Arsene Wenger yesterday warned the Russian international Andrei Arshavin that Arsenal would not break their wage structure for any player. The player's proposed transfer from Zenit St Petersburg has dragged on all month but Wenger was adamant Arshavin is no closer to signing.
In a robust defence of his club's spending, Wenger, whose side play Everton tonight, said it was untrue that Arsenal were among the biggest payers in the Premier League and accused other clubs of "hiding" the true cost of their wage bill. The Arsenal manager also said he earned his own lucrative contract – around £80,000 a week – because he was "one of the few managers who makes money for my club every year".
Zenit St Petersburg announced on on Monday night that a fee had been agreed with Arsenal, understood to be around £17m, for Arshavin. However, yesterday Wenger denied that had taken place and said that his club would not pay the Russian wages that would conflict with the club's spending policy. Arshavin is understood to be seeking upwards of £90,000 a week.
"The players who come in here are all on a wage structure or they do not come in – it's as simple as that," Wenger said. "Nobody will come in above the highest level we have here. It is not true [that Arsenal are among the highest payers in the league]. Because many clubs hide their wages.
"In our club, every single wage is structured in a very simple way. For example, if a player has 25 per cent of his wages as an image contract [the maximum permitted, according to Wenger] it is not in the wages. If you multiply that by 10 it multiplies that [the overall wage bill] by 25 per cent. I don't know how we stand against other clubs, it's not my problem. We spend what we can spend and we want to pay the players as much as we can. Don't forget we are a big company as well, the wages are the wages of the whole club when we speak about the bill."
Wenger also said it was his consistent profits in the transfer market that had earned him the right to a lucrative contract. "I am on a very good contract but I am one of the few managers who makes money for my club every year," he said. "That is the most important thing. I can tell you something that if I did not make money for the club I would not be on a very good contract."
With Theo Walcott still awaiting the start of negotiations on a new contract – his existing deal runs out in July next year – and Robin van Persie close to a new deal, Wenger said he was not worried that any of his established stars would be tempted to wait to see if Arsenal made the Champions League before committing their futures.
Wenger's side are on an eight-game unbeaten run ahead of playing Everton at Goodison Park tonight. The Arsenal manager said the top of the league was so tight that none of the traditional top four could count on being in the Champions League next season.
"I wouldn't dismiss Everton [for fourth place], they will be as competitive as Aston Villa and I believe we are a close rival to Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United. I think it is much tighter than everyone thinks. It could be between six teams. Are Chelsea and Liverpool guaranteed to be in the Champions League? Why?
"We have been top for most of a season before, in March last year we were top. Because football is football and you cannot say with 16 games to go that the position you are in is guaranteed because they [Villa] are four points ahead. Why? I don't understand that.
"It is very open in the top six and nobody today can say who will be in the final... We only qualified on the last day of the season over Tottenham when they lost to West Ham [in 2006]. Nobody said that in December it was all over. It was the lasagna [which gave Spurs players food poisoning on the last day of the season]."