Gunners ready to spend big after record returns

ARSENAL are prepared to break their transfer record to ensure Arsene Wenger keeps one step ahead of Manchester United after posting their best ever financial results.

Wenger was thwarted yesterday in his move for Valencia’s Miguel Angel Angulo, who had a last-minute change of heart after undergoing a medical at Arsenal.

His agent Jose Luis Tamargo said: “Angulo didn’t feel he had the sufficient strength for a change of lifestyle. Fear overcame him that he could not fit in at Arsenal nor with the English lifestyle. He felt this could affect his performance on the pitch.”

But, while the Gunners therefore added no new signings before the transfer window closed, they are determined to keep pace with United, if not Chelsea.

Having invested a record fee of more than £14m in Jose Reyes last January, with more to come depending on their success, they are ready to surpass this amount in the future.

Managing director Keith Edelman said: “The future is bright. We are financially very healthy so we can invest further money if the manager chooses to do that in the transfer market. We potentially have more at our disposal than we have spent in the past.

“Chelsea have completed a lot of very expensive transfer moves over the summer. But our strategy remains the same - to compete with the leading European clubs.”

Arsenal’s overall deficit on player sales and purchases in the past year was £23.6m, with Reyes, Jens Lehmann and Robin van Persie coming to the club. A further £6.3m was wiped off the books in relation to the values of Kanu, Sylvain Wiltord and Ray Parlour, who all left.

However, Arsenal have shown their willingness to pay what it takes to keep the likes of Patrick Vieira, with their wage bill having increased last year to £69m from £60m.

This was partly down to bonuses for the team’s success in going through an entire league season unbeaten, as well as reaching the Champions League quarter-finals and FA Cup semi-finals.

Moreover, the club’s latest set of annual accounts have shown pre-tax profits in the year to May 31 rose from £4.5m a year earlier to £10.6m.

The turnover for Arsenal Holdings also increased to £156.9m from £117.8m 12 months earlier - a performance helped by two significant property sales of £46m.

These were in connection with the ongoing move to their new Ashburton Grove stadium, still on course to open as scheduled in the summer of 2006.

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