Who’s robbing the bank at Arsenal?

In the 2003/2004 Premier League season, Arsenal managed to breeze through the entire league campaign without suffering a single defeat, taking the title home to Highbury in the process.

This Arsenal side, which featured Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp among many other legendary stars, are known quite simply as “The Invincibles”.

Fast forward 11 years to 2015 and Arsenal look a shell of their former selves. The Gunners always seem to have strong squads on a year to year basis but they are always a top player short of mounting a serious title challenge.

Sure, the reds of North London are always thereabouts but simply clinching fourth place season after season isn’t enough to satisfy fans that remember the previous glory days under Arsene Wenger.

Many believe that Arsene Wenger could be well past his sell by date as Arsenal boss. Everything about the Frenchman feels stale at this point in his career, it really does look as if he has taken his beloved club as far as he can take them.

The inconsistencies of the Gunners is really frustrating for the Emirates faithful. Arsenal picked up a rare win against a top side away from home a few weeks ago as they toppled Manchester City at the Etihad.


However, they could not follow up on it at White Heart Lane last weekend, throwing away a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 to bitter rivals, Spurs in the North London Derby.

This is a prime example of the modern day Arsenal and their league position tells a story.

Wenger’s men are floundering in and around the Europa League places as they struggle to regain their place in the Champions League spots, with Manchester United, Spurs, Southampton and maybe even Liverpool based on current form, looking more likely at this moment of time.

Don’t get me wrong, Arsenal are an absolute pleasure to watch when they are playing to the best of their abilities but some of their players are on far too much money for what they are worth.

Like we do every week, we will now take a look at which players are pocketing more money than they deserve based on their weekly displays on the pitch. This week we sample Arsenal’s wage bill.

Abou Diaby: £65,000 a week

Diaby has been at Arsenal for nine years. Let that sink in for a moment. The Frenchman has spent more time on the physio table than he has on the playing field since he signed for Arsenal from Auxerre in 2006. From fractured ankles to anterior cruciate ligament problems, Diaby has experienced them all.

In the past, his physical appearance and positional preference have evoked comparisons to Arsenal legend and countryman, Patrick Vieira. Taking Diaby’s career thus far into account, this comparison would drive the majority of football fans to hysterical laughter. When Diaby has featured he has looked quite the average player.


However, the former French international has been known to put in the odd quality performance. Most notably, Diaby was voted Sky Sports man of the match in Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Liverpool at Anfield in 2012. He does pop up with the odd cameo goal here and there too.

In reality though, the midfielder does not play nearly enough games to justify his pricey wages. Diaby is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury.

Joel Campbell: £40,000 a week

Campbell is currently out on loan at Villarreal but technically Arsenal are the striker’s principle employers. Campbell signed for Arsenal in 2011 and has failed to nail down a regular place in the Gunners squad, being shipped out on loan every campaign since putting pen to paper with the club.

However, he did fail to secure a work permit for the first two seasons he spent as an Arsenal player. The Costa Rican striker had a good World Cup last summer, playing a starring role in his nation’s fairy tale run to the prestigious tournament’s quarter finals. This gave Arsenal supporters and the player himself fresh hope that he could make contributions in the final third for the Gunners this campaign.

Unfortunately, this did not happen and Campbell spent most of the first half of the season either on the bench or watching from the stands. As recently as 24 January 2015, Campbell was once again sent out on loan, this time to La Liga and Villarreal.

Arsenal will have to choose whether to keep or cash in on the striker when he returns to North London at the end of the current season. His salary is far too high for someone who has been rarely seen or heard of in four years at the club.

Tomas Rosicky: £85,000 a week

Once a very important part of the Arsenal team, now merely a squad rotation player. Nowadays, the 34-year-old’s appearances for the club mainly consist of cameo bench appearances.

Rosicky finally reaped the awards of staying with the Gunners long-term, as he came off the bench to replace Santi Cazorla in the second period of extra time in the 3-2 FA Cup final success versus Hull City at Wembley in May.


It took the Czech eight long years to earn his first winners medal at the Emirates. A number of months later, he clinched his second piece of silverware at Arsenal, playing the final fifth of the FA Community Shield game against Manchester City.

The skipper of the Czech Republic national team is well-respected amongst Arsenal fans and rightfully so, but it is clear that the winger is winding down his career. In his prime he would have been worth the hefty sum but not any more.

Mathieu Flamini: £65,000 a week

On 29 August 2013, It was looked upon as somewhat of a surprise when the Frenchman signed with the club for a second spell at the club. Flamini was a solid performer during his first stint at Arsenal. He always had a great work ethic and always shined in the holding midfield role.

However, his post Arsenal days weren’t all that special as he never really stood out in some average AC Milan sides in his five years at the San Siro. Following his 2013 return, Flamini has been in and out of the squad on a regular basis.

At times he has struggled to nail down a place in an Arsenal midfield that is jam-packed with quality and potential. In the games he has featured in, he has often appeared shaky. His edginess really stood out in December when Arsenal took on Liverpool at Anfield.

The defensive midfielder appeared all over the place in a bad individual performance as his side escaped Merseyside with a point.

Nacho Monreal: £50,000 a week

On the transfer deadline day of 2013, the Gunners snapped up the Spanish international for a fee believed to be in the region of £8.3 million.

At the time he was tipped to come in and make his mark as the club’s first choice left back as English youngster, Kieran Gibbs was out of form at the time of the Spaniards acquisition.


These beliefs never quite came to fruition as spells out of action with injuries and good displays from Gibbs have kept Monreal out of the starting 11. He also looked rather uncomfortable when he was deployed in an unfamiliar central defenders role earlier this campaign while Laurent Koscielny was suffering with an Achilles tendon injury.

The Spaniard has provided some assists from the left flank when he has played but he will have to become more of a regular in the side again if he is to be truly worthy of his weekly income.

Jack Wilshere: £90,000 a week

This inclusion is guaranteed to divide many opinions. Yes, he is only 23 years of age and yes he has massive potential to become a big star in the future, but like his team mate, Abou Diaby, the young Englishman spends a lot of time in hospital beds with injuries.

Wilshere has been tipped to lead the England national team’s midfield for years to come following the retirements of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, but as of yet it has not happened. Again, he has plenty of time to achieve this.

When he does play he often stars in the middle of the park but he is well-known to have the odd disciplinary problem. Wilshere is mainly hot-headed in the big games, especially against Liverpool and Chelsea, but it could be argued whether this is poor discipline or simply just great passion and a massive will to win.

To sum things up, if Wilshere cleared up his injury deficits and played most of the season, £90k a week would be a good investment. Until this happens, the Arsenal board will be just forking out £90,000 a week plus various hospital bills.

The race for top four places is really heating up. Only three points separate Liverpool in seventh from Southampton in fourth. The Gunners are right in the mix and it would be fair to say that Wenger and his men cannot afford to miss out on Champions League football for the first time in many a year.

After winning their first trophy in eight years last term, the Gunners supporters will be demanding more this time around and with many of the big guns out of the FA Cup, a great opportunity to retain the historic trophy presents itself for the North Londoners.

Arsenal are a well-balanced side and the majority of the squad are earning the right amount of cash for what they are contributing to the team, but perhaps the targets of Champions League football and an FA Cup triumph would be more likely if the few players above would remain fit for the long-term and/or just pull up their socks ever so slightly.

Some food for thought?

The Author

James Nolan

I love to play football, coach football and most importantly write about football. I ply my trade for Wicklow Rovers in the Leinster Senior League and coach a team in the same club. I write for my local newspaper, the Wicklow/Bray People where I provide coverage of local soccer, as well as BackPageFootball.Com.

12 thoughts on “Who’s robbing the bank at Arsenal?

  1. As the largest Arsenal fan in North America (self anointed) I’ve got to take umbrage with some of your choices here James. Tomas Rosicky & Jack Wilshere? Come on, they are two solid players for Arsenal, if not for Rosicky’s ability to basically be a clean-up man for our weak mid-field we’d likely be 3 places deeper down the table then what we are.

    No let me tell you who we can dump and dump fast!

    Olivier Giroud – I’ve never seen a player look more like a statue then this guy. Sure I could score some goals to if I just stood in the box and waited for someone to hand deliver the ball to me. This guy sucks on so many levels it’s hard to state. Every time I see his overly dramatic clenching of his hair when he shanks a ball 30 feet wide of goal, like he actually was close or something, I want to pull out my own hair!

    Wojciech Szczesny – If he spent anymore time off his line, he’d have to be reclassified as a mid-field defender.

    Mikel Arteta – Just look angrily at this guys ankles and they break, you criticize other Arsenal players from spending to much time with the doctor, Arteta probably has his own cot in the doctors office.

  2. James, you are so, so right in your assesment of the current Arsenal and Wenger’s responsibility for the inadequacy.Im a fan for a long time, since the days of Paul Davis and the “Grace Jones haircut” but since the “Invincibles” year Arsenal fans have suffered as they witnessed their dear team decline under Wenger’s economic project of trying to achieve the most with the least possible resources.I remember the days when Arsenal was on par with the Man U’s, the Liverpool’s, the Chelsea’s, the Bayern M’s and ..yes, the Real M’s of this world.Not anymore! The gap now is worrying.I don’t hate Wenger, actually like him but his frugal ways have clearly caused Arsenal’s decline.He must change his ways or leave.And also keeping a whole lot of players that are no longer worth keeping.I totally agree with your list of the “bank robbers”, you are spot-on there mate.I’m also not convinced with Bellerin(the Spurs game he was terrible),Chambers(young yes but too erratic) and Theo Walcott(not as efficient as he should be.Has scored twice recently but misses too many scoring opportunities!).Even Carzola also, so wasteful sometimes! You can see that the team does have a problem and suffer the fans!! Thanks James for your article, food for thought indeed.My fisrt comment after many, many years.

  3. I think Nacho is a serviceable player, especially of late, and his wages aren’t ridiculous. However the rest is spot on..

    Sell Wilshire while there are still those who would pay 15+ mil for him. Maybe add Arteta to the mix as well..
    The others mentioned have their contracts expire at season’s end.

    Then the discussion turns to how/if Wenger will re-invest that money saved..

  4. These figures pale in comparison to teams like Man U, Chelsea, and Man City, who are each paying their stars wages around 200,000. That’s the reason Arsenal has struggled in the past decade. When frivolous billionaires take over clubs and pump personal funding into their players’ salaries, you can understand why they have taken over. Look at some of the names on those teams in that 50,000-60,000 range and chances are you won’t recognize half of them. These super clubs don’t need to worry about money and can take chances on anyone. Meanwhile a self-financed club like Arsenal has to struggle and adapt, seeking out bargains. The fact that they’ve stayed competitive this long is remarkable, and the fact that they cannot claim a title is based solely on the fact that they cannot compete financially with oil magnates. This has nothing to do with football or Arsene Wenger losing his magic touch.

  5. agree with most of your choices but rosisckyis still a competent player who injects good 1-2 play with the wingers.diaby must go now ! with coquiln’s recent form, i feel we should get a good price for wilshire while we can. arteta and flamini are passed thier prime and should be released

  6. I find your post very malicious in a certain way. How many clubs has been prudent like arsenal and yet still surviving? clubs like Liverpool are suffering the same oil money dumped at Chelsea and Man city. These two clubs without their Billionaires, would never have never even come close to winning any premier league. a realistic analyst would factor that in his analysis. don’t forget the construction of the emirates stadium is an achievement that mangers just dreams off. Wenger set the operational mode of producing or buying raw talents and selling some for profits afterwards. A business that many managers have come to realize is a good way/idea of keeping a club a float financially. Wenger’s way is the way to go, otherwise we would be witnessing the creation of a top tier club championships based on their fundings. why did the financial fair play come up? when clubs pay players ridiculously like that, its not healthy for the poor clubs. some of these clubs sometimes buy players to reduce competition against them even if they don’t really need the player. You saw what happened to song at Barcelona, these clubs will bid for a player that they don’t even want just to increase the selling price to make it difficult for the poorer clubs to be un able to afford and they remain the only ones to have the best talents and low competitions against them. These oil money club are monsters . there are ways other clubs will manage its finances and continue to prosper. Remember there are teams that have not qualified for the champion’s league since its inception. Give Wenger some CREDITS and I hope to read one day your football club or managerial skill is taking you to manage Real Madrid, Man U and the likes. until then, its easy to point an accusing finger at a manager like Wenger without further analysis. Am very proud of teams like Liverpool, West Ham , Saints, the toffees, Spurs who have maintained where they are despite not being bank rolled by billionaires. Talking of Abu Diaby and injuries, did you know that RVP was constantly injured and later became who he is today. Had Wenger been in a rush your way, we would never have seen a great striker he is today. Gibbs had that trouble and he’s now helping the team. On Campbell, I thought you might have just been a joke all the time. Joel and Wilshere at 22 and 23 respectively, and you just mowed them like they are in their forties. You would be the same analyst saying arsenal lack depth in its squad, sorry a real depth in a squad has to be those earning $250,000 a week. sorry my bad.

  7. Ok mate, settle the kettle. I agree with everything above actually. Fair reflection of today’s Arsenal and I’m sure the author will get around to doing ones for the “oil money” clubs such as Chelsea, City and co.

  8. Interesting read – firstly, Diaby should’ve gone a long time ago. I feel for the lad, when he did have game time for us he looked decent – scored some decent goals. But yeah, I think it’s time Wenger gave up on the idea Diaby’ll ever get to be that player he probably should’ve been.

    Campbell has looked off the pace – but I can’t help thinking he could be another Vela – shown glimmers of talent just maybe doesn’t have enough faith in him from Le Boss. But he’s still young, I’d give him 2 seasons before letting him go, but that means getting a good run of games – if you ask me would I rather we brought in a proven, top-class player instead? I would. I just can’t see Joel, unfortunately, being consistently good enough.

    Wages-wise, Rosicky is perhaps earning a lot for someone of his age, but, he is quite an influential player and to be honest, I feel he warrants, if anyone does, that sort of higher wage at the club. Sure enough, given his age, he’ll peter out soon anyway – so that one is inevitable.

    Flamini – can’t stand the guy to be honest but I suppose he’s a good enough (experienced) back-up for the likes of Coquelin – and let’s face it, £65k isn’t a great deal of money these days. Same sort of notion with Monreal – feel we could do better but again I think he’s done OK since joining us – and a half-decent back-up for when, you’d presume, Gibbs will be the main man at LB again.

    Wilshere is an interesting one – I think many fans, like myself, really want the guy to become an Arsenal great – was once a raw English talent at the Arsenal since he was a kid, now he’s just sort of ‘there’ every season without really showing much on the field regularly enough. I think his off-field ‘activities’ have been over-dramatised somewhat – let’s remember he’s what, 22/23? He’s a human being having money thrown at him and has had a lot of hype from a very young age, cut the guy some slack. Having said that, I think he knows full well (as he’s stated himself) that he needs to start producing for Arsenal. I say stick with the lad for now, providing his injuries become a lot less frequent, of course – time will tell.

    Szczesny I feel should be in there – his attitude reeks to be honest – smoking in the showers? You can just tell his position has gone to his head. He’s very arrogant, and I’m glad Ospina is doing so well at the moment in his place. I’d love Arsenal to bring in a young English goalkeeper, someone with passion and the willingness to do well, not to become an arrogant pr*ck like Woj.

  9. Obviously you could pick out a couple players on any “big” club’s wage list and call them poor return for the investment, but I don’t think it’s too fair to pick on Wenger or Arsenal more than the rest.

    Diaby yes, he could have been cut loose by now. But to say Rosicky and Campbell are “robbing” the bank?? One is a solid squad player and a leader, the other is a kid who is good but not great at this point. Should Arsenal give up on all young players -then we wouldn’t see the likes of Ramsey, Gibbs, Walcott, or Coquelin ever get the time to break into the squad.

    Meanwhlle Chelsea spends the money on Torres, Salah, and Luis….City just paid to sign Sagna FROM Arsenal. And PSG somehow paid 50+ million on David Luiz? And that’s not even mentioning the 20 million pound LOAN for Falcao….something tells me his wages are a bittttt higher than Campbell.

    I agree that Arsenal and Wenger have missed it a few times with their moves -Squillaci, Santos, and holding Diaby seem the biggest. I agree that Wilshere is on the verge of becoming more trouble than he’s worth. But I disagree strongly with the premise that Arsenal has been anything other then one of the very top clubs when it comes to financial efficiency and responsibility.

    Last point -I think people fail to realize that sending a player out on loan not only can be good for the player, but can end up profiting the club as well. For all the “bust” talk about Vela, apparently Arsenal made a bit off him in the end, and his wages during his Arsenal spell were mostly paid by his loan club.

  10. Don’t really concur with your assessment at all. Diaby I’d pay just because I feel so sorry for the fellow, gets his ankle viciously broken and is never able to really recover – clearly not money well spent in a football sense, but he was clearly a man who could have played at a high level and he lost his career while playing with us so I admire our willingness to stand by him through all the attempted comebacks. Of course I prefer if we don’t depend on him being there when determine squad depth though.

    Rosicky should have played far more for us this season, as he’s been impressive virtually every time he gets on the file for the past 2 years.

    Monreal I would have concurred about at the beginning of the season but his time at cb really seemed to help him find some grit, and he’s kept Gibbs (a really good fullback) out of the team on merit for the past run of games.

    Flamini, sure, you could say he’s overpaid since he was supposed to back up arteta and now he’s deservedly behind le coq, but (a) he joined with no transfer fee so even if his weekly wage is a bit inflated it’s not really moving the needle on a larger scale, and (b) how little do you think you can sign a reputable backup dm for anyway?

    Wilshere, now, he’s definitely being paid for way more than he’s been providing on the field. Arsenal (and many observers) thought he’d keep taking big steps and be a star, but he hasn’t really made the leap. He certainly has the potential to outperform his contract in terms of value if he managed sustained performance at the peak of the levels he’s occasionally demonstrated, so is having that potential locked in for a figure that currently exceeds his value worthwhile/advisable? It will be if he makes the leap, but if he doesn’t the. One could argue it won’t have been in retrospect. Since we don’t make decisions in retrospect, I’m cool with it.

    As for Campbell he looked good with betis, good with olympiakos, and good with Colombia. The yellow submarine has been playing some really fabulous, fun to watch football – scored in the most games straight in the big 5 leagues I think, >25 in a row, so if Joel plays his way into a starting place for them then clearly he’ ll be a worthwhile talent even if we wind up selling him. Don’t really see how he can be robbing the team while on loan, as presumably we get a fee and his wages are paid by the recipient team…

    So, all in all I feel like if you looked at who banks loot to ride the pine and/or underperform on some other teams (balotelli, adebayor, soldado, Herrera, falcao, mata, etc) arsenal aren’t doing so badly.

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