Football’s biggest ever crisis Part 2: the big are just getting bigger




According to the Independent “The total revenue for the top 20 revenue generating clubs in 2021/22 stood at €9.2 billion, an increase of 13% compared to the €8.2 billion reported by the Money League clubs of 2020/21.”

In addition to those numbers, “cumulative commercial revenue rose by 8% (from €3.5 billion to €3.8 billion)…. Five of the Premier League’s ‘big six’ reported increases of 15% or more in Euro terms (a total increase of €226m) as new partnerships were entered and non-matchday events such as concerts and stadium tours returned.”

Which explains why the Kroenke family was willing to fund Arteta’s spending year by year.  Because Arsenal already has the name and the heritage which demands that it is part of the elite group.  It just needs to get back to regular trophy-winning and top-four placements in the Premier League to ensure that the returns that come from TV revenues and sponsorships are maintained.

In fact what was needed was a replica early-Wenger – who, if you recall between 1997/8 and 2004/5 took the team to top of the league three times, and second in all the other seasons, as well as winning the FA Cup in four years out of eight.   Indeed in 2003/4 Thierry Henry, you may also recall, scored 39 goals.

So Arsenal need that sort of scenario again and have recently been willing to spend to do it.  These net spend figures come from Yahoo and cover 2018/19 to 2022/3

  • 1) Chelsea: £-654.21m
  • 2) Manchester United: £-540.23m
  • 3) Arsenal: £-485.64m
  • 4) West Ham: £-356.5m
  • 5) Newcastle: £-351.89m
  • 6) Tottenham: £-332.48m

But these figures also show us something about the dangers of a push to get into the top tier.  If it doesn’t work, then the losses can be quite spectacular (West Ham only being kept afloat this past year by having been given their stadium for free).

And this is why Arteta demonstrated his credentials in taking Arsenal out of the position of the most yellow-carded club in the league, down to a much lower position, by studying the behaviour of the referees and working to counteract it.  He showed his bosses that he had a plan that worked – and they back him thereafter.

But the current system just exacerbates the existing imbalance.  Clubs that get into the Champions League each year receive much more than everyone else.  So the drive to get there becomes ever more insane, as witness Tottenham’s endless changes of manager while as we noted recently, they have only just started paying for their new stadium.  If they don’t get top four they will be in financial difficulty.


Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Arsenal 28 22 3 3 66 26 40 69
2 Manchester City 27 19 4 4 67 25 42 61
3 Manchester United 26 15 5 6 41 35 6 50
4 Tottenham Hotspur 28 15 4 9 52 40 12 49
5 Newcastle United 26 12 11 3 39 19 20 47


As things stand Newcastle have a better goal difference than Tottenham and have two games in hand being just two points behind.   Of course there are still ten games to go for Tottenham, but a slip down to the Europa League next season could really put a dent in their finances.

That would then mean that whoever their next manager is in the eternal roundabout, he would have less money to spend, just at a time when new players are needed.

What Arsenal’s sojourn into the positions below the top four also showed was that it can take a near-total team rebuild to get back up to the four elite positions.  You will have noted of course that Arsenal have been out of the top four for six seasons.   Arsenal’s owners stumped up the money to back their managers – and now we can see that Arsenal have a first-team squad.  Tottenham still paying for the stadium, would struggle if they were on the outside for so long.

Meanwhile, Arsenal had a 22-man squad up to January and then added Jorginho, Leandro Trossard and Jakub Kiwior. Bukayo Saka and William Saliba both count as Under-21 players this season – but won’t do next.   This means two from the present list will need to drop out while other players will move into the squad while still being underage.  That is the minimum of this summer’s transfer activity.

And we can see where Arsenal are heading as Manchester City have already gone even further and have sixty under 21 players registered, with only 20 players listed in the 25-man squad.  This means that this summer they will be able to sign any stars they want and move up any under 21s who will now be of age – and then do it all again.

That’s the new approach:  leave spaces open in the 25-man squad so the youngsters can move up (as Saka and Saliba will next season).  Plus money is saved (Martinelli costing Arsenal only £6m so it is a good way of working).

This is the bit that clubs lower down the league don’t get right – in their desire to get to the top four they don’t take the time to let their young players mature, but instead go out and buy.   Such talent as they have at under 21 then see no future for themselves and are tempted away.  Arsenal on the other hand seem to be able to take their time bringing the players needed, in from their own youth set-up as much as buying them in.

Meanwhile in France Balogun leads the Ligue 1 goalscoring charts with 14 goals in 20 appearances.  Presumably, Arsenal will invite him back to help lead the line next season.

The series continues…

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