Arsene Wenger claims that Arsenal’s move to Emirates Stadium in 2006 was “the most difficult” time of his life.
The Gunners left Highbury for their new 60,000-seater home in time for the 2006-07 campaign after spending more than £400million to construct the state-of-the-art venue.
A loan taken out to finance the ground significantly curtailed Arsenal’s spending power in the transfer market, meaning Wenger was forced to watch key players including Ashley Cole, Samir Nasri, Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie depart his squad.
Wenger has been widely praised for maintaining their Champions League status until this season, but he has also been criticised for his record of securing no major trophies between 2005 and 2014.
The 67-year-old has described how difficult it was to navigate those seasons knowing that a top-four finish was essential simply to keep up the club’s loan repayments.
“In 2006 started the most difficult period of my life because we had restricted finances, we had to pay back a huge amount of money and we had to sell our best players and we had to stay at the top,” he told BT Sport ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final against Chelsea.
“We had to stay in the Champions League and we had to make at least 54,000 people [happy].
“There are debates when you build a stadium. How big can it be? It’s quite simple: at the time it was £4,000 per seat. You multiply that by 60,000 and it’s £240million.
“Plus, we had to buy the soil and the all businesses we had to buy out so it went for over £420million, and we had to pay a huge amount of money back every year and that’s why we had to stay in the Champions League.
“Today, the television money makes the weight of the Champions League much weaker, but at the time it was absolutely needed, so that was for me the biggest period of pressure, between 2006 and 2014.
“Today, you tell me ‘do that again’ I would say ‘no, thank you very much, leave that to somebody else’ because it was an unbelievably tough period.”
1979 – Both Arsenal and Man Utd have finished outside of the top four in the top-flight for the first time since 1978-79. Unusual. pic.twitter.com/LvQ4YnMUJR
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 21, 2017