THEY have been fleecing the fans for years.
For £1,828 a pop — the most expensive season tickets in world football — Arsene Wenger promises to keep Arsenal’s best players.
He has been found out this time, brutally exposed by the sale of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to Liverpool.
Wenger’s Emirates empire is crumbling.
On the field they are a fading force, falling behind Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City as a giant of the modern game. Arsenal, three-time Premier League winners under Wenger, are also-rans now.
At the very least he needs a sporting director to work with him, someone with a network of scouts, agents and administrators.
The transfer window has been another shambles for Arsenal.
Wenger must pander to Alexis Sanchez’s ego after failing to land Thomas Lemar from Monaco after another last-minute bid.
They are becoming a joke for their cack-handed methods.
It is well known that Wenger, despite his ability to hold a room with his charm, is painfully shy on the phone.
He picked up on Wednesday when Arsenal’s transfer fixer Dick Law had Liverpool dangling on the other end of the line.
Liverpool, with Champions League football assured, are cash rich and eager to do business.
They seized upon the vulnerability at Arsenal after Sunday’s 4-0 tanking by taking one of their best young players.
Liverpool, with all the momentum, fancy their chances of breaking into the top four for good.
Wenger, once regarded as one of the game’s great managerial minds, is helping them do that.
His famed micro-management, the obsessive, compulsive methods that once separated him from others, is starting to slide.
New back-room staff changed the set-up of the kit room without consulting the manager.
Wenger let it all pass without saying a word. It is not difficult to imagine the reaction of a Sir Alex Ferguson or a Brian Clough if a junior took it upon himself to re-organise the workplace.
The overseas tours, the money-making, brand awareness exercises to China, Australia or America, are also forced upon him.
This club is too big for Wenger now. Arsenal were a whole lot easier to manage when it was just a handful of people working behind the scenes when he arrived at Highbury in 1996.
Now there are hundreds of employees, with many of them working around the world in various positions.
Up on corporate level Ivan Gazidis, the chief executive picking up £2m a year, is distancing himself from the manager.
He has a bloodied nose after being out-manoeuvred by Wenger following his misguided “catalyst for change” speech to supporters last season.
Gazidis could not follow it through. The CEO, who lined up Massimiliano Allegri to succeed Wenger, is waving everything through without putting up a fight.
He signed off the deal for Oxlade-Chamberlain, making sure it all went ahead when Wenger agreed to sell the England international to Liverpool.
When the remaining players return from international duty, those left in the dressing room will be disillusioned.
There is a general acceptance among the group that the Ox left Arsenal to further his career.
Those left behind, such as Mesut Ozil, Petr Cech, Olivier Giroud, record signing Alexandre Lacazette and Sanchez, will be short on motivation.
This is no way to run a football club.
Wenger survives on reputation, the ludicrous notion that it will somehow all fall into place and they will go on to win their first Premier League title since 2004.
Even with season tickets pegged at £1,828, it will never happen again.
GIVEN the amount of money sloshing around in the game, it seems scarcely believable that Premier League clubs made a net profit of £4million in the January window.
It will be very different when the Premier League announce the figures for the summer window later today, with estimates of a net spend of between £700m and £800m by England’s top-flight clubs.
CORT UP OVER OX
SOUTHAMPTON patted themselves on the back over clauses in the deal that took Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to Arsenal.
It is also becoming standard practice to slip Les Reed’s mind that it was Nicola Cortese who negotiated the deal to sell Ox to Arsenal in 2011.
As part of the negotiations, Arsenal agreed to pay Saints £25,000 for each appearance up to 100 if he played for more than 20 minutes.
But Cortese noticed Arsene Wenger would often put him on with 18 or 19 minutes left to play.
The ex-chairman got his way by arguing that injury time should count when it came to appearances.
That clause brought in another £2.5million for Southampton. Saints’ football director has a habit of forgetting these things.
CAHILL IS A LEADER
THE England captaincy should be a very simple decision for manager Gareth Southgate.
Instead of turning it into an audition, he should look at the one player in his squad who overcame grave doubts about his ability to lead Chelsea to the Premier League title.
It must have driven Gary Cahill right round the bend to hear people say he could not play without ‘Captain, leader, legend’ John Terry holding his hand in the centre of defence.
To withstand those pressures and to score some important goals on the way to winning the title deserves a bit more credit. It also deserves the England captaincy.
BARNETT BALE OUT
THE FA, who washed their hands of football agents after deregulating the industry, estimate there are between 2,000 and 3,000 trying to make a living at the game.
Gareth Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett, CEO of an agency with a bigger turnover than some Premier League clubs, has some solid ideas on the FA cleaning up the game.
Barnett was at his villa in the south of France yesterday, sounding pretty relaxed as the one-man bands desperately scurried around trying to get some deals done on the last day of the window.
With more than 30 years’ experience of transfer dealings at every level, the FA should listen to what he has to say.