Arsene Wenger believes a lack of ‘economic strength’ was to blame for Arsenal’s decline in the latter years of his reign and not his inability to reinvent his side.
Wenger arrived as a relative unknown into the Premier League during the mid-nineties and led Arsenal to a glittering period in their history around the turn of the millennium, winning two domestic doubles and a third league title in historic fashion after completing an unbeaten campaign.
The north London side’s fortunes faltered during the later years of his spell with the Gunners, however, with the club having failed to lift the Premier League title since that famed ‘Invincibles’ season 16 years ago.
Having been a powerhouse of English football for much of the Premier League era, Arsenal fell behind long-term rivals Manchester United, in addition to emerging forces in both Chelsea and Manchester City.
Arsenal’s decline was in stark contrast to that of Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United, however, with the Red Devils continuing to lift silverware throughout the Scot’s illustrious reign, Ferguson constantly rebuilding and reinventing his winning machine.
Wenger was asked about the comparisons between the rival sides during that era and Ferguson’s ability to seamlessly make changes, including to his backroom staff, but the Frenchman told The Athletic that the Gunners’ financial restrictions were largely behind their inability to remain challengers.
🗣️ "You have to restructure English football. 92 clubs is too many clubs to survive"
Arsene Wenger has his say on Project Big Picture and believes more than two PL clubs came up with the plan
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) October 15, 2020
“Yeah it’s right [that Ferguson consistently refreshed his backroom staff],” Wenger said.
“I don’t deny that, but Alex Ferguson [also] had Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes. When you see the career of displays, what the great team had, and we still managed to beat them. And they didn’t have the financial restrictions.
“Where did Robin van Persie go? To Manchester United. Why? Because they could afford the wages and we couldn’t.
“And where did all the players go? To Manchester City. Why? Because they could pay the wages we couldn’t afford to pay. It’s down to economic strength.”
When pushed further on Ferguson’s refreshing of his backroom staff, Wenger insisted his coaching team were ‘top class’ during his time at Arsenal, believing his managerial adversary had his own reasons for continued change.
“The backroom staff and team environment we had was top class,” Wenger insisted.
“Ferguson renovated his staff because he himself was not on the pitch a lot.
“He needed to change coaches because he got vibes that the players were tired of having three years of this and three years of that, he did that very well, and I say that in the book. But he had a different way to manage and we had different financial resources as well.”