Arsene Wenger is under fire because of Arsenal’s lack of spending in the transfer market.
The fans are getting restless about the size of Arsenal’s depleted squad, why have no big deals been done, is Wenger reluctant to spend and why did they not go all out for Luis Suarez? Is there problems between Wenger and the board?
Wenger does an open press conference for radio and TV followed by an interview with the newspapers. Here is the full Q&A from his chat with the newspapers, including Mirror Sport’s John Cross.
Q: You said that you’ve been talking to Sir Alex Ferguson, what’s Fergie been saying?
AW: “That he loves you. He misses the newspapers.”
Q: Will you miss him?
AW: “I don’t know. Not especially. After a few years there is always a kind of respect between us. We talked about him chairing the managers’ meeting in Geneva that we have every year. So he wanted to know what I think about it.”
Q: Does it annoy you that, even before the season starts, we are talking about a crisis?
AW: “It is a bit frustrating. We just beat Man City 3-1, imagine we had lost. What can I do about it? What is important, I can only influence what we do on the football pitch.”
Q: It’s all linked to transfers. Everyone judges you on transfers at the moment rather than what you do on the pitch.
AW: “Yeah but that’s down to people it’s not down to me. Because if you analyse our players, if you look at the quality of our players, we have good players on the football pitch. Eleven internationals will start tomorrow and we have internationals on the bench. That is for me what counts.”
Q: Has this summer been made more difficult because of the fact that the fans are aware of the club’s new financial firepower and therefore that raises their expectations for you to spend?
AW: “Of course. The expectation level is high that we bring in big names. It is always strange because for example people praise Dortmund for going to the Champions League final. But the most expensive transfer of Dortmund is not very impressive. We have to be successful on the football pitch, that’s what counts.”
Q: Within this football club, is the set-up that you are the guy who has the final say on transfers? Are you the one who has the final say on how much should be spent on a signing? Are you the guy with final say on the fee?
AW (smiling): “I have of course a big influence on that.”
Q: One of the criticisms is that if you want a player sometimes you have to pay more than the market value. Is that something you are comfortable with?
AW: “In the system we are not guided by that. We are guided by the quality for the player. If you want to describe me as a greedy person, you would have to live with me every day, then you would see that I am not, you know. I am rather generous. But we had to go through a period when we had to look at the money that we spent. Today we look for the quality and not necessarily the money that we spend. We can still respect a certain equity if you have international players who play at a certain level of money. But it is linked with structure of your wages.”
Q: What do you mean when you describe yourself as being generous? Is it your wish to buy big players?
AW: “What is important for me is not to give you names as you know all the names that we are chasing. There is not many in Europe, honestly. What is important for me is to focus in tomorrow’s game.”
Q: Sorry, when you say generous, you mean you are not afraid to pay big transfer fees or wages?
AW: “I did fight my whole life to pay the players well. The players have always been paid very well and on top of that regularly. At some stage we had gone through a period where we had to look at what we spent.”
Q: But the public perception is that you are the one who is refusing to pay the money and that the club is desperate for you to spend.
AW: “Yes. But what can I do about it? Sometimes the image you give people is reality and sometimes not.”
Q: Have you been surprised by the transfer market this summer?
AW: “It has been very quick as a club like Monaco spent very quickly as they were scared to be confronted by a rule change. PSG is a big spender now as well, they bought very early, Cavani. But there is a shortage of top, top talent and many clubs who have money.”
Q: But going back, is the perception that you are the one who is reluctant to spend while the board want you to spend unfair?
AW: “Of course it’s unfair. Why should I resist?”
Q: Is there a lack of understanding between you then?
AW: “I just defend the idea that you spend the money you have and not the money you don’t have. For years I did that. Today we have more so we can spend more. It’s as simple as that.”
Q: And you are excited by that prospect of being able to spend more?
AW: “Of course I am excited by that prospect but what I want to convince you of is that we are ready to spend the money if we feel that the players makes us a better team tomorrow morning. Maybe it’s difficult to balance that in a newspaper but football is not only about that. It’s bigger than that. It’s about the team, the quality of the play, the spirit and togetherness and the quality of the players. Therefore we have to focus on all the rest as well.”
Q: What are the reasons as to why the squad has declined even in numbers? Is that down to the years of having to be frugal?
AW: “What happened for years was the quality of our work has been taken away from us because the best players left for financial reasons. For the first time this year that has not happened and I don’t think it will happen again for financial reasons. We have made the first step. The next step is to strengthen the squad and the team by buying the right players.”
Q: Are you alarmed by the number of players in the squad? Put aside the number of signings, are you alarmed by how few players are in the squad?
AW: “I’m not alarmed by the size of our squad. You will see tomorrow we will have good players even on the bench. But we are a bit short, that’s true.”
Q: You say there’s only a couple of players out there. So, are you saying Arsene that there’s only a couple of players out there in Europe who are good enough to get into the Arsenal team?
AW: “If you bring me tomorrow players who are better than those we have, I promise you we will look at them. It’s as simple as that. You cannot say that Wilshere is a super player and then ask why you do not buy better player than him?”
Q: When Ivan Gazidis spoke to the shareholders last month, he said that Arsenal were waiting for the big teams to act then Arsenal would act, that they would wait for the shake-up. But the players you are going for are not dependent on the other teams acting. So why aren’t you going for it, why didn’t you just put £50m down for Suarez and say: ‘let’s go for it.’ That would have given everyone a boost. What’s the issue?
AW: “The issue is that the club sometimes does not want to sell at any price. In the example of Suarez, and you are Liverpool, you have to calculate if you want to get into the Champions League, who are your rivals and do we want to sell to them? Unless they need the money or they have a clause or things like that, things are not always working just because you put the money up.”