Opinion: Arsenal's lack of January funds is a mess that's been building for years
Photo: Getty Images - Thananuwat Srirasant

Opinion: Arsenal's lack of January funds is a mess that's been building for years

Arsenal will not be spending in the January transfer window. 

Matt Dawson

Be patient with this Arsenal team has been the cry this season. The circus of defensive woes that Arsene Wenger left behind was never going to sort itself out overnight. 

But neither it seems, has Arsenal's complicated financial situation. 

There have also been calls to wait for Unai Emery to make his move in the transfer window. It took Jurgen Klopp a few years to really make an impact on a mess in Merseyside. Now Liverpool are reaping the rewards both from the German's tactical nous and investment in new players. 

Emery also needs new players to turn Arsenal around. But what if he were given no money? 

It would be an almost impossible task for him to improve the club in a short period. But that is the reality facing the Spaniard. “We can’t sign with payment for one player. We can only loan players," Emery said before the Gunners match with West Ham this weekend. 

Now, this isn't a Burnley or a Cardiff we're talking about. Arsenal aren't a small club dealing with financial restrictions. They're a big club, a team boasting one of the proudest histories in the English game. 

Arsenal have a multi-billionaire in charge, Stan Kroenke. They're a club valued at £2.2 billion and a business that raked in a revenue of £198m. So for Emery to reveal today that the club can only sign players on loan is farcical. 

But complaints about a lack of investment isn't a new problem. It has been an issue for all too long.

Paying the price

The burden can't solely be put on Kroenke, however. Because due to Arsenal's actions in the transfer window in January 2018 they are paying the price. Keeping Mesut Ozil at the club was a sign of Arsenal's ambition. But giving him £350,000 a week was absurd.

To match, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was given £200,000 a week - a wage he hasn't even remotely come close to proving he deserves. 

Because of that, Arsenal are now right on the cusp of financial fair play restrictions when it comes to wages. A determining factor in having to pull the plug on a deal to renew Aaron Ramsey's contract. 

The Welshman now appears Juventus bound and the North London club are losing one of their longest serving and most loyal players. 

But that doesn't matter to Kroenke, does it? In fact, very little about Arsenal matters to the American businessman. 

He's failed to put sensible investment into the club and a large majority of signings have come with ridiculous fees; no less so than the likes of Shkodran Mustafi and Granit Xhaka

At the same time, Arsenal have undervalued players they've let go and have been particularly bad when it's come to selling. Wojciech Szczesny, now Juventus' number one was let go too easily whilst Serge Gnabry, who is at Bayern Munich, finds himself valued comfortably around the £40m mark after departing north London for very little. 

The Gunners have made moves to ensure these types of things don't happen again. They brought in Raul Sanllehi who is acting as Director of Football after arriving with a renowned history in dealing with player transfers from Barcelona.

But without investment, Sanllehi and the likes of Sven Mislintat, Head of Recruitment, aren't going to be able to dip their toes sufficiently into the water when it comes to transfers.  

Their recruitment in the summer was shrewd and efficient with what they had to work with. Emery has a history of working on a shoestring budget to good effect with Valencia and Sevilla but Arsenal you sense needs thorough investment before it's too late. 

Without, they will merely fall even further behind their rivals. And if there were signs of a revival when the club went on a 22 unbeaten streak earlier in the season, it's now been undone. 

Making do with what they've got

Emery's comments in his press conference on Thursday afternoon will come as huge frustration to Arsenal supporters. 

This season has been one where issues at board level have been pushed to one side with the focus being on Arsenal's improving fortunes. 

It's probably no surprise that with the transfer window in full swing and with the Gunners off the pace in the race for the top four after a poor end to 2018, that cracks are starting to appear once more. 

Arsenal needed a defender this month but that is now unlikely to happen. Finding a capable first team player on loan is difficult, but to find one that could improve the Gunners leaky defence would be a task for any scout, let alone Mislintat. 

It looks like the Gunners will have funds available in the summer and by shifting dead wood and Ramsey from the wage bill there should be room for manoeuvre come June. 

But there is still half a season to play before that and the club's issues on the pitch are all too clear. 

Kroenke's lack of investment will be at the centre of the blame and so it should be. He's barely dipped his hands into his pockets since becoming majority shareholder but a poor wage structure, overpaying for signings and letting players leave for fees under their value has also played a role. 

Arsenal aren't a club in financial trouble, not by any stretch of the imagination. But to hear that not a single penny is available in January is bewildering and just about caps off a mess that has been mounting for years.