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Things could be worse for Arsenal and United

Stan Kroenke has been trending on Twitter again after Arsenal fan groups released a joint statement encouraging their American owner to alter the manner in which he runs the club or get out altogether.

Meanwhile in Manchester, the chartered plane remains on standby to fly the #glazersout banner over Old Trafford at the first sign of a dodgy run of form, as has been their customary manner of protesting in recent seasons.

But do fans of these two wealthy, successful clubs really have much cause to complain in comparison to truly mismanaged football clubs?

Ranking the transfer outlay of the ‘big 6’ over the last three seasons sees Manchester City and Chelsea leading the way, having spent £548 million and £534 million respectively. Manchester United are next on £419m, Liverpool fourth on £392m, Arsenal fifth on £308m and Tottenham last on £182m.

However when you factor in money recouped through outgoing transfers, the net spend table tells a slightly different story. Manchester City (£394m) still lead the way by a distance but Manchester United (£311m) move up into second place ahead of Chelsea (£236m). Arsenal (£160m) are in fourth place, surprisingly, ahead of European Champions Liverpool (£138m) with Tottenham (£41m) again last.

United are the early pacesetters in the transfer market this summer as well, having already splashed out £72m on Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James with Harry Maguire set to be unveiled as the most expensive defender in history imminently.

Arsenal are definitely in the market as well, though so far their ambition has seemingly outstripped their budget. Failed bids for Wilfried Zaha, Kieran Tierney and Malcom suggests that they are attempting to shop in Harrods with a Poundland budget. Still, you have to admire that optimism.

However, that both clubs sit in the top four for overall transfer expenditure over the past three seasons yet have been comprehensively outperformed on the pitch by the fifth and sixth highest spending sides, Tottenham and Liverpool, tells its own story. The problem isn’t that the clubs aren’t spending money, it’s that the money is being spent poorly.

It also casts doubt over the lazily repeated accusations of supporters that both clubs are just ‘run like businesses’, with fans of the the perennially thrifty Tottenham far more entitled to to state that particular truth. That Spurs have repeatedly finished in the top four whilst also reaching a Champions League final whilst barely spending a penny in comparison to their wealthier rivals demonstrates just how much of a trick Manchester United may have missed in failing to lure Mauricio Pochettino to the club at the end of last season.

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Though Daniel Levy is infamously nervous about loosening Tottenham’s purse strings, if you drive for five hours up the M1 you will find another club who are run with an even greater emphasis on profitability over supporter happiness. A club who are increasingly become Tottenham-lite; all of the thriftiness but with none of the fun. I’m talking, of course, about Newcastle.

How the Newcastle fans must raise an eyebrow every time they hear supporters of their one-time title rivals, Manchester United, complaining about their lot considering what they have had to endure. Since infamously finishing second twice in the late nineties, Newcastle have dwindled as a club, suffering two relegations to the Championship in the middle of a string of bottom half Premier League finishes.

Meanwhile, in the same period of time, Manchester United have won nine league titles, three FA Cups, four league cups, two Champions Leagues and the Europa League.

The ever-suffering Toon Army have one of the largest and most passionate fan bases in the country, yet have been forced to watch their club refuse to invest anything like the sort of money that could take them back to the top under the cruel stewardship of the tyrannical Mike Ashley.

Amazingly, the arrival of Miguel Almiron in January for £20m made him Newcastle’s record signing, breaking a record stretching back to 2005 when they purchased Michael Owen for £16m. In the same period of time, Manchester United have spent over £16m on 30 separate occasions. Even Arsenal have broken that particular barrier 13 times and that’s during a period in which they were notoriously financially cautious whilst paying off their new stadium.

In a sense it’s a self-defeating argument. Whilst the Geordies might smirk at the complaining of Arsenal and United fans, supporters of clubs such as Coventry or Notts County might look up enviously at the plight of a ‘struggling’ Premier League team such as the Newcastle. Effectively, there is always somebody likely to be worse off and naturally, whether you support Barnet or Barcelona, you’ll never stop football fans moaning. However it does appear that, in the bigger picture, things aren’t as bleak at Arsenal or Manchester United at they might seem.

So unless you want to start asking yourself ‘Which Premier League team should I support?’ then grit your teeth and bear it United and Arsenal fans.



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