“It is a concern,’’ admitted Wenger of the sight of another star disappearing for more verdant pastures. “We live in the economic reality which other clubs do not. There are some things we cannot afford to do. How much do you want to pay [a week for Van Persie to stay]? £250,000? £300,000? You say we do not live in a realistic world, and then reproach us when we say we will not pay £250,000 a week. We are here to make the players as rich as possible, but as well in respecting our balance sheet. Honestly, I think it is a short-term problem. The world cannot go on like that.”
Wenger hopes that the Uefa Financial Fair Play rules of his fellow Frenchman Michel Platini will encourage some sanity in the market. Chelsea, for instance, are focusing on younger players with resale value. Yet Paris St-Germain are complicating matters with their spending.
“Financial Fair Play will make a big difference because you cannot imagine the world will go on just splashing money out without any return because people will get tired of that,’’ continued Wenger, who argued that there would be backlash from a public struggling in a recession. “When you have a loss of the standard of living for normal people the football world always gets higher and higher. That cannot last because people will not accept it.
“To live in the real world is to pay people who are employed by the club at the end of the month, and make sure you are paid. But you [critics] don’t care about that. You care about how much we spend for the next player, £40million or £50million. The more money you have spent in our [football] world, the more popular you are. That is not reality.’’
Wenger himself was probably not inhabiting the real world when he suggested
“Robin played for eight years for us, you have to respect what he has done for our club, what he has done last year. Robin was captain and I give him credit because until the last minute of the season he did fight like mad. Every night you could call him and he was at home, prepared properly for the game. When he played the game he was 100 per cent committed. It is a miracle we finished third [last season] and a big part of the miracle is down to him. He comes in after and wants to go.
“OK I don’t like it, but he has been professional. This is a situation that is a completely brutal reality of professional sport.”
Van Persie’s arrival prompted
Wenger added: “Robin is a world-class player but we have lost world-class players before and survived.”
Yet Arsenal need to do more than survive. They need trophies. They particularly need Jack Wilshere fit. The moment Van Persie turned his back on Arsenal, Wenger made Thomas Vermaelen captain, Mikel Arteta vice-captain and handed the No10 shirt to Wilshere, a sign of the manager’s immense faith in the currently injured 20 year-old.
“By giving him the No10 I want to show I am confident he will be the one who will lead the team one day,’’ continued Wenger. “At his age, one year out is not easy to take. Every day he comes in at eight in the morning and works out but didn’t get anywhere. I want to show him that I believe in him and that he will come back quickly.”
Wilshere, who is back in light training as he recovers from an ankle problem, spoke of the “honour’’ of receiving the shirt. “I feel proud to wear it now after some real club legends have worn it, such as Dennis Bergkamp,’’ Wilshere told Arsenal.com, somehow forgetting to mention Van Persie.
Wenger added: “We lose great players [like Van Persie] but I want to show that we have great players, young players, English players. With Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wilshere, we have fantastic potential here and when everyone is fit you will see that.”
Arsenal are confident that Theo Walcott, in the last year of his contract, will stay. “We are trying to extend his deal,’’ added Wenger.
Alex Song has three years left on his contract but looks likely to move to Barcelona. “If we do sell Song it will be our decision of course,’’ said Wenger, who enthused about Santi Cazorla. “I believe he is a great player. He is top technically and has intelligence of the game. He is an Arsenal player.”
Van Persie isn’t now. The trend of selling stars enhances Arsenal financially but weakens them as a footballing force.