Arsenal may be slightly closer but I see both clubs needing to spend £300-400million to reach the level where I expect Chelsea and the Manchester clubs to be following their summer recruitment drives — and I just don’t see that happening at either Anfield or the Emirates.
Arsenal’s squad is strong but will they be able to keep their best players, like Alexis Sanchez? If their best were to leave, I don’t see how they could sign someone of the same quality.
Players at Sanchez’s level could well be looking elsewhere because Arsenal do not push the boat out with wages and, most importantly, they have won only two major trophies since 2005. That is not enough for the very best.
Antoine Griezmann is a good example. If he leaves Atletico Madrid this summer, you simply could not imagine him moving to Arsenal. If he moves to England, it would be to play for Manchester United, Manchester City or Chelsea. That is a problem for Liverpool and Arsenal — and Tottenham for that matter — as they try to bridge the gap.
Arsenal’s lack of strength in depth in defence is a worry, too. Laurent Koscielny is a very good centre-back, but just look at the options available to Chelsea and United, for example. If Chelsea are missing two centre-backs, they can call on Kurt Zouma and John Terry. United have Phil Jones, Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo.
If Arsene Wenger does leave, Arsenal’s new manager needs to be able to win straight away.
He needs to have the standing in the game to keep the club’s best players and attract others — and he needs to have plenty of money to spend. Will all those things be in place at the beginning of next season? I doubt it.
At the moment, United, City and Chelsea have a better package to offer a player than Arsenal or Liverpool. There are already plenty of world-class players at those clubs — Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Diego Costa, Eden Hazard, David Silva, Sergio Aguero. They are more attractive in terms of the wages they can offer and their prospects of success.
Even more than Arsenal, Liverpool are fishing in a different pond, looking for rough diamonds and relative bargains. They paid Southampton £34million for Sadio Mane, who is a hell of a player but would he get into Chelsea’s team? In terms of pure ability, Pedro, Hazard and Willian are probably all ahead of him.
The increased spending at the top sets Arsenal and Liverpool a challenge. Can they do things differently? Can they find another way to maintain the pace? I would love to say they can but I’m just not sure it is possible.