• ‘Football’s European governing body has lost power’
• Theo Walcott expected to return at end of month after injury
Arsène Wenger believes richer clubs’ fears about being penalised for breaching financial fair play rules have put Arsenal in a stronger position to compete for the world’s best players, although he questions whether Uefa is powerful enough to police the system.
Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have been hit with sanctions after making huge losses and neither club has been hugely active in the transfer market yet. Although City have convinced Bacary Sagna to become the fifth player to join them from Arsenal since 2009, they have only spent £18m on four players this summer. Arsenal, who face City at Wembley in Sunday’s Community Shield, have spent more than £60m on four players.
“It looks like we are closer but they have some restrictions,” Wenger said. “There are clever people who help you get around that and they do that very well. Time will tell. It is a bit early for us. It looks like still these clubs are concerned by FFP.”
Wenger pointed to the lack of movement over Angel di María’s potential move from Real Madrid to PSG and his comments were reinforced when the French club’s president, Nasser al-Khelaifi, said the Argentinian midfielder is being valued too highly. “That means they have a concern, these clubs how to respect FFP,” Wenger said. “In the Champions League it is a problem and in England in the Premier League as well.”
Yet Wenger admitted he has doubts over whether Uefa can stand up to anyone who challenges it over FFP punishments. “We will see,” Wenger said. “Uefa has lost power because of Europe, because you can have alternatives to go to court outside of Uefa and not everybody accepts the decisions from Uefa, so Uefa has to be a bit cautious as well because of television’s financial power.
“If you kick a club like PSG out tomorrow because they don’t respect FFP, the French TV companies will go to Uefa and say: ‘Look, we want our money back.’ It is not as easy for Uefa as it looks at the start.”
As far as Arsenal are concerned, Wenger feels that the tide is turning after years of accusations that they lacked ambition. Last year they broke their transfer record to sign Mesut Özil for £42.5m; now Alexis Sánchez has arrived for £30m from Barcelona.
“We are less vulnerable for sure,” Wenger said. “In the last two years we have bought Özil and Sánchez. Five years ago we would have lost Özil and Sánchez.”
Wenger added that Theo Walcott is expected to return at the end of the month after the knee injury he suffered against Tottenham Hotspur in January but said the forward is unlikely to be available for England’s friendly against Norway on 3 September and the Euro 2016 qualifier against Switzerland on 8 September.