Wenger fears for Arsenal without financial muscle

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The Independent Online

The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, fears his club will struggle to lift silverware if the Premiership's new breed of foreign investors follow Roman Abramovich's example of ploughing huge fortunes into the game. Abramovich's millions have enabled Chelsea to win back-to-back Premiership titles as they have consistently outbid their rivals in the transfer market.

So far, the Glazer family, the Americans who own Manchester United, have been reluctant to follow suit and it remains to be seen how much the Icelandic consortium which has taken control of West Ham - and yesterday fired their manager, Alan Pardew - will spend next month. The same applies to Aston Villa, now that US tycoon Randy Lerner has succeeded Doug Ellis, but the takeover that has put Wenger on alert concerns Liverpool, where a Dubai-based consortium is in talks over a £450m deal.

The Gunners moved from their Highbury home this season to a new, bigger stadium nearby to increase revenue, but Wenger admitted that if other clubs started to outspend them heavily, they would have to gamble on finding a similar backer or face oblivion.

He said: "What is dangerous for us is when the financial potential of a club goes above the natural resources by far. We would be in trouble because we don't have that. At the moment we have income from the gates, television and sponsorship. But if it is that, plus private gift, then we cannot compete."

Arsenal travel to Wigan tonight to take on a club that was propelled to the Premiership via the wealth of owner Dave Whelan. But Wenger likened Whelan to former Blackburn owner Jack Walker, who had been a fan first and millionaire second. He said: "Traditionally the owners were supporters like at Blackburn and [tonight] we play against a club where the guy is the same.

"He was a supporter, became wealthy and fulfilled his dream. It was reassuring for the fans because it looked like the heart of the owner was like their heart."

The Gunners welcome back Kolo Touré from suspension but will still be without Thierry Henry, William Gallas and Tomas Rosicky.

Henry's neck injury has cleared up but it is now the striker's hamstring that is causing the most distress and will rule him out until January. Asked if Henry would be out until the new year, Wenger said: "Realistically, certainly yes. I wouldn't set a precise timescale as it's difficult to predict but over Christmas certainly we will miss him.

"Thierry has started his rehabilitation. He's still not completely free with his hamstring. The neck problem is sorted out. It was a sciatic nerve problem but the hamstring is the most troubling."

Wenger added that his central defender William Gallas will be "out for one week, maximum two".

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