First of all, in September 2008, Mike Ashley justified our transfer policy by comparing it with Arsenal.
"Arsenal is the shining example in England of a sustainable business model. It takes time. It can't be done overnight. Newcastle has therefore set up an extensive scouting system. We look for young players, for players in foreign leagues who everyone does not know about. We try and stay ahead of the competition. We search high and low looking for value, for potential that we can bring on and for players who will allow Newcastle to compete at the very highest level but who don't cost the earth."No doubt, Arsene Wenger has brought in some fantastic young talent that he’s sold on at a profit. But the key to that is Arsene Wenger. Read what he said just a couple of days before the statement above was released.
"If I go into a job and someone says to me that you have a director of football who buys and sells the players, I accept or don't accept it. If I accept it, I cannot complain. I would personally not accept that"The man has proven quality for bringing youth through at Arsenal, and he’s left alone to do it himself. He would not tolerate Dennis Wise or Jeff Vetere making those decisions for him. If he does take advice before deciding on a player, I wonder if he’d view our recruitment team as qualified to give it. We all know Dennis Wise’s history in the game and are perplexed by his appointment. But what about Vetere, maybe he’s every bit as good as Wenger, which talent has he spotted in his career?
The other point of consideration is that once the kids are through the door at Arsenal they have Arsene Wenger training them, a wise professor of the game, tactical genius and the man holding the baton behind some of the most gorgeous passing teams in the Premier league this past decade. They’re also playing alongside the cream of European talent. A kid coming to Newcastle will be taught by Joe Kinnear and play alongside Shola Ameobi, he doesn’t stand a chance.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, while Arsenal have had this youth based model in place for many years, their debt currently stands at £318million, but that has not stopped them investing £88million in transfers over the last 5 years. They’ve not done anything on the cheap.
Which brings us to Aston Villa. In his recent interview Derek Llambias said
The turning point came with the investment of Randy Lerner who (even as a billionaire who has spent much of his own money) has left a £63million debt according to the latest accounts.
This didn’t stop him from backing his manager (without a DOF sat above him) with transfers costing £32million this season.
It seems to me that the MD and owner are telling us the big name clubs they’re setting us up to emulate, but their actions speak far louder than words and in practice the reticence to build any debt, the lack of ambition to sign any proven quality displays far more amply that they are actually setting us up like a newly promoted team. One that hopes to get lucky with a mid-table finish, but more than anything is planning for inevitable relegation, whether it comes one season or next.