Sunday 24 September 2017

Wenger warns rivals about 'stress' of building stadium

Arsene Wenger, manager of Arsenal
Arsene Wenger, manager of Arsenal

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Arsène Wenger has told Tottenham Hotspur to beware the "terrible stress" he endured when Arsenal were financing a new stadium, admitting that "it felt the future of the club was at stake".

With Tottenham currently trying to build a replacement for White Hart Lane, Wenger reflected on the problems Arsenal faced moving to the Emirates Stadium - which today plays host to the north London derby .

After Arsenal borrowed the money to build it, Wenger described the years that followed as "the most sensitive period in the history of the club" because of the pressure of ensuring annual Champions League qualification to help repay the loan.

"When we were in a position where we had to be in the Champions League financially, and you get into March or April and we are not, that is extremely difficult," he recalled.

"The stress is terrible because you feel the future of the club is at stake and you have not a lot of margin (for error). Every point you lose can be dramatic."

Spurs announced this month they were "starting to engage with a number of financing institutions and potential funders", though they have stressed publicly that they are not in any takeover discussions.

Wenger said the easiest way to build a new ground would be to find a new owner for the club. "If an owner comes in, and says 'look I put in £400m to buy the stadium' (building) it is easy," he added.

Tottenham's owners have always denied they are looking to sell the club. However, Wenger then warned about the problems of financing the ground.

"I don't know their financial plan well enough, but in the end we built the stadium for £400m," he said of the stadium the club moved into in 2006. "Today it would cost £600m, £650m or £700m.

"It is much more difficult today, because we built our stadium at a price that you couldn't afford any more. We managed to build our stadium by subsidising it with our own resources. That is much more difficult today.

"The way we did it is the hardest way, because we had no outside financial help and had to negotiate with the banks to get the money at the start. Let's not forget we paid £120m just for the ground. . . We had a lot of financial problems."

Despite the difficulties, Wenger sees stadium expansion as the only way that Tottenham can keep up with the biggest teams. "You cannot be in a business where you turn down 15,000 or 20,000 people every week."

On the pitch, Wenger has to decide on Aaron Ramsey for today's game. After a brilliant season last year, the manager feels he might have been trying too hard this campaign.

"I believe he felt a bit more pressure to score," Wenger said. "You have always to come back to basics. What is my job as a midfielder? To win the ball and give a good pass. If you think 'I have to score' and every time you want to be in the box, you forget a little bit the basics of the job.

"He had a moment where he was not at his best, yes, but I am fully confident he is back."

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Irish Independent

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