| 7°C Dublin

Wenger warns of European financial meltdown

arsene wenger believes a financial cataclysm will soon engulf Europe, in months, if not weeks, finally affecting a sport that has so far appeared immune to the economic depression provoked by the banking crisis.

Such is Wenger's focus on football, he sounded disappointed that the day of fiscal reckoning had not already arrived to create a level playing field in this season's Champions League, but he felt it would soon do so.

"I am convinced that Europe will go into a huge financial crisis within the next three weeks, or three months, and maybe that will put everything into perspective again," he said yesterday.

"Football is not untouchable. All our incomes could be a little bit under threat in the next few months."

Wenger, who earned an economics degree at the University of Strasbourg, was speaking on the eve of Arsenal's first Champions League group tie in Dortmund tonight.

He added that at present there was a top tier of clubs whose financial resources gave them a huge advantage.

"I believe this season that I see two teams that are above the rest -- Real Madrid and Barcelona.

"Barca and Real Madrid have much more financial power than they had 14 years ago (when Wenger first took Arsenal into the Champions League) because they have individualised their TV rights.

"So they at the moment, with teams like Man City and Chelsea (both financed by billionaires) can take who they want. We have seen the first signs of some resistance in Spain where everybody complains."

He was referring to the recent players' strike in Spain which was settled after a new TV deal was agreed. While it was a collective agreement, which is how the Premier League has always operated, Real and Barca are still guaranteed 35pc of TV income between them.

In England the differential between the highest earning club and the lowest is 2:1.

"I still feel our best 11 is a match for anyone and I wouldn't rule (winning it) out yet, but it's too early to speak about that," Wenger added. "Saying that would raise a lot of scepticism at the moment and I don't think anyone would believe it. We have not had a particularly strong start in the championship."

Indeed. Saturday's somewhat fortuitous home win over Swansea was their first league win of the season and the team is not only without four midfielders tonight but is still integrating the rush of deadline-day signings.

An ankle injury picked up on Saturday meant Aaron Ramsey was left behind with Abou Diaby, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky when the team flew out of Luton.

With Emmanuel Frimpong's inexperience still evident, Yossi Benayoun may make a first start at the head of a midfield that will also feature Mikel Arteta making his Champions League debut.

Nor will Wenger be able to help once his team enter the Westfalenstadion as he is serving the first match of a two-match ban imposed for, in Uefa's eyes, flouting a previous ban. (© Independent News Service)

Borussia Dortmund v Arsenal,

Live, Sky Sports 4, 7.45

Irish Independent