Time for Arsenal to restructure or fade away

The last eight years have been a tremendous struggle for Arsenal and their fans. While they are still among the top four clubs in England, they are no longer a force at the latter stages of competitions. The last trophy was won in 2005 while a challenge for the Premier League title is beyond Arsenal these days. There was the embarrassment of losing to Birmingham City in the League Cup and the trauma of a Champions League final defeat to Barcelona. And every season the club’s best players depart for pastures new, to be replaced by inferior talent. How long can this continue? The answer is not particularly long. Arsenal must adjust their policies or witness the likes of Tottenham, Liverpool, and Everton surpass them in the Premier League. Tickets for Arsenal fans do not sell as well as they used to, because of the team’s decline.

Financial prudence is essential at Arsenal, given the debts incurred during the building of the Emirates stadium. However, there is more to their decline than that. The wage structure Arsene Wenger and Stan Kroenke have approved is a paramount reason for the club’s decline. A look at the club’s wage structure from 2012 proves this point:

In 2012, Arsenal’s highest wage earner was Robin van Persie. He earned 90,000 pounds a week. This is a modest sum, considering van Persie was among the best players in the world at the time. The likes of Rooney, Messi, and Ronaldo are on twice that amount.

The reason van Persie’s wages were so low was not because Arsenal do not have the money, it was because they believe in a “socialist” wage structure. This means that a large part of the squad earns a similar amount, instead of having a greater disparity in wages (the model that almost every other top team employs).

With this socialist wage structure, reserves and substitutes earn wages that are comparable to the team’s most valuable players. Manuel Almunia, reserve goalkeeper, was on 60,000 pounds a week. Sebastien Squillaci, reserve centre back, earned the same amount. Nicklas Bendtner, Marouane Chamakh, Andre Santos, Carlos Vela, Denilson, Johan Djourou and Lukasz Fabianski are all either reserves or impact substitutes. However, all of these players earn 50,000 pounds a week or more. These are absurd figures for players who contributed little to Arsenal’s 2011/2012 campaign.

Arsenal need to follow the model of wages set at clubs such as Manchester United. At United, players who enter the first team earn wages at around 20,000 pounds a week or 30,000 pounds a week. These are their wages until they make a significant contribution or have a breakout season. As soon as a player has a top season, their wages are either doubled or tripled without hesitation. This gives players the incentive to up their performance and gain a greater role within the team.

If players know that they will get top wages no matter how they perform, what is the incentive for them to improve? They reach a level of comfort that leads to poor performances and insignificant contributions.

Had Arsenal followed a more prudent wage model, they would have saved close to 200,000 pounds in wages for the 2011/2012 campaign. This amount could have been spread among their top players in the following season. The likes of Robin van Persie, Vermaelen, Walcott, and Alex Song could have gotten tremendous wage rises without disrupting the overall wage bill.

If Arsene Wenger wants his team to be among the best in England again, he needs to realise the folly in his current wage structure. Then he may start to see more fans at the Emirates as opposed to the low sales of 2013 sports tickets at the Emirates Stadium.

Subscribe for notification