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Premier League

Arsene Wenger hopes for level playing field with Manchester City

Arsenal boss hopes FFP will put a stop to big spenders

Arsène Wenger expressed hope yesterday that Uefa’s Financial Fair Play regulations had finally slowed the onslaught of Europe’s new-money teams, and that his club could now take on champions Manchester City, who they face in the Community Shield on Sunday.

Another summer, and another Arsenal player departing for the Etihad – this time the free agent Bacary Sagna. But Wenger said his club were now more competitive than ever with more than £60m committed on Alexis Sanchez, Calum Chambers, Mathieu Debuchy and David Ospina over the summer. It is significantly more than City have spent. The champions, hit by FFP restrictions, have thus far committed around £20m in fees.

The Frenchman starts the new season with greater optimism than last year as Arsenal have been able to more than hold their own in the transfer market.

“We are less vulnerable, for sure,” he said. “In the last two years we have bought [Mesut] Özil and [Alexis] Sanchez. Five years ago we would have lost Özil and Sanchez.”

The great financial project to build the Emirates Stadium has been navigated without failing to qualify for the Champions League, and Arsenal will learn today who they will play in their qualifier this month. The new contracts from shirt sponsors and new kit suppliers Puma have changed the economic picture, as well as the restrictions imposed by European governing body Uefa on City and Paris Saint-Germain last season. City have been restricted to naming a 21-man Champions League squad.

Asked whether he believed the picture was changing, Wenger said: “It looks like we are closer [to City] but they have some restrictions. There are clever people who help clubs get around that. Time will tell.

“It looks like these clubs are concerned by FFP. They [PSG] have not yet announced [the signing of Angel] Di Maria. It is still not done. That means they have a concern, these clubs, [in terms of] how to respect FFP.”

Wenger accepts the need to be realistic in regards to the progress Uefa can be expected to make with FFP. “We will see,” he said. “Uefa has lost power because of Europe, because you can have alternatives to go to court outside of Uefa and not everybody accepts the decisions from Uefa. Uefa has to be a bit cautious as well because of television’s financial power. If you kick a club like PSG out [of the Champions League] because they don’t respect FFP, the French TV companies will go to Uefa and say ‘Look, we want our money back’.”

Facing Sagna tomorrow will continue the tradition for Arsenal of coming up against their former players in City colours – including Kolo Touré, Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri and Gaël Clichy.

Wenger was typically philosophical about the player’s move to City. Why had Sagna left? “You should ask him that question. I made him a proposal to stay for three years and he chose City,” Wenger said. “It looks to me like he agreed it a long time before.”

Sagna signed a three-year deal at City on the £100,000-plus weekly wage that he had sought in vain from Arsenal. Was it a disappointment to see him, like many others, leave?

“Always,” Wenger said, “because he came here unknown and he made his career and became a French international. I respect Sagna because until the last day of his contract he was super-professional. After he decided to go somewhere else but he was ready to die on the football pitch to fulfil his contract. I’d have loved him to stay.”

The Arsenal manager confirmed Thomas Vermaelen was close to leaving the club, stating that Manchester United were among the interested parties. Fellow Arsenal centre-back Johan Djourou, who was on loan at Hamburg, has joined the German club on a permanent basis.