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Wenger turned down big clubs prior to Emirates construction


he is good
he is good
Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

So hey - here's some news about Arsene Wenger that doesn't involve protests, trophy droughts, or anything! Just news! In a piece in the Guardian today, Wenger talks about how the banks essentially made him a condition of financing:

Wenger suggested he offered them a guarantee he would remain at the helm for the first five years at the Emirates Stadium to provide a level of stability at the top of the club and ensure Arsenal met their target of Champions League football, with its associated revenue streams.

"The banks wanted the technical consistency to guarantee we had a chance to pay back [the loan]," he said. "I did commit and I stayed, under very difficult circumstances."

Wenger also reveals that he was approached by Real Madrid in both 2009 and 2010, and was also approached by Barcelona and Manchester City around the same time.

A more interesting tidbit, to me, is some actual detail around what Arsenal's finances and playing targets were like during the construction years. According to Wenger:

"We knew we'd have five to seven difficult financial years where we had to pay the money back: we had to be three years in the Champions League out of five and have an average of 54,000 people [to meet costs], and we didn't know we would be capable of that. We had to sell our best players every year to survive but we didn't do three years out of five in the Champions League. We did five out of five."

So yes, by all accounts Wenger did a masterful job as far as the transition to the Emirates was concerned, while keeping Arsenal as competitive as anyone during that time. He says in this article that the club is "in a stronger position and we can compete again with our main opponents", which is what we're all so frustrated about right now so I don't want to talk about it.

I just think that in the rush to canonize and/or demonize Wenger, depending on your viewpoint, not enough detail is known about what the club needed to do during the Move And Refinance Years, and seeing the quote above is an interesting insight into what the club's expectations were during that time.

We all know how well Wenger changed the club and the game when he arrived, but I don't think we know in any great detail how much he had to deal with during the transition to the Emirates, and the fact that he managed that as well as he did is every bit as impressive to me as what he did in the late 90's/early aughts.