Arsene Wenger: How to Run a Football Club

Wenger with Petit, one of his bargain signings


Arsenal Football club are one of the most financially sound teams in the world. While the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea have gone out spending hundreds of millions of pounds in the pursuit for success, Arsenal have operated very differently, constantly making profits while still growing and challenging for silverware.


This is down to one man, Arsene Wenger, who during his tenure of 14 years has revolutionised Arsenal while at the same time making them a profitable organisation. But how?

First a little about the man who has made it all happen. Arsene Wenger joined Arsenal in 1996. The Frenchman was working in Japan’s J League when Arsenal decided he was the man to move the club forward. With no real pedigree, he joined one of England’s biggest clubs.

Many believed he would be a failure, he had never managed in England before and was relatively unknown. He didn’t panic however and go spending millions, he has built up a scouting network over the years which is second to none and found Arsenal some of the best bargain buys ever.

As soon as he joined the club he requested they sign a midfielder by the name of Patrick Vieira, a 21-year-old from AC Milan that cost £3.5 million. The defensive midfielder became the captain of Arsenal, and was a pivotal member of Arsenals dominance of the domestic game before he left in 2005 for 20 million Euros. Not only was he one of Arsenals greatest ever players and at the club for nine years, he was also sold for a big profit when he was 29 years old, and had already played for the club over 400 times.

With the defence of Dixon, Bould, Adams and Winterburn already in place, Wenger looked to build on that solid base, and signed Emmanuel Petit as a partner for Vieira, costing Arsenal around £3.5 million. The Frenchman had three influential years at the London club before his good form raised interest from Barcelona, where he moved to for a fee of £7 million.

During that season Wenger also signed Marc Overmars, the winger costing a mere £6 million and scoring 25 goals in the 100 appearances he made in the three years at the club, before he, like Petit, moved to Barcelona for £25 million, a huge profit of £19 million.

That season also saw wonderkid Nicolas Anelka join the club. The 19-year-old was bought for a mere £500,000. The youngster had incredible raw talent which alerted Wenger, and that led to him scoring 23 goals in the two years he spent at the club. He was then sold to Spanish giants Real Madrid for £22.5 million, an incredible profit of £22 million in only two years.

The 2001-2002 season saw the signings of four players that have gone on to become Arsenal legends, and further show the incredible eye for talent that Wenger possesses. With an ageing defence Wenger looked to shake it up, and Sol Campbell was signed on a free transfer from fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur. With Overmars moving on, Wenger signed wingers Freddie Ljungberg and Robert Pires, costing a combined total of £10 million. Both spent the majority of their careers at the club, and provided goals from wide areas, while also making chances for Wenger’s greatest ever signing, Thierry Henry.

Other players may have cost less and been sold for more than Henry, but none have offered as much to Arsenal as the French striker did. Signed from Juventus for £11 million as a left-winger, Wenger, who had worked with Henry during his time at Monaco, turned him in to a world-class striker, and during his 8 years at Arsenal Henry contributed a sensational 226 goals in 380 appearances, becoming the clubs highest scorer and one of the key reasons of the clubs success. He was later sold for £16 million to Barcelona.

The profit signings don’t end there, with Cesc Fabregas signed from Barcelona for an undisclosed fee thought to be around £1 million. Fabregas has gone on to establish himself as Arsenal captain, and one of the best central midfielders in the World. Kolo Toure is another who shows Wengers nous in the transfer market, signing the Ivorian, who hadn’t made a professional appearance for club Mimosas, for £150,000, and selling him for £16 million, to free-spending Manchester City after seven years at Arsenal.

I’m not saying all Wenger’s signings were inspired, with Nicklas Bendtner, Francis Jeffers and Richard Wright all failing for Arsenal, but the positives far out way the negatives, with Gael Clichy, Robin Van Persie, Theo Walcott and Bakary Sagna all other good signings.

So over the years Wenger’s signings have been inspired, and also brought a lot of money to the club, with Vieira, Anelka, Overmars, Henry, Petit and Toure being sold on for a combined total profit of £73.5 million, a figure that can be rivalled by very few, and the main reason why Arsenal are in such a great financial position.

This astuteness in the transfer market is what Wenger has built his entire success on. His ability to pick up players at a young age, nurture them for Arsenals gain, and then sell them on for a profit is second to none, and has brought 3 Premier League titles to the club, including the 2003-2004 triumph, where the side went the whole season without losing a single game, and were named “the invincibles” in the process. Arsenal have also triumphed in the FA cup four times, the Charity Shield four times, and so nearly won the Champions League in 2006, losing to the mighty Barcelona in the final.

Not only has he brought success to the London club, he has brought a style of football that is beautiful to watch. It has also enabled Arsenal to move from Highbury, a cosy 38,500 seater stadium, to the Emirates Stadium, which holds 60,000. The club has built 655 apartments on the Highbury site, which has produced another profit for the club.

There is no other manager like Arsene Wenger, and no club that operates quite like Arsenal, and possibly never will. His most expensive signing is Sylvain Wiltord at £13 million, a miniscule figure compared to Chelsea, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Manchester City’s transfer exploits. They’re a profit making club, making a profit of £56 million before tax in 2010, and £45 million before tax in 2009.

It’s true that Wenger’s philosophy hasn’t brought silverware to the club in five years, but he is a chairman’s dream manager, Arsenal don’t have billionaire owners, but they don’t need too, Wenger has stuck to his philosophy of using his scouting network and picking up young players with raw talent and making them in to really good players.


About rswoodcock1
I have just graduated from the University of Central Lancashire where I studied Sports Journalism.

9 Responses to Arsene Wenger: How to Run a Football Club

  1. Arsenal Fan says:

    I doubt Wenger had anything to do with Highbury square. As well as this, it’s BaCary Sagna (A minor mistake)
    The article read more like a list of’What Arsene Wenger has done in the last 14 years’ than ‘How to run a football club’ too.. but that’s beside the point, only four or so more months to see whether or not after four years or absolutely nothing have we finally got the bottle.

  2. Dynamo Juggernaut says:

    And you call yourself ‘Arsenal Fan’? You sound like a Spud. Cheer up and don’t take things so literally. By the way, you need work on your capitalization skills.

  3. Domhuaille MacMathghamhna says:

    While his unimpeachable ability to turn a profit for Arsenal is amazing, and his well-known penchant for finding diamonds in the rough or youth talent is extolled worldwide, there is another aspect to this man’s philosophy that is seldom appreciated or praised.
    He is perhaps, the best man manager alongside SAF in the EPL and probably worldwide. He seems to know exactly what to do to salvage and promote careers that would otherwise have declined at any other club. there are ample examples to give but my preferred one is the goalkeeping resurrection of Fabianski at Arsenal! Fab had some real howlers while playing for the Gunners and most people wrote him off quite early in his Arsenal career. Blogs dissed him continuously by calling him Flaphandski and Flappyinski etc. However Wenger NEVEr lost faith in him and going against conventional wisdom to buy an experienced keeper, he stuck with the Polish lad and suddenly this season his form has improved and he replaced Almunia as number 1. Amazingly, even with his injury keeping him out of the lineup, Wenger had an ace up his sleeve in the 20 year old Sczensy, who has managed to impress everyone, even seasoned opponents with his Schmeichel-like size,timing and skill.
    Wenger has repeatedly done this over the years and the list of players who have come good is longer than a city block. He has made mistakes but his success rate outshines any other manager in the EPL.
    Now that is how to run a Football club, not just on the financial and competition side but on the development and talent selection side, perhaps the most important aspect of a club like Arsenal who are frugal spenders!

  4. Rob says:

    This is an excellent article. “Arsenal Fan” above is apparently one of our plastics. Every club has them, I suppose. Wenger has distinguished himself as a tactician (having been successful with at least two different teams and formations), a manager and developer of talent, an economist, a defender of beautiful football, and the face of the club. Like other fans, I am often mystified by his decisions, but very few of them have gone bad and none look at all like Man $iteh’s, Man Utd.’s, Chel$ea’s profligacy. Regarding trophies, it has been a long wait, but having earned rather than bought the title will make it that much sweeter.

    The one area that I think is a bit short is the last part — the lack of billionaire owners. The move to Emirates was very expensive and limited our ability to spend. What is truly amazing is that Arsenal have had the success that they have since 2005 with a manager engaged in long-term squad planning under significant budget constraints. He bought players cheaply, developed them, and turned them into the most entertaining side in the Premier League. The change of philosophy caused by the move to Emirates shows just how wonderful and complete a manager he is.

  5. kev hennessy says:

    Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz not another piece of fluff holding Arsenal up as everything that’s shiny and good about football in England, let’s not forget that all of the self righteous bumph blowing in from N5 is nothing but a piece of feelgood propaganda designed to delude gooners that everything is great when they’ve not seen any silverware since 2005, and furthermore haven’t won a trophy in any sort of convincing manner since the year before. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that Arsenal were one of the English Big 5 from the 80s, yes the very same clubs who did all in their power to ensure that the distribution of wealth in the English game was weighted as heavily as possible in their own favour. Weren’t they also part of the cosy cabal set up purely in the interests of guaranteeing that the lion’s share of the spoils Europe wide would continue to flow into the coffers of only those who’d been invited to the rich mans beano that was the G14?
    Please spare us from any more poor little Arsenal, friend of football’s oppressed, garbage. Arsenal have never been, and never will be, one of the English game’s underdogs and the tidal wave of nonsensical stories over the past few seasons trying to convince us otherwise is disingenuous at best.

  6. ysocks says:

    Arsene may very well be an astute manager of football players but he is not the genius many hold him up to be. beyond the no trophies in 5 years he is not even the most succesful Arsenal manager if you look at the game/win/trophy ratios.

    When you take into account that there is no European trophy since the start of his gunners tenure (15yrs?) and no trophies in 5 years it has to be assumed that the only thing keeping him in his Job is a lack of real ambition at the club and utter delight at his ability to rake in the shekels with astute player deals.

  7. Pingback: How Arsenal proved me wrong - Soccer Limey in America

  8. Donnyfan1 says:

    My Grandma could win trophies by spending a billion every 12 years. To be ‘in the mix’ for the quad every year with a transfer positive is an amazing achievement. I am not an Arsenal supporter (I see them away a couple of times a season in the North) but I am a great fan. It is the football style that does it. All they do is attack when they can –but always using technical ability and pace. They are better to watch than Barca, ManU and Chelsea- all of whom have to spend fortunes to keep ahead. The new regs might curtail that a bit and work in AWs favour. Arsenal’s sustainable model might prove the best after all!

  9. It’s really a cool and useful piece of information. I am glad that you shared this useful info with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

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