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Speaking at the recent Arsenal Supporters Trust meeting, Arsenal Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis confirmed that the club are in the process of reshaping their salary structure in order to better accommodate “top talent”.
This summer it would seem that Arsenal are in the the search of a few world-class players, rather than our recent habit of padding out the squad with players who are paid a lot of money to sit on the bench/ in the reserves (e.g Park Chu Young & Maroune Chamakh).
However, superstar players come with a superstar wages – the most obvious example being only a few miles away at Chelsea, who have just signed Eden Hazard on a deal worth £170,000 per week.
Arsenal had apparently been following Hazard for several months (along with several other Premier League clubs), but Chelsea swooped in at the last minute, no doubt aided by their recent European successes. In my opinion, bringing Hazard to Arsenal was always extremely optimistic; Arsène Wenger would never have agreed to the £32 million price-tag, let alone such ridiculous wages. A similar situation arose last year. Arsenal were odds-on to complete the signing of Juan Mata, only for Chelsea to come along with a lot more money.
The figures being bandied around suggest that Arsenal’s top earner (Robin van Persie) currently earns a basic wage of £70,000 per week. With Robin now in the last year of his contract (and so far unable to agree terms for a new deal with Arsenal), Manchester City are apparently willing to more than tripple his wages to £250,000 per week. If Robin move to Manchester, he will no doubt say that it is for “footballing reasons”; having just won the Premier League, Manchester City seem to be well equipped in the search for silverware. I am sure that the fact that he would be earning an extra £9 million is only a minor detail.
In contrast to world-class players like Van Presie, fringe squad members at Arsenal, such as the aforementioned Chamakh and Park (not to mention Manuel Almunia, Sebastian Squillaci and Abou Diaby – who made a combined total of 10 appearances last season), apparently earn somewhere in the region of £50,000-£60,000 per week. Another thing to mention is that players who graduate from the Arsenal academy seem to earn significantly more than their counterparts at other Premier League clubs.
At the AST meeting, Gazidis branded our current wage structure as inefficient, but seemed to be pretty sure that with a few tweaks the club can challenge for the League title next season:
“We have inefficiency of spending in our squad – but we are moving towards as efficient a model as possible.
“Our wage structure has been based around a flatter salary structure – that is part of a team ethos the manager develops, it’s about interaction between players – not superstars.
“But we have looked at this carefully and we have to make adjustments for top talent. They are earning a lot of money and I don’t think that will slow down. We have to adjust our model.
“That is what this summer is about and that is what we are focused on for next year.
“We have a good team, we have a good young core of players and we need everybody involved to have belief so that we can push forward into next year and make a run at the Premier League trophy and for the Champions League.”
The current wage structure is apparently based on one Arsène Wenger’s oldest philosophies. The rationale behind Wengers system is that if all players are earning similar wages regardless of squad status then this creates equality within the team. No player is seen to be more important than the others. However, I would argue that this system is ridiculous. If somebody does their job better than somebody else then they will earn more money. It is hard to argue that the players who are in our starting XI shouldn’t earn much more than those who are on the bench or have just graduated from the academy. That is just how the job market works…
Obviously £170,000 per week for Hazard and £220,000 per week for Yaya Toure is just stupid money. I wouldn’t want Arsenal to offer any player that much, regardless of how good they are. Throwing money around is not the Arsenal way and we would lose part of what makes our club so special. Arsenal are one of the only Premier League clubs to be running a more sustainable business model and not making a loss, which will obviously see the club better off in the long-term. The suggestion is that by losing some of the less-used players and renegotiating certain contracts, Arsenal could cut as much as £23 million from their wage bill despite offering some players (and new superstar signings) higher salaries.
The introduction of the Financial Fair Play rules should make a big difference and will give Arsenal back some of their pulling power. However, gone are the days when players would sign for us just because we are Arsenal. Arsenal look set to offer van Persie a contract of around £120,000 per week, which is significantly higher than any player has ever earned at the club. Whether will choose to go elsewhere in the search for silverware or simply because he can earn double the offered salary else remains to be seen. Until recently I hadRvP down as a Gooner through and through, but as contract negotiations continue I am increasingly considering revising my conclusion.