By Tony Attwood
I was struck this morning by an article in the Independent under the headline “Alexis Sanchez transfer latest: Arsenal and Liverpool to step up battle for Barcelona striker”. It includes this statement:
“Arsene Wenger, who has been scouting players while watching the World Cup in Brazil, is desperate to add to the Gunners’ strike force and reports suggest he has made Sanchez his top target. It’s claimed Arsenal will make a £32m bid for the 25-year-old.”
The put down of Mr Wenger is clear – he is “desperate”. Maybe he is, although as always with these pieces there was no evidence or background to support the matter, simply the statement.
What makes this particularly interesting is that in the same paper there is a story about Liverpool, in which it says that within that club, “There is a budget of over £60 million which will be supplemented by whatever is brought in through sales,” (the sales bit being a reference to Suarez).
Again there is no evidence – just the statement.
But what is particularly missing from this very bullish assessment of Liverpool, in total contrast to the desperation apparently being felt at Arsenal, is not just the lack of evidence but also the lack of key factors in the story.
One in particular is the fact that Premier League clubs playing in Europe need to meet Uefa’s FFP. The other is that Arsenal are developing a different model of attacking which uses a very powerful midfield (Ramsey and Ozil) with a scoring winger (Walcott) rather than the approach of having most things running through one player – an approach that makes the club vulnerable to that player’s long term injuries or suspensions.
I’ve talked about the Walcott – Ozil – Ramsey axis before, just as I have written about the fact that I am unsure how a free-spending Liverpool will be able to meet FFP in the coming years if their spending carries on like now – and indeed of their ability to raise the money needed for their stadium project at the same time.
Let me leave the Ramsey – Ozil – Walcott issue aside here (although it does touch strongly on whether Mr Wenger is desperate or not to sign a striker) and move back to FFP.
What really fascinates me is that the Independent article doesn’t mention this at all. It doesn’t even say, “Liverpool feel completely secure about spending in relation to FFP because….” No, it just ignores FFP.
Now this is quite an interesting combination of factors. No evidence to support the assertion of Arsenal’s desperation, and no mention at all of FFP – not even to say that Liverpool are perfectly in the clear on FFP (as Arsenal are).
Of course this could be due to sloppy journalism or poor editing, but put together this begins to look like a newspaper policy to be pro one club and against another. I wonder why.
Liverpool had losses of £49.8m for the financial year ending May 2013, and another set of losses of further £40.5m over the previous 10 months (they changed their financial year around this time, for reasons that I can’t find).
Now as far as I can see Liverpool are going to try and argue with Uefa that a loan made by Fenway Sports Group, who own Liverpool, of £38m which was paid to get rid of debts rolled up by the former proprietors Tom Hicks and George Gillett, doesn’t count in FFP terms, because the money was used to develop a new stadium.
That, like the Man C arguments, a bit tricky. Stadium costs are indeed excluded, but the Hicks and Gillett stadium was never even started – the money was used in all sorts of strange ways, but there was no stadium. It looks that with that one, Liverpool have looked at Man City’s FFP explanations and seen them as a blue print rather than a dire warning of how not to do it.
So, later this year, Uefa will look at Liverpool’s money situation over 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, plus they will estimate of the position over the two years to come. And if Liverpool are spending big – like £60m on new players in addition to anything they get if they try to offload Suarez – that will be taken into account.
Liverpool have already signed Adam Lallana from Southampton for around £23m and are said to be wanting Dejan Lovren for £15 million – or maybe have already got him – it is easy to lose track.