Arsenal spend nothing while Chelsea return to the only way they know
Roman Abramovich has abandoned his plans for making Chelsea a self-sustaining club by spending �76m
IT IS not the first time Arsenal fans have sat and watched as the millions were spent and their title rivals added big-name players on transfer deadline day.
Of the �210m spent in the past month, precisely zero pence was contributed by Arsenal, despite Arsene Wenger claiming at the start of January that the Gunners would sign a centre-back.
No such player arrived, however, and instead it was left to Chelsea, with their �76m outlay on Fernando Torres and the Benfica centre-back David Luiz to leave the nation gawping.
Liverpool were not far behind, but they have simply spent the �50m they received for Torres on Andy Carroll and the Argentina striker Luis Suarez.
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Once again, the seemingly limitless spending capacity of the Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, has distorted the transfer market.
Since the autumn, Abramovich has watched his reigning champions slide off the top of the table and almost out of the top four altogether, and decided he had seen enough.
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The Russian oligarch has spent the last year attempting to balance Chelsea’s grossly distorted finances, and was believed to be on track to do so until his spending urge once again got the better of him.
Abramovich has made a huge investment in Chelsea’s youth academy at their Cobham training base, with a view to emulating the likes of Arsenal in producing home-grown talent, be it with English-born or foreign youngsters.
That policy has rather spectacularly failed to bear fruit, and the decision to offload proven but overpaid stars such as Joe Cole, Michael Ballack, Deco and Ricardo Carvalho last summer is now being questioned.
Chelsea have not sufficient depth this season, and so Abramovich has countered it the only way he knows how, by getting his wallet out and spending more than anyone else can.
Like Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City, his personal fortune allows such behaviour. But the new Uefa Financial Fair Play ruling does not.
Starting next season, clubs’ finances will be monitored for three years, and anyone with an operating debt of �40m over that three year period, will face Uefa sanctions, including being banned from playing in the Champions League or Europa League in the 2014-15 season.
On Monday, Chelsea announced operating losses of �70.9m for the year to 2009-10. Then they went out and spent �76m and will also be paying Torres �175,000 a week. Unless they are planning a spectacular fire sale in the summer, their 2010-11 accounts will show a similar disparity.
Whether or not Uefa will enforce their Financial Fair Play rules effectively is a point of considerable debate, but what is beyond question is that Arsenal will not be among the clubs looking over their shoulder.
The club were singled out by Uefa last month as an example of how they would like football clubs to be run. The Gunners are arguably the most solvent club in Europe, if not the world, and revenue is only going to grow with the Emirates Stadium debt now reduced and property deals adding to the enormous profits the stadium generates on a weekly basis.
For supporters of course, the only prizes that matter are the ones that are won on the football pitch, not in the boardrooms or on a balance sheet.
Chelsea could argue that, since Arsenal last won the title in 2004, their club have won three Premier League titles, five domestic trophies and came within a penalty kick of winning the Champions League.
In that time Arsenal have just one FA Cup win, and that was almost six years ago. But also in that time Arsenal have built the Emirates and have a stable and prosperous future.
Abramovich would not agree, and perhaps a man of his wealth does not have to. But Arsenal have resisted foreign ownership in the same way they resist the kind of grotesque spending that sees Chelsea in debt to Abramovich to the tune of �726m.
Once called the Bank of England club, Arsenal are sticking to their principles of how a club and a business should be run.
Chelsea are simply at the whim of Abramovich, and his insatiable lust for success. One look at the league table should remind him, however, that there is still more to football than money.