On the day that Manchester City posted record losses of £121m, Arsène Wenger could not resist a dig at City and tomorrow's opponents Chelsea by declaring that Arsenal's Premier League titles were worth more because they won them without breaking the bank.
The billionaire backers of Chelsea and now City have been Wenger's greatest frustration over his last five years without a trophy at Arsenal. It should be noted that yesterday the Arsenal manager was questioned repeatedly at his press briefing on the subject of clubs relying on wealthy owners and, as his way, he did not shirk the question.
City's losses – including a £133m wage bill that exceeds their entire turnover – came a week after Arsenal announced profits of £56m and a cash surplus of £127m. Chelsea have posted serious losses for years under the Roman Abramovich regime, including £140m in 2006 alone. The reigning Premier League champions have won three titles since Arsenal's last in 2004 prompting Wenger to suggest that the two clubs' successes should be judged differently.
Wenger said: "We have our own way to run our club. That is not the way Chelsea does it so there is nothing to compare. I am convinced that every single club should take the greatest pride in achieving the maximum with the resources they have available. That is what we try to achieve so the situation is not really comparable to what Chelsea has done."
Clarifying that "the resources are different", when Wenger was later asked whether he believed Chelsea's titles should come with an asterisk against them to denote their financial advantage, he said: "In England every time we don't win a game everyone always tells me I have to buy a player. So for you it's down to money. So I'm surprised you're surprised [that it is about money].
"What is surprising is that what is sensible looks crazy. I'm not the only sensible person but the fact that I manage a club in a sensible way looks crazy. The biggest reproach I get is 'Why do you manage the club in the right way?' [by refusing to spend large sums on players]."
For the first time the Arsenal manager is also discussing his legacy which, at the age of 60 and with 14 years at the club, is clearly playing on his mind now more than ever. He signed a contract in August that takes him until 2014 and there was a hint yesterday – his mention of "the guy who arrives after me" – that he is thinking about the kind of club he will leave behind him.
"Fans want big players on the pitch and want to win football games I can understand that," he said. "But I'm responsible for the future of the club – but I can understand why Chelsea manage in their own way because they can support the deficit. But we can't.
"They have become more sensible with time because they realise it's only a short-term situation. You only have to look at what happened to Portsmouth and Leeds. You only look at clubs who have unlimited resources but all the mismanaged clubs died before. Nobody survived.
"You have a tradition in this country of freedom to manage. Each person can manage their own way. I will do it my way. If one day my board aren't happy with it they will tell me. Every single club is private. But I will manage in a way so that the guy who arrives after me has a good chance."
In the meantime, Wenger is labouring under another Arsenal injury crisis. He announced yesterday that Cesc Fabregas will not be available tomorrow and that Kieran Gibbs will miss the next three weeks having picked up a calf injury against Partizan Belgrade on Tuesday. That adds to a daunting list that already includes Manuel Almunia, Thomas Vermaelen, Nicklas Bendtner, Robin van Persie and Aaron Ramsey.
The questions about Arsenal's physical ability to match a team with the power and strength of Chelsea have plagued Wenger's side, especially with their nemesis Didier Drogba playing tomorrow. In the last six years, Chelsea have won nine of their 15 encounters with Arsenal.
Wenger said: "What for you is physical strength? How can you explain Spain won the World Cup and Barcelona beat Chelsea in the Champions League? Football is not only down to physique. It's down to intelligence, technique, mobility. There is not one way. That's what makes it interesting.
"Did Drogba score last week? No, he didn't. He played against Kolo Touré. When Kolo Touré played here you said Kolo Touré could not handle him. Suddenly when he moves to Manchester City he's stronger.
"We can do it. I feel we should not make an obsession of one Chelsea player because they have a few players who can score goals against us. What is important is that we have the ball, that we dominate the game and that we are efficient defensively. Nothing is for ever [Chelsea winning]. So we can stop it."Reuse content