Arsene Wenger has explained why he opts not too spend recklessly at Arsenal, and why the club now concentrate on scouting in the lower leagues.
Wenger has earned a reputation for frugality in almost 20 years in charge of the Gunners, having only spent more than £20m on three occasions.
Mesut Ozil remains the club’s record signing at £42.5m, while Alexis Sanchez was joined by this summer’s arrival in Granit Xhaka.
Aside from Monchengladbach midfielder Xhaka, who was signed for £33m, Arsenal have signed only Rob Holding (pictured below) and Takuma Asano, leading to criticism in some quarters at their perceived inability to strengthen.
Speaking to The Guardian, Wenger, who admitted that he was “scared” of retirement, discussed his spending habits.
“We had to pay back the debt,” he said, explaining why the club have opted to spend so little in comparison to their man rivals. “We knew we had limited money and we had to be in the Champions League to have a chance to pay off the debt.
“That was the most difficult period for me. For a while it was very bad, but today the club are financially safe.
“I personally believe the only way to be a manager is to spend the club’s money as if it were your own because if you don’t do that you’re susceptible to too many mistakes. You make big decisions and I believe you have to act like it’s your own money, like you’re the owner of the club and you can identify completely with the club. Because if you don’t do that I think you cannot go far.”
Wenger then discussed Arsenal’s approach when it comes to transfers, and revealed that the club are now scouring the lower leagues more than before for talent.
“I’ve fought all my life for footballers to make money but when you pay them before they produce it can kill the hunger,” he said. “I’m scared we now have players under 17, under 18, who make £1m a year. When Ian Wright was earning that, he’d scored goals, he’d put his body on the line. Now, before they start, they are millionaires – a young player who has not even played.
“What I think will happen is that you will have more and more players coming out of the lower leagues who have had to fight their way through.
“Compare that with a player who has been educated here, who has had Champions League for 17 years, who has not known anything else. It’s not a dream [for that player], it’s normal for him. But if you play for a team in the lower leagues and watch Real Madrid or Barcelona on Wednesday nights you think: ‘I’d love to play in games like that.’
“I’ve said to our scouts to do the lower leagues because the good players are there now. Don’t forget we have many foreign players in the Premier League, but good English players have to go down to develop.”