SPORTING DECLARATION: In Arsene we trust

LIKE the vast majority of the 60,078 fans who exited Emirates Stadium on August 18, Sporting Declaration had some concerns.

A scoreless draw at home to Sunderland was hardly a result to instil confidence in the Arsenal faithful.

Another nil-nil scoreline at Stoke City a week later did nothing to quell the unease.

But two words offered long-suffering Gooners like myself cause for comfort. Arsene knows. Arsene Wenger, that is, the greatest tactician and mastermind in international sport.

Wenger has been a target for increasing criticism in recent years, most of which revolves around the fact Arsenal have not won a trophy in seven years and continue to lose their best players to rival clubs.

This year it was Robin van Persie who walked out at the last minute to join some pub team called Manchester United.

In previous seasons we've had to stomach the traitorous exits of Cesc Fabregas, Emannuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, Ashley Cole and even the legend himself, Thierry Henry.

Each departure is a body blow to the fans. And the frustration is exacerbated by Arsenal's inability or unwillingness to pay top dollar for big-name replacements.

But I'm 100 per cent behind Wenger on this. I can't cop greedy, self-serving mercenaries, and apparently neither can he. So when players come to him and ask for a release, because they can earn vastly more money elsewhere, he ushers them to the door.

And when he is in the transfer market, looking for new signings, if they demand ridiculous wages he opts for some unknown teenager on a fraction of the coin.

Fair enough, this columnist reckons. I can't understand why Wenger is pilloried for being a man of principle.

Arsenal are a club who live within their means. They punch above their weight.

In an age when so many clubs are experiencing financial disaster - Leeds United, Portsmouth, Bradford and Glasgow Rangers, for starters - the Gunners run a profitable, sustainable business.

Compare that with the Premier League champions, Manchester City, who last year lost a staggering £200 million ($315 million) in buying their first title since the days of black-and-white TV. Funded by an Abu Dhabi billionaire, Sheikh Mansour, City have made a mockery of player payments.

They routinely poach superstars by doubling their already mind-boggling salaries. Their farcical fiscal policies are best evidenced by the fact they signed Adebayor for an estimated £200,000, then continued to pay half of that when he was on loan at Tottenham. They make me sick. Premier League trophies should be earned, not bought.

Meanwhile, Arsenal keep on keeping on. When I walked out of Emirates Stadium a month ago, the general topic of conversation was how would the Gunners compensate for the league-best tally of goals van Persie scored last season?

But Wenger, as always, appears a step ahead. New signings Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski are finding their feet up front. The Gunners are no longer a one-man strike force. But the real progress has been at the other end of the pitch, where Arsenal have been displaying resolve in defence not seen since the George Graham days almost 20 years ago.

In recent years, Wenger's team has played an attractive brand of football but struggled to shut down their opponents. But in five games this season, including Tuesday's 2-1 Champions League win in Montpellier, Arsenal have conceded only two goals, while scoring 10. It is, admittedly, only early days.

A trip to Manchester City this weekend will provide a better gauge of how north London's finest are travelling.

Regardless of the outcome, I'm confident Arsenal's future is in safe hands, despite what the doom-and-gloom merchants might have to say. Arsene knows. In Arsene we trust.

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