend (money spent on players minus that accrued by sales) of more than £10m. This lack of outlay may seem strange for a Champions League team, but by Wenger’s standards, is par for the course. In the previous nine years of the Frenchman’s tenure, in only three seasons did Arsenal have a net spend of over £10m – and in two of those the outlay was less than £11m.

fabregas 300x225 Spending money is not the answer to Arsenals problems, and it never has been

Cesc Fabregas was sold to Barcelona for a huge profit

Arsenal’s best years under Wenger came between 1997 and 2005 – during that eight year spell they won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups. In total they spent approximately £120m, or £15m per season on new players. In the seven years since, the Gunners have spent approximately £175m, or £25m a season – £10m more per season than they did when they were winning trophies.

So, what we can see is that while Wenger is often accused of not spending during the transfer windows, the truth is that he is already spending more on players than he did during better times.

Where it gets interesting is when you compare Arsenal’s spending habits with those of their Premier League rivals. Since the 1996/97 season Arsenal have spent £315m on players and received £310.5m – a net spend of £4.5m. Over the same period, Manchester United’s net spend is £250m, Manchester City’s £472m, Chelsea’s £504.5m, Liverpool’s £204.5m and Tottenham’s £174.5m.

There are a couple of mitigating factors to these findings. For one, Arsenal switched stadium from Highbury to the Emirates – the cost of this was huge and as a result Arsenal’s transfer budget was severely limited for a number of years to make this possible, something the club has always been open about. Wenger also has a track record of buying players cheaply and selling them on at a vast profit – Nicolas Anelka was bought for £500,000, Kolo Toure for £150,000, Emmanuel Adebayor for £7m and Cesc Fabregas for nothing – all four of these players were sold for over £15m. In recent years Arsenal have regularly seen a surplus after their transfer dealings were completed.

vieira 300x225 Spending money is not the answer to Arsenals problems, and it never has been

Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry pictured in 2004

When the spending habits during Wenger’s tenure are compared to that of his rivals, that Arsenal have qualified for the Champions League every season for the last 14 years, won seven major trophies and reached two European finals seems quite remarkable.

During the Wenger years it has been the quality of players that Arsenal have had at their disposal, not the size of their price-tags, that has brought them success. Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Emmanuel Petit, Tony Adams, David Seaman, Patrick Vieira, Cesc Fabregas, Robert Pires, Sol Campbell; Wenger has managed some of the greats of the Premier League era – and he didn’t spend vast amounts of money for the privilege.

Wenger proved that success didn’t have to be bought. Whether that remains true in the future, considering the millions at the disposal of Manchester City and Chelsea, the inflated prices in world football and the growing scouting network that Wenger exploited so brilliantly, is debatable. If we are to find out the answer, Arsenal fans must continue to believe in the mantra ‘In Arsene We Trust’.

Arsenal’s signings, transfer outlay and net spend in the Wenger era


Marc Overmars (£7m)
Alberto Mendez  (Unknown)
Luis Boa Morte (£1.75m)
Gilles Grimandi (£2.5m)
Emmanuel Petit (£2.5m)
Alex Manninger (£500k)
Matthew Upson (£2m)
Nicolas Anelka (£500k)
Patrick Vieira (£3.5m)
Remi Garde (Free)

Total Spent: £20.25m
Total Received: £10.12m
Net Spend: £10.13m


David Grondin (£500k)
Christopher Wreh (£300k)

Total Spent: £800k
Total Received: £750k
Net Spend: £50k


Oleg Luzhny (£1.8m)
Kaba Diawara (£2.5m)
Nwankwo Kanu (£4.5m)
Jermaine Pennant (£2m)
Fredrik Ljungberg (£3m)
William Huck (Free)

Total: £13.8m
Total Received: £4.87m
Net Spend: £8.93m


Lauren (£7.2m)
Niccolo Galli (£0)
Thierry Henry (£10.5m)
Davor Suker (£500k)
Sylvinho (£4m)
Stefan Malz (£650k)

Total Spent: £22.85m
Total Received: £29.03m
Net Spend: -£6.18m


Francis Jeffers (£8m)
Juan (Signed)
Edu (£6m)
Tomas Danilevicius (£1m)
Igor Stepanovs (£1m)
Sylvain Wiltord (£13m)
Guy Demel (Free)
Moritz Volz (Signed)
Robert Pires (£6m)

Total: £35m
Total Received: £31.7m
Net Spend: £3.3m


Kolo Toure (£150k)
Efstathios Tavlaridis (£600k)
Richard Wright (£6m)
Sol Campbell (Free)
Giovanni Van Bronckhorst (£8.5m)

Total Spent: £15.25m
Total Received: £4.274m
Net Spend: £10.976m


Guillaume Warmuz (Signed)
Rami Shaaban (Signed)
Gilberto Silva (£4.5m)
Pascal Cygan (£2.1m)

Total Spent: £6.6m
Total Received: £5.71m
Net Spend: £890k


Arturo Lupoli (Signed)
Robin Van Persie (£2.75m)
Jose Antonio Reyes (£13m)
Gael Clichy (£250k)
Johan Djourou (£0)
Jens Lehmann (£2m)
Philippe Senderos (£2.5m)
Cesc Fabregas (Signed)

Total Spent: £20.5m
Total Received: £3.85m
Net Spend: £16.65m


Emmanuel Eboue (£1m)
Mathieu Flamini (£1m)
Manuel Almunia (£4.5)

Total Spent: £4.5m
Total Received: £2.9m
Net Spend: £1.6m


Tomas Rosicky (£6.8m)
Mart Poom (Signed)
Theo Walcott (£9.1m)
Emmanuel Adebayor (£7m)
Abou Diaby (£2m)
Aleksandr Hleb (£11.2m)
Armand Traore (£250k)
Vito Mannone (£350k)
Nicklas Bendtner (£200k)

Total Spent: £36.9m
Total Received: £30.12m
Net Spend: £6.78m


Eduardo (£7.5m)
Nacer Barazite (Signed)
Lukasz Fabianski (£2m)
Denilson (£3.4m)
William Gallas (Swap)
Alex Song (£1m)
Fran Merida (Free)

Total Spent: £13.9m
Total Received: £30.9m
Net Spend: -£17m


Samir Nasri (£15.8m)
Aaron Ramsey (£5m)
Luke Freeman (£200k)
Lassana Diarra (£4m)
Bakary Sagna (£6m)

Total Spent: £31m
Total Received: £17.6m
Net Spend: £13.4m


Amaury Bischoff (Undisclosed)
Mikel Silvestre (£750k)
Andrei Arshavin (£15m)

Total Spent: £15.75m
Total Received: £19.3m
Net Spend: -£3.55m


Thomas Vermaelen (£10m)
Sol Campbell (Free)
Samuel Galindo (Undisclosed)

Total Spent: £10m
Total Received: £41m
Net Spend: -£31m


Marouanne Chamakh (Free)
Kyle Ebecillo (£500k)
Laurent Koscielny (£10m)
Sebastien Squillachi (£4m)
Ryo Miyaichi (Undisclosed)

Total Spent: £14.5m
Total Received: £7.7m
Net Spend: £6.8m


Carl Jenkinson (Free)
Gervinho (£10.6m)
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (£12m)
Joel Campbell (£950k)
Park Chu-Young (£3m)
Andre Santos (£6.2m)
Mikel Arteta (£10m)
Per Mertesacker (£10m)
Thomas Eisfeld (£400k)
Marcus Olsson (Free)

Total Spent: £53.15m
Total Received: £70.7m
Net Spend: -£17.55m)

Net spends since 1996/97…


Overall Spend: £314.75m
Overall Received: £310.514m
Net Spend: £4.236m

Manchester United:

Overall Spend: £534.05m
Overall Received: £283.975m
Net Spend: £250.075m

Manchester City:

Overall Spend: £628.1m
Overall Received: £155.543m
Net Spend: £472.557m


Overall Spend: £720.83m
Overall Received: £216.185m
Net Spend: £504.645m


Overall Spend: £523.33m
Overall Received: £318.87m
Net Spend: £204.46m


Overall Spend: £392.55m
Overall Received: £217.93m
Net Spend: £174.62m

Transfer data sourced from

Tagged in: , , , , , , ,
  • Soul_Controller

    Man City pay most of Adebayor’s salary. Parker – 50k per week – less than Diaby I believe.

    The wage gap hasn’t closed, except in your mind. 

    “If you say so. Personally I think it’s one of those questions that’s hard to answer.”

    No, it isn’t – after 2/3 of the season, Spurs are 10 points ahead of Arsenal, therefore they have a better squad.

    “Harry would bite Arsene’s hand off for a sniff of Szczesny, Vermaelen, Koscielny (probably), Sagna, Song, Wilshere,”

    Utter bs. Szczesny is mediocre. Koscielny would be behind Bassong in the depth chart. Vermalaen is good but nowhere as good as Kaboul or King.  Sagna is nothing compared to Walker. Sandro is a class above Song. Wilshere is good but will never be as good as Modric. Sorry, but despite your delusions only RVP would get in the Spurs 1st team.

    Drop Adebayor for Walcott?  Walcott is just a s**t Aaron Lennon.

  • roger_darce

     It’s a shame than Arsenal Arjan’s anti-Jewish epithet was remove. We wear our Star of David with pride!

  • Cretien

    You need to read the article again properly. 

  • wcbluesagain

    Arshavin did not play at 180mph with Russia ay Euro 2008. He was given a free role to roam across the pitch just behind the striker(s). He was sensational. At Arsenal he has been asked to play as a winger.

  • wcbluesagain

    Arsenal’s problem is their wage structure and general tightfistedness. That’s why Cashley left. And Flamini. If they has kept those 2 players they would not have had this 6-7 year trophy drought.

  • maheseychelles

    Mr KeithHW, If you recall when Rooney was transferred, then (at the time in the press) Everton reported that the transfer would reach 48m by the time all the clauses in the sale agreement are triggered. For sure Rooney had them all triggered, a Torres would not but Rooney has!

    What you are referring (25m) probably is the naked amount which was most probably the case (25m), but the total gross was in fact around 48m.  

    Mr Keith, remember, in those days, Mr Wenger was paying:- Gilberto 4.5m, Robin VP 2.75m, Gael Clichy a quarter M, Lehmann 2m, Bredtner 200k, Song not 1pm but 1 m, Diarra 4m without any twinge of diarrhea, teams like Coventry, Luton, Blackburn would have got.

  • maheseychelles

    Barcelona have mastered Wenger’s strategy of how the game is played, Bolton are trying, but probably they lack quality players and are not playing at the correct speed, Burnley tried but they need to eat more potatoes, Swansea & Norwich are doing the best they can, even Mourinho is trying to incorporate a bit. 

    I’m waiting for Mr Wenger’s book on how to play football to teach our folks on how this thing is played – teach them how to draw the imaginary triangles using 2 players to reach to goal!

  • maheseychelles

    Arsenal players must have heard me. Today they played football at the speed of 45 – the right speed, they should play like that all the time! 

    You see how Walcott rises when football is being played at top speed! Today there was urgency in their play, urgency to zap the ball forward and in the path of Walcott at 180mph! 

    Please Arsenal, please maintain that speed – Mr Wenger’s strategy thrives when football is being played at the maximum speed. Minimise the 3, 4, 5 or 6 touches on the ball, zap it into the spaces, into the surging path of Van Persie & Walcott (and Gervino when he’s there).

    You play like that, Arsenal will have no problems!!

    Keep it up! Believe in yourselves, have great faith in Mr Wenger!

  • OfficialTipperTv

    Say All of That Again…. 5-2…..

  • JackKelsey

    Kris, I must Correct you here. Arsenal’s youth policy was not meant to save money. It was seen as the only way of keeping up with far richer clubs that can cherry-pick the best players.
    If over the next few years we hang on to our best home grown players e.g. Wilshire ect. while bringing through more of the same we may actually find ourselves in a position of genuinely competing for the league title.

Most viewed



Property search
Browse by area

Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter