Arsene Wenger: How to Run a Football Club
January 16, 2011 9 Comments
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.