Wenger’s selfish ‘socialist’ wage structure
There was an excellent article in the Telegraph this week by Jason Burt, who somehow managed to get Arsene Wenger to admit responsibility for Arsenal’s ‘socialist’ wage structure that has proved so destructive to the club.
It quotes Wenger’s principled approach to spreading wages across the squad, and to “pay something that makes sense and is defendable in front of every single player”, adding: “We make exceptions sometimes but they are not maybe so high.”
The newspaper sets in stone the assertion that Wenger sets the pay bands amongst the players with the board “deferring to his judgment”.
When asked point-blank, whether Wenger sets the wage structure, the Arsenal manager responded: “Yes. I don’t know how it works at others. But it’s not only me, it’s in co-operation with the board.”
This gives huge credence to my post last year, “Arsenal's £130m wage bill exposed” and the updated version “Arsenal’s £143.4m wage bill exposed”, published in November, which shows a ceiling of approx £100k per week for Podolski, with smaller incremental gaps for the vast majority of the remainder of the first team, themselves on fairly equal footing irrespective of age, talent or contribution.
This idiotic implementation of wages across the squad has caused massive problems to Arsenal on multiple levels, and doesn’t even make sense as a socialist model.
First, to even assert that paying any one individual £60,000 a week equates to a ‘socialist wage’ is fundamentally preposterous. Furthermore, it seems Mr Wenger is more than happy to exclude himself from his own socialist model, as his wage is twice that of the average player at the club. An average that, according to The Telegraph is £61,000 p/wk to Manchester Utd’s £64,000 p/wk.
This was also pinpointed by Arsenal Truth back in September, when I also suggested, now in agreement with The Telegraph article, that a relatively inexperienced player like Danny Welbeck earns roughly £15,000 p/wk at Man Utd compared to world class stars such as Van Persie or Rooney who earn around £200,000 p/wk.
The problems that the wage structure has caused the club are clear and obvious. Most notably in the tremendous amount of money wasted on young players that have never fulfilled their potential at the club; money that could have been spent on older, experienced professionals who would have no-doubt accepted a similar wage.
A player like Abou Diaby for example, who has played 117 times for Arsenal in seven seasons and has never proved his ability nor contributed to any success, has cost the club around £23.8m in wages/fees. Of course, it may not be Diaby or Arsenal’s fault that he is perennially injured, but why should the club suffer the cost of Wenger’s economic stupidity when at a ‘normal’ big club Diaby would have joined on £15k p/wk or less and had perhaps one increase commensurate with his productivity (or lack of it) throughout his injury blighted career.
Yet Wenger shows no sign of conceding to this madness, re-signing an average player such as Aaron Ramsey – who has already cost the club a £4.8m transfer fee and an estimated £13m in wages – to another 4 year contract, probably on more money. Imagine the waste if Ramsey remains as average as he is now? By 2017 Ramsey could well have cost the club somewhere in the region of £30-£35m.
Apart from the obscene wastage noted above, you also have the more obvious problem of being unable to shift overpaid players from the wage bill, such as Djourou (scary to think how much he’s cost the club since 2003 – I’d estimate at least £20m), Chamakh, Park Chu Young, Squillaci, Fabianski, Denilson, Bendtner, Mannone, Miyaichi and previous hard-to-shift drivel such as Traore, Almunia and Eboue. The club even has to subsidise much of the wages of many of the players that go out on loan.
The contract situation of Theo Walcott only highlights the insanity of Wenger’s model. Like many other young players, Walcott was grossly overpaid upon joining the club, and now that Arsenal are in desperate need to keep him – presuming he even wants to stay, will have to fight off outside suitors by offering him a significant wage rise that is likely to cause restlessness amongst other players that have far more talent and experience that are currently on an equitable wage. This could conceivably create a situation whereby if Walcott does re-sign, Arsenal will have to throw a load more money at other players to ‘keep them sweet’.
However, I don’t fully believe Wenger is interested in a socialist model. I actually think it’s a ruse. He put those players on massive wages so that nobody would touch them. He experimented with Arsenal’s financial future in order to indulge himself in “project youth” and the club has paid, and continues to pay, the consequences of his selfish idealism.
Equally astounding is the board’s complicit ignorance in going along with Wenger’s wishes, probably due to their professional ineptitude. As Peter Hill-Wood does no worthwhile job as far as I can see, the majority of the blame should lay at the door of Ivan Gazidis. One thing’s for certain, this would never have been allowed to continue unabated (or even happen) under David Dein’s watch, nor Danny Fiszman. Neither man would have allowed Wenger to ride roughshod over them in the media, contradicting them at every turn over who was responsible for what in the boardroom.
Indeed, in the summer of 2009, Fiszman claimed “Arsene can afford to buy any player he wants, he only has to ask” and told the media that when the board asked Wenger what he would do with a £100m windfall, his response was that he’d hand it right back again. With the cat out of the bag, Wenger’s bitter response was, “I believe the more everybody shuts up inside the club, doesn’t talk about anything and works hard is [for] the best”
At the end of that season, Wenger also commented: “We want to run the club by respecting the financial balance and by developing the players who have been at the club for five years. If we do not get there next year, or the year after, then I will be responsible and stand up for it, don’t worry.”
Nearly four years ago now - and only going backwards, we’re still waiting for Wenger to stand up and be responsible
, but he appears to have conveniently forgotten his pledge.
Of course, Arsenal could easily have afforded to pay 2-3 players £200k per week. Instead of having 77 players on the books, including reserves such as Wellington that Wenger blew £3.5m on yet can’t even get a work permit, the squads could be downsized, but it’s going to be extremely difficult to change now as the club can neither keep or attract world class players - nor get rid of the dross that contributes so little, while any new young player that joins has seemingly to be fitted into Wenger’s ‘socialist model’ and immediately put on a daft wage on a par with all the others.
Gazidis needs to grow a backbone and take firm control of the club, and he should start by shoving Wenger out the door before even Champions League qualification becomes a dream, let alone competing for a paltry domestic cup.
Then perhaps he can earn his corn by focusing on revolutionising the wage bill in a sane fashion, rewarding players for success and incentivising young players to earn what their peers have achieved - while keeping any future appointed manager’s nose well out of the books, as normal clubs do.