Wenger: City wealth ruins team-building


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The Independent Football

It is a measure of the change Manchester City have affected on the footballing landscape that a man so established in the English game as Arsène Wenger has had to adapt his philosophy.

The Arsenal manager, whose side face the Premier League leaders tomorrow, admitted last month in an interview with French newspaper L'Equipe that he had to modify his approach of developing a squad of young players together with the aim that this group would represent the club for a decade because it was no longer feasible.

Although there have been several billionaire owners who have distorted the picture, City's backer Sheikh Mansour has armed manager Roberto Mancini with a £460m paintbrush to redecorate the Premier League and the Gunners have felt the consequences.

Samir Nasri and Gaël Clichy moved to the Etihad Stadium this summer to follow a path trodden by Kolo Touré and Emmanuel Adebayor in the previous year. It was Nasri's departure, though, that left Wenger smarting the most. Cesc Fabregas' desire to return to Barcelona was driven by emotion but the French midfielder was motivated by money and consequently Arsenal were deprived of his peak years. Yet, such is City's depth of resources, Nasri may not start when Arsenal travel to the north-west to face City tomorrow afternoon.

"The financial difference between us and teams like Man City has become too big to hope to keep the players for eight, nine, 10 years," said Wenger. "Ok, we lost Thierry Henry, we lost Patrick Vieira. We lost players before but they had played for eight or nine years at the club.

"It's the first time now that we lose players at an age where they start to produce, like Fabregas and Nasri, who were both born in 1987 and are 24 years old. That's where you start to become a football player.

"It was a big blow to me and to the club. You need to be brave as well to put a player in at 18 years of age, and you need to make room for them, which means you not only need to stand up for the players you put in, but you have to kick somebody out."

Wenger's philosophical shift extended to making his first loan signing for six years when securing Yossi Benayoun for a season from Chelsea but he remains insistent another is not imminent despite Henry training with the club during the Major League Soccer close season.

The striker will return to the New York Red Bulls in February yet could be available while Marouane Chamakh and Gervinho are engaged at the African Cup of Nations next month. However, Wenger said: "I haven't even made any approach, to him nor his club." Wenger also ruled out a move for Germany and Cologne forward Lukas Podolski.