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Will Tidey - False Arsenomics have put Arsenal on course for mediocrity

Published: 07 Jul 2011 - 12:30:15

Where else to go this week but Arsenal, who after six years without a trophy are behaving in the transfer market like a club who have just been relegated to the Championship.

Gael Clichy has already left for Manchester City. Samir Nasri looks set to follow him out of the door. And Cesc Fabregas reportedly held "break-up" talks with the board yesterday, as his desperation for a return to his beloved Barcelona continues to embarrass the club he captains.

Arsene Wenger has long stood accused of being overly cautious in his spending, but to let three of his best players walk out of the The Emirates this summer will take despair to new depths in north London.

To be an Arsenal fan has been a punishing exercise in patience and trust since their FA Cup win in 2005. And Arsene's red and white army are understandably running low on both.

The same appears to be true with some of their players. Clichy was apparently frustrated with Arsenal's lack of ambition in the transfer market. Nasri said recently he came to England to win trophies. Fabregas simply wants to play for a better team.

All three are set to increase their salaries, but their primary motivation for leaving is not money - and that's what will hurt the club in the long term.

For too long advocates of Arsenomics have pointed towards the club's bank balance, and their focus on youth, as reason for optimism. The theory goes that by playing a steady and forward-thinking game now, Arsenal will reap the rewards in the long term.

The argument is running thin. It's all very well talking about record pre-tax profits of £56 million for 2010, and Arsenal's fiscal stability in a world of spiralling debts, crazed spending and billionaire megalomaniacs. But the longer Arsenal go without success, the harder it will be for the club to keep its best players - and attract new ones.

Nasri is 24. Wenger spotted his talent as a teenager and tracked his progress to its natural conclusion in 2008. But just as the Frenchman enters what should be the best years of his career, he looks almost certain to leave.

Three years of tutelage under Le Professeur will now be put to use by one of Arsenal's main Premier League rivals. How's that for forward-thinking?

Fabregas is a similar story. The Spaniard arrived as a raw 16-year-old and will leave as one of the most sought-after midfielders in Europe. He too is just 24, and another Arsenal fans will never witness in the prime of his footballing life.

Who's to say the same won't happen to Gervinho, the highly-rated Ivorian striker who appears set to arrive at The Emirates this summer? Or Jack Wilshere, arguably the brightest young midfield talent in the Premier League?

The advocates of Arsenomics will point to UEFA's new financial fair play rules. They'll say Arsenal's rivals will be forced to make such devastating cuts to meet the criteria, that they'll slide down the ladder and leave Wenger's team to climb smugly to the top.

But that's assuming Arsenal will still be in position to take advantage. Without Fabregas, Nasri and Clichy, and with Liverpool and Tottenham in the ascendancy, a place in the top four is far from guaranteed next season.

And without the carrot of Champions League football, Wenger's team will struggle to attract the kind of players they need to get it back. Not only that, but the young players they've invested their future in may decide they don't want to be there when it arrives.

The likes of Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Song won't need telling how important it is to be playing on Europe's biggest stage. And the looming exits of Nasri and Fabregas will only serve to reinforce the notion that time waits for no footballer.

Meanwhile, as belts are tightened around Europe, the clubs who threw caution to the wind in the transfer market will at least have the success it brought to lean on.

Footballers are a greedy bunch, but even the most fickle put a price on ambition. Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City are all throwing punches in the transfer window this summer, while Arsenal - all too predictably - are jabbing tentatively from the ropes.

The signing of Gervinho would undoubtedly be a step in the right direction, but it won't be nearly enough. If Arsenal sell Fabregas and Nasri as expected, Wenger simply must invest the money in new players - or surely another disappointing season is in the offing.

It's all very well talking about financial stability, but if the frugal Frenchman doesn't dig into Arsenal's pockets this summer his careful work will culminate in the inevitable. His sacking.

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:Will Tidey
Will Tidey writes on sport for CNN, Eurosport-Yahoo! and Bleacher Report, amongst others. His first book, 'Life with Sir Alex', an account of Sir Alex Ferguson's 25-year reign at Manchester United, is set for release in October this year. Pre-order it now at http://tinyurl.com/6xzl62b. And follow Will on Twitter here - www.twitter.com/willtidey

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