Arsenal head into Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City knowing that a loss will mean another trophyless season.
A 2-1 loss to Tottenham Hotspur on the weekend was followed by a 2-1 win over Liverpool, in a week which showcased, the good, the bad and the ugly of Mikel Arteta’s side.
That form hasn’t spent too much time in the headlines recently. Instead, it’s all been about City and their Financial Fair Play situation. Their two-year European ban was lifted, and that sparked a whole influx of opinions from players, fans and even managers, and one of the most outspoken about the whole thing has been City boss Pep Guardiola. Obviously.
The Spaniard hasn’t pulled any punches and even attempted to divert some of the attention towards Arsène Wenger, suggesting the Arsenal legend bought his way to the top in the early 2000s, saying in a press conference this week: “20, 25, 30 years ago, Arsene Wenger – the guy who defends perfectly Financial Fair Play… – spent a lot of money to be there.
“Did they?” former Arsenal midfielder Ray Parlour asks 90min. “Did they really spend big? I mean I remember we used to buy people for like £500,000, Nicolas Anelka, then they got £23.5m for him, [Emmanuel] Petit was only a couple of million, £3m, Patrick Vieira £2-3m.
“Obviously the biggest signing was Sylvain Wiltord for £13m at that time, that was about 2000. I don’t know about Fair Play and what the club were making at that time, the revenue coming into the club, I don’t know. But I can’t remember a lot of big, big players being signed for massive money.
“Probably in that era people were buying bigger players from other clubs, I should imagine. Kolo Touré, half a million, Sol Campbell a free transfer, they weren’t massive money. [Thierry] Henry was only £10m!”
Even former City man Shaun Goater had to disagree with Guardiola’s comments, suggesting that it was Sir Alex Ferguson who perhaps deserved to attract the Spaniard’s fury more.
“I think Arsene Wenger was the one who used to find bargains,” he explains. “They’d find these quality players for not a great deal of money, it was Manchester United who were out spending a bit more around that time. He was really good in terms of recruitment, the value of the players was reasonable.”
Wenger built up a reputation as someone with an eye for young talent. He never shied away from signing young talents and turning them into all-time greats, and he ended up with three Premier League titles to show for his efforts.
Neither Arsenal nor City will be able to get their hands on that trophy this year, but the FA Cup is still within reach.
Watch Arsenal v Manchester City in the Emirates FA Cup this Saturday from 19:00 on BT Sport 1
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