Mark Fleming: Arsenal's prudence is laudable but out of step

The situation is not new for Wenger, and in the past the result has always been the same – the board sticks to its guns and the player moves on
  • @MrMarkFleming

The warning signs have been there for years. Robin van Persie said in 2008 that Arsenal must introduce changes to their wage structure or else face losing their best players to rival clubs who are willing to pay much higher salaries.

The Dutchman said: "Arsenal have a policy in which they will not go over a specific amount of money when agreeing the salary of a player. I think they should go to a higher level of salary. If you want to keep the group together, you have to keep them happy. If you are 27 or 28, I can understand that you would make the decision to go elsewhere if you can earn three or four times as much."

Three years on, and nothing much has changed. The situation concerning Samir Nasri, who has a year left on his contract and knows he can earn significantly more elsewhere, is not a new one for Arsène Wenger, and in the past the result has always been the same – the Arsenal board sticks to its guns and the player moves on.

Arsenal did just that in 2006 when Ashley Cole left for more cash at Chelsea. The defender almost crashed his car on hearing that Arsenal had "insulted" him with a salary offer of £55,000 a week, and took up Chelsea's £90,000-a-week contract instead.

Mathieu Flamini and Aleksandr Hleb left in 2008 for financial reasons, followed by Kolo Touré and Emmanuel Adebayor, who both doubled their salaries by moving to Manchester City. Now Gaël Clichy is to increase his weekly wage from £58,000 to more than £90,000 by following his former team-mates to Eastlands.

Arsenal have accepted the loss of those players and carried on. The stand-off with Nasri, however, could have more far-reaching repercussions for Wenger and Arsenal's majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke, and not just because Nasri is the ideal replacement for Cesc Fabregas if the Arsenal captain returns to Barcelona.

Nasri has been offered a deal worth £90,000 a week, the limit of Arsenal's pay scale, but this remarkable sum is no longer enough, it seems, to keep a player happy.

Arsenal's prudent wage structure ensured the Emirates Stadium could be built without placing the club in financial jeopardy, but at the same time the wage bill has increased by 34 per cent in the past four years, from £83m to £111m. Yet in the same period Chelsea's spending on player wages has increased by 53 per cent, Manchester United's by 54 per cent, and Manchester City's by an eye-watering 209 per cent.

Chief executive Ivan Gazidis has overseen increased spending on wages, but the priority has been to reward squad players rather than focus on the elite. As a result, Arsenal pay competitive wages to players such as Nicklas Bendtner and Tomas Rosicky; however, they still recoil at paying anything over £90,000 a week, which inevitably leaves them vulnerable to clubs who are willing to pay much higher salaries to their best players.