By Donnacha Curtin
This morning I was rooting around in my room when I found a Shoot Christmas annual from about Six years ago. Two pages on the book where dedicated to Young Players in a section called “The Ones To Watch” Needless to say the annual was spot on with most of their predictions, with 7 out of 12 players now plying their trade in the Premier League. Most Notably, Gary Cahill, Micah Richards and Daniel Sturridge. But for every Richards there is a Nathan Ashton, a former England Under 20, now playing in the Conference.
Browsing through the little bit of Arsenal related news, I found an article from Blazing Cannons focused on the Youth Project. I was thinking to myself why such an ambitious project never took off, and then I had a look at the Summer Transfers of 2012 and found the answer was obvious for all to see. Billionaire Clubs!
The New Financial Fair Play rules will (they say) punish any team in a European Competition who spends more then they earn in a year. This could include suspension from UEFA Competitions until their finances are put back in order. So looking at the Major Summer dealings I found it astounding that some clubs across Europe were spending Millions of their Sugar Daddies Cash with no regard for this new rule.
And I’m not talking about the Man Cities and even the PSG’s of this world. Because even if they record losses which they both do, they have got loyal sizable fans who sell out every game. I’m talking about the likes of the Eastern Europeans who pay massive wages along with huge fees for top players. Anzhi Makhachkala and Zenit St Petersburg are the epitome of this craze.
Anzhi Makhachkala is a club that is just over 20 years old. Following a takeover in January 2011 by a Billionaire they have gone about buying talented players and paying them massive wages. Samuel Eto’o the clubs captain decided to join them. As a player who has received racist abuse throughout his career, many would question his reasoning to go to a club like Anzhi. But take into account the fact that he is now in his Thirties and yet is the highest paid player in the world, earning €20 million after tax, you kind of get the idea. Not to mention adding the likes of Chris Samba, Yuri Zhirkov and most recently Lassana Diarra to their ranks, for a team who’s Stadium only hosts 15’000 spectators, or in other words an average Championship crowd, questions have to be seriously answered.
Onto Zenit, who spent €80 million on two players in the close of their transfer window! Spending €40 million each for Brazilian, Hulk, and Benifica’s Alex Witsel. This is a joke! For a team that has a home capacity of 20000(Albeit Soon to move to a larger capacity ground) how exactly do they make ends meet? If UEFA want to keep any of their faltering creditability then this nonsense has to be stopped now! It’s no wonder Arsenal’s youth project couldn’t materialize!
Ah yes the much fabled Project Youth undertaken by Arsene Wenger. It had to be done. After spending £390 million on a state of the art new stadium, it was obvious that Arsenal would have to cut back on their transfers and wage bill to a degree. Had it not been for the likes of the Cash Flashers Manchester City and Chelsea then I believe we would have won a few trophies and ended our much publicized “Trophy Drought” It’s not even the fact that the likes of these clubs were competing for the league with us, no it was the astronomical fees and wages they were paying. Ashley Cole left Arsenal for the sake of £5k extra a week! Mathieu Flamini too left for Milan because Arsenal wouldn’t pay him £50 k a week! The same can be said for the likes of Nasri, Adebayor etc , But as Project Youth matured, the gap between us and them became wider, both Financially and in Quality it has to be said. Nobody expected what happened to City, nor Chelsea for that matter a couple years before. The much labelled clichéd phrase Where would they be now if…. is a regular topic among the intelligent supporter.
For me it is no surprise we were one of the last clubs to fall victim to foreign investment. Now you could say that thanks to the mega rich oil merchants, the Premier League is now recognised as the world’s best league, and certainly most viewed, but there is a great sense that some of the soul, passion and without question loyalty has been eradicated. As a club who strife’s for Financial Stability, it is no surprise that while undergoing the necessary measures of Project Youth following the move, that many of our top players have been cherry picked by Rival Clubs such as:
Ashley Cole to Chelsea
Robin Van Persie to Manchester United
Gael Clichy. Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor and Samir Nasri to Man City
William Gallas to Tottenham
And it isn’t just our clubs, the lack of loyalty and desire for mega bucks has led to rivals nicking each other’s players such as:
Fernando Torres from Liverpool to Chelsea
Carlos Tevez from Man United to Man City (Although owned by third party)
The subject of loyalty is one I will end there as it is a story for another day. But I believe Project Youth was a success regardless of what the cynics say. We qualified for the Champions League in every season, whilst always making a profit and eating away at our debt. The property collapse has been a bit of a snag towards the Highbury flats scheme but nevertheless Arsenal always provided entertainment. Not that it was all their doing. The Arsenal supporters are owed a massive Thank You from the Board who endured Price Hike after Price Hike in the ticket department and still filled out next to every Home Game they played. While the Sky TV’s of this world may laugh at us for our Economic Policies and Loss of key personnel, without clubs like Arsenal in the football world, more and more clubs would be ceasing trade by the day. Optimism was a hard thing to come by for many Gooners in recent times but one sure thing is when all the so called Sugar Daddy clubs implode and get ran dry by Mercenary footballers Arsenal will be there to cease the moment and show others how very wrong they were!
In Arsene We Trust!
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