LONDON: Arsenal fans have heard it all before. Chief executive Ivan Gazidis has promised an “escalation” in transfer spending this summer in pursuit of a first trophy since 2005 and before the apparently jinxed move out of Highbury.
The Gunners have been linked with Fiorentina’s Stefan Jovetic, Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain, Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney, Borussia Dortmund’s Ilkay Gundogan and Bayer Leverkusen’s Lars Bender.
They face competition from Chelsea for Jovetic and from several Italian clubs for Higuain while Rooney’s wage expectations might prove beyond them even before serious negotiations might begin.
Gazidis has insisted that Arsenal could afford to spend up to £20m on a single player and offer salaries of £200,000 per week. The concern for Arsenal fans is that manager Arsene Wenger has a strategy dependent more on player development than star maintenance.
His conservative instincts will only have been reinforced by the release this week of out-of-contract Andrei Arshavin. The Russian cost £15m in January 2009 but – one early four-goal extravaganza against Liverpool apart – never justified the expenditure.
Gazidis conceded Wenger’s decisive influence over signings when he added: “It is going to be the players that Arsene believes in. He is pretty blind to price tags, he looks at what he sees with his eyes and makes judgements based on that, not on reputations and prices.”
Arsenal’s healthy financial position is not in question.
Only Manchester United and Chelsea generated more revenue than Arsenal during the 2011-12 Premier League season, according to the Deloitte Annual Review of Football Finance 2013.
Arsenal signed a £150m shirt sponsorship deal with Emirates airline in November and accrued £75m from the sales of Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie.
Gazidis said: “We have a certain amount of money in reserve as well as new revenue streams which means we can do some things which would excite you. But what excites Arsene isn’t necessarily what excites you.
“This year we are beginning to see something we have been planning for some time: the escalation in our financial firepower . . . it is a progression over the next two seasons and is significant for the club.”
Wenger, 63, is starting the final season of his current contract but Arsenal expect him to sign a new deal.
Gazidis said: “We have got a fantastic manager. We hope that he wants to do what he is doing for the long term. I believe he does. Quietly and at the right time I think we will make an announcement on a new deal when things are put in place.”
This past season Arsenal snatched a top-four finish to secure Champions League football for a 17th successive season. However they went out of the League Cup to fourth division Bradford and out of the FA Cup at home to second division Blackburn.
Other ‘name’ Premier players out of contract, along with Arshavin, included club-mates Denilson and Sebastien Squillaci along with Yossi Benayoun, Paulo Ferreira and Florent Malouda (Chelsea), Thomas Hitzlsperger and retiring Phil Neville (Everton), Mladen Petric and Mark Schwarzer (Fulham), Wayne Bridge, Roque Santa Cruz and Kolo Toure (Manchester City), David Bentley and William Gallas (Tottenham) and Zoltan Gera (West Bromwich).