Arsenal made the right choices...if the world outside hadn't turned upside down
The new stadium to their transfer kitty were built for another reality13:26 Tuesday 23 August 2016, 13:26 23 Aug 2016
At the time that Arsenal were at their peak under Arsene Wenger, Patrick Vieira was a key figure symbolically and physically.
A player signed cheaply and then developed into a leading star like many of Wenger's other signings in the era, it was a method that worked in a different era.
That reliance on not paying top dollar for signings who may or may not be worth the price tag is admirable.
Vieira, who is now managing New York City FC but is clearly disappointed by what he perceives as the lack of ex-Gunners legends in the current Arsenal setup, said: "I quite admire that, in the world where some clubs have so much money, they go and buy players who are £40m and are worth £10m."
Indeed, on paper, the Gunners have made the right decisions over the past 20 years - but only when you look at it in isolation and ignore the real world raging outside.
The decision to move to the Emirates, with construction taking place between 2004 and 2006, was forward-thinking but based on an idea that match-day revenue from ticket sales would be more important than it later proved to be.
The explosion in TV money and its spread across the Premier League means merely qualifying for the Champions League, as the Gunners have done without fail for almost two decades does not provide the financial gap it once did. It also means, clubs from abroad see the Premier League as a place to sell even mediocre talent in return for significant income.
Secondly, the arrival of a Roman Abramovich-fueled Chelsea meant that the transfer market and value of players would begin to become inflated.
Thirdly, Premier League clubs' scouting networks have grown, with their tentacles reaching deep into foreign leagues, including France where Wenger - almost alone - had thrived in the search for talent that was available for cheaper prices.
But the competition to seek out the next rough diamond has intensified. For example, look at how Leicester City were able to acquire N'Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez for cheap fees before developing them into Premier League-winning talent. Over a decade ago, it was Wenger doing that to stay in stride with their biggest rivals and ahead of the crowd behind.
Wenger has pointed to the arrival and immediate deployment (out of necessity admittedly) of young defender Rob Holding as an example of doing things efficiently. But that doesn't really assuage an immediate need.
But then again, if Shkodran Mustafi, the type of ready-made defender that they were being linked with this summer is available for a reported €50 million, then Wenger's view on finances can be understood. Even though they have a significant transfer budget according to reports, if a player's price is grossly inflated, it in turn makes the budget feel less valuable than when prices were more reasonable.
Especially when Mustafi, for example, is not even a guaranteed starter for the German national side.
Wenger has spent almost that amount each on his two biggest money signings. But Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil were in fact players that Barcelona and Real Madrid were quite happy to part with in the summers of 2013 and 2014.
Finding those type of top level talents who may not be viewed as essential assets by their clubs is rare, which means a club must pay over-the-odds to get their hands on them.
Manchester United have no such qualms and nor do Manchester City. And unfortunately, that's the world they live in - and one they may not have envisaged.
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