Arsenal must work out what sort of club it wants to be before Arsene Wenger is made a scapegoat for its recent lack of trophies.
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21 Feb 2013 - 12:47 PM  UPDATED 3 Mar 2014 - 4:59 PM

The knives are out for Arsene Wenger, with the English media starting to bay for the Frenchman's blood.

That infamous press conference would have encouraged fleet street hacks to sharpen their blades a little more.

Leaving aside the irony of that same press heavily criticising other teams for over-spending, it is worth looking at things within the context of history.

Fighting for top four in the Premier League and qualification for the UEFA Champions League last 16 is quite good for a side that is not at the top of the transfer and wage tables.

As Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski discover in Soccernomics, it is only teams at the top of these tables that win major trophies.

The problem for Wenger is that Arsenal, after a number of years of austerity to build Emirates Stadium, is now in a position to spend big but hasn’t.

Some believe it’s Wenger’s background as an economics professor that prevented him from releasing the purse strings.

Oakland Athletics General Manager, Billy Beane, told the Financial Times: 'When I think of Wenger, I think of Warren Buffett. Wenger runs his football club like he is going to own the club for 100 years."

From an economics perspective it does make sense.

When Wenger arrived at Arsenal he brought not only a new-found professionalism and scientific approach to football but a thorough knowledge of scouting.

While others identified talent on instinct, the Arsenal manager was able to snap up some of the world’s best talent for relatively cheap deals.

In short there was value in the market, so buy.

Today that’s not the case. Most European clubs have scouts watching games from the Faroe Island to the Falklands.

Even a decent 20 year-old from Genk will cost $10 million.

So with little value in the market Wenger has decided not to spend, or spend on the little there is.

This became even more important after the club borrowed heavily to pay for the construction of Emirates Stadium.

Unfortunately in football, value does not win titles and as the Gunners showed against Bayern Munich, even a remarkable coach like the Arsenal boss can’t compete with a team as well drilled and as well stocked with talent as Bayern.

From the team’s movements and tactical set-up there was enough in Arsenal’s performance to suggest Wenger can still achieve success with higher quality players.

The club’s bosses need to define the club’s short and long-term goals. If they are happy fighting for fourth spot in the Premier League and making the latter stages of the Champions League then the current course is fine and few can do as good a job as the Frenchman.

But if the club’s target is to win trophies, then not only does it need to provide a large transfer and wage budget, but to define these goals to its manager and make it clear to him that it wants a squad of great quality not of great value.

If Wenger wants to persist with the economic rationalist philosophy then it really may be time for him to move on.

So for Arsenal fans the question shouldn’t be is it time for Wenger to go? Instead the question must be what does Arsenal what from Wenger and is he prepared to do it?