The Gunners have interest in Wayne Rooney, Stevan Jovetic and Marouane Fellaini this summer, and it is believed that the French manager is ready to part with the club’s cash
By Julian Bennetts at the Emirates Stadium
Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis insists that Arsene Wenger “is not scared” of spending money as pressure increases on the Frenchman to bring in stellar names to mount a potential title challenge.
Santi Cazorla is the Gunners’ record signing at just €17.5 million, with the financial realities of moving to the Emirates Stadium having seriously hampered the budget Wenger has had at his disposal in recent years.
But now, with new commercial deals set to come into play and much of the club’s debt cleared, Wenger is thought to have at least £70m at his disposal this summer.
And Gazidis used a meeting of the club’s supporters groups and shareholders to allay those fears, claiming the Frenchman will invest in his squad.
“Arsene is not scared to spend money but he has to believe they are top-class players who will add to the squad,” said Gazidis in a meeting at the Emirates.
“Can I guarantee he will spend all of the money available to him? That depends on the talent.
“Arsene has done an outstanding job to make sure Arsenal stay in the mix with the top teams – not where we want to be, but in the mix – on a relatively limited budget.”
Arsenal offered the £22m release clause in Marouane Fellaini’s Everton contract on Wednesday, while it is understood that Wayne Rooney would welcome the Gunners’ interest and is open to a summer transfer to north London, and Stevan Jovetic is also a prominent target.
And with rivals Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea all appointing new managers this summer, Gazidis admits scraping into fourth place and Champions League qualification is no longer good enough.
“We have been consistent, in that we haven’t slid backwards or gone forwards. Now we need to go forwards,” he added.
“It is not enough to watch a video of a last-minute scramble to get over the line and into fourth place.”
Gazidis also discussed the controversial decision to sell captain Robin van Persie to Manchester United for £24m last summer.
The striker refused to sign an extension to his contract, which had one year left to run, and was allowed to head to Old Trafford, where he scored 30 goals in all competitions as Sir Alex Ferguson’s side strolled to the title.
And Gazidis admits he still hurts when he sees Van Persie scoring for his new club – but he is adamant it was the right decision to sell the Dutchman.
“Selling Robin was one of the most difficult decisions that we as a club have had to make,” he continued.
“I respect the views of those who say we should have held him to his contract and let it play out. I understand that and we thought very hard about doing that.
“The important thing to understand about this, whether you agree with it or not – and I accept it is difficult to agree with – is that the motivation was never about trying to pocket £24m.
“The motivation was thinking responsibly about how we could develop the team and move forward, while understanding the reality of the choices we had with Robin – none of which were good, all of them were bad.
“So the decision was made with the best interests of the club at its heart.
“Clearly, seeing the way the season has panned out it hurts – it hurts me as it hurts all of you to see Robin scoring goals in a Manchester United shirt. I don’t feel good about that.”