You can see it on their faces and hear it in their voices – oh how desparate Liverpool supporters are to join the Top 3 and be considered among the elite.
But it won’t happen for a variety of reasons – reasons which can be best understood if we examine the difference between Arsenal and Liverpool.
Arsenal in 2008 is built around a successful manager with a long term plan. Liverpool, quite simply, has no plan and lurches from crisis to crisis.
Arsenal’s three pronged drive to success is built on having the best training facilities in the world, having the stadium that brings in the most money in the world, and spending more money on world-wide scouting than the rest of the EPL put together.
Liverpool has none of these – while youngsters across the world will have heard of the Liverpool name they will also heard of a club in turmoil, and of the antics of their supporters over the years. They will know that if they join the club as a teenager there is every chance that a top player from elsewhere will be bought in for £20 million and will go ahead of them.
At Arsenal, young players are queuing up to join – because of the long history of young players coming through and getting experience. Everyone knows that when Arsenal beat Liverpool 6-3 at Anfield, Arsenal had a team made up mostly of teenagers and reserves, while Liverpool had much of their first team on display.
As a result of the 3 pronged plan, and its huge success, Wenger has the total confidence of the board at Arsenal. What he wants, he can have. Oh how Liverpool supporters yearn for such a situation – although with their manager’s record in the transfer market you never quite know who he might buy next.
Meanwhile Liverpool’s ownership is a total mess. The Americans who took over promised to invest money in the club and not “do a Manchester U” by piling all the debt from the purchase back into the club. In fact this is exactly what they have done. (“We have purchased the club with no debt on the club,” said Gillet to the BBC on 6 Feb 2007.) Anyone who lies and lies and lies like this clearly isn’t suddenly going to start telling the truth – and that is a major problem for the club. You can’t believe anything anyone says.
As a result Liverpool fans now look to Dubai to rescue them. Dubai is one of the Emirates states, and perhaps the fans think that given that Emirates Airlines has caused no problem for Arsenal, they will be better off there. But this is not the case – the part of Dubai that wants to buy the club is the investment bit – and that means they want a return on their money. They want profit – not success. And that leaves Liverpool in an even greater mess than now. Worse, Liverpool were already hugely in debt when the Americans bought the club, and that debt, plus the new American purchase money, all has to be paid for. There is no money, and is not likely to be any.
Arsenal meanwhile are rolling in money. They were the only club to make a profit in the 2007 transfer window – while clubs like Liverpool had net expenditures of £40 milion or more, Arsenal actually received more than they paid out. Arsenal are only now slowly getting back some of the money they spent on property – and the hugely profitable apartments at the Highbury ground will bring in another massive amount. While the Liverpool manager is finding it hard to get money to buy players, the Arsenal board are constantly upping the level of funds Arsene Wenger has. £70 million in the bank available for transfers was the last statement from the board.
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The problem for Liverpool is that Arsenal’s financial model, managerial style and approach to football based on world-wide scouting takes 10 years to build – and Liverpool don’t have 10 years. They are in fact doomed to scamper around the second division of the EPL, hoping each year that they can somehow clamber into 4th spot and so get the money to pay off the interest on their debts.
This year 4th and into the Champions League. Next year, the UEFA cup.