Arsène Wenger’s fiscally astute principles are being sorely tested by Manchester City’s rumoured interest in the club’s Chilean star. With a well-publicised degree in Economics, Arsène Wenger knows the value of cashing in on a player in the last year of their contract, but the atmosphere amongst the club’s supporters is throwing financial logic out the window.
With Arsenal’s recent history of selling star players to domestic rivals being made palatable solely by the club’s alleged financial restraints, even the most loyal fans would start to question the boss’s transfer policies if Sánchez was to move north. Having splashed the cash on Özil, Sánchez and now Lacazette, Arsenal’s bruised and battered fanbase are starting to believe the club’s financial conservatism to be a thing of the past.
The Sánchez situation is now a true litmus test of Wenger’s connectedness to the fans. The star forward’s understated saga quietly holds all the acrimonious weight of the transfers from recent years which still sting the Arsenal faithful. Was Van Persie allowed to win the Premier League for United because the financial situation tied Wenger’s hands or will the boss still make the same decision and strengthen immediate rivals now the cash is flowing more freely?
The answer to that question may well determine Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal legacy. If Sánchez does leave for a different Premier League club, Arsène’s most loyal supporters may look back on the decisions of previous years in a different light. Where before they were placated with talks of stadium moves and the greater financial good, now they will be less forgiving.
The Sánchez situation is no longer about money or compromise, it doesn’t matter what the player or the management think – this transfer is about the fans. Arsenal fans who have stuck by their respected and undoubtedly brilliant manager for two-decades may have their loyalty tested more strenuously than ever if their beloved Chilean sits in the away dressing room at the Emirates next year.
A domestic move for Sánchez will also give a certain vindication to Wenger’s biggest detractors in their claims that he lacks ambition by settling for fourth, and now fifth, year on year. Choosing to strengthen one of your biggest rivals for a nice pay-cheque is surely the smoking gun of lack of ambition when you’re already sitting pretty on a stack of cash.
This transfer is about passion, not pounds, respect rather than riches. To the football fan, being able to hold their head high on a Monday morning at work is more important than an extra £50m in the club’s piggy bank. When money isn’t life or death to the club, sound financial decisions take a back seat to gaining the respect of your fanbase and giving them something to be proud of.
By the end of this transfer window we’ll know a lot more about Arsène Wenger’s affinity with the fans not just now but also during all of the acrimonious transfers of the past decade.