In 2004, Roman Abramovich, who had recently become the owner of Chelsea Football Club, started putting together the pieces necessary for the rise of the club as a superpower.


Look into the future

Arsenal in 2004

Arsene Wenger had realised that other competitors in the Premier League would soon be bankrolled by owners with seemingly bottomless fortunes, and to compete with such clubs in the long run would require a strong financial position.

He imagined that he knew what he was getting into when he commissioned Arsenal’s move from the revered Highbury stadium to the Ashburton Grove, popularly called as the Emirates Stadium. This stadium move, he felt, would keep Arsenal amongst the top clubs by providing revenue on a continuous basis.

For the estimated amount of £390 million needed for the construction of the stadium, £260 million were to be raised through debt instruments. Majority of the amount lent came through the banks, who kept a very odd condition for lending: Arsene Wenger had to sign a five-year contract at the club.

He happily agreed, unmindful of the trials and tribulations he would have to go through over these years and beyond. They were going to be the most trying years of his managerial life.

As the life at the new stadium kicked off with the 2006-07 season, Arsene Wenger noticed that his young squad was inhibited in its approach. Thierry Henry, who was the club captain at the time, had the annoying but effective habit of demanding the ball all the time, which made his teammates play in a restrained manner.

It was not the kind of approach the Arsenal Manager wanted; he wanted each player to play with freedom.

Next year, in a shocking move, he decided to accept an offer from Barcelona for Henry and the French striker was gone, marking the end of an era. Such salient departures would become a hallmark of the Emirates era in the years to come.

Whenever a player demanded a move to another club, he usually got it. Partly, this was due to the financial limitations, which left the club incapable of competing over wages with rivals. The top earners at the club could often be tempted for a move elsewhere with the offer of a rise in paycheck. The other reason remain shrouded in mystery.

On two separate occasions, there erupted considerable controversy when Arsenal decided to sell their players, both times to the same club. When Emmanuel Adebayor was sold in the summer of 2009, he claimed later in two separate interviews that he wanted to stay, but was told by Wenger that he was being sold to raise money. Samir Nasri, after he was sold in the 2012 summer, revealed that Arsene Wenger wanted to keep him but Stan Kroenke, the American businessman and the majority shareholder of Arsenal, forced the Arsenal manager to sell him.

Wenger though, thoroughly defended all the player sales by directly taking the responsibility unto himself. This habit of taking the blame unto himself extended to on-pitch performances as well. He would very rarely criticise his players in interviews, no matter how badly they had played or the margin by which they had lost.