By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger has been at Arsenal for 13 years but he's never seen English football in a worse financial state.
The global recession has bit hard in Britain but it has taken time for the economic downturn to impact on the country's No 1 sport - especially while Real Madrid and Manchester City were splashing the cash last summer.
Wenger has predicted for some time that football will feel the effects of the recession by the end of the season. A number of Premier League clubs are saddled with debt and the Arsenal manager believes that will ensure a relatively quiet transfer window in January.
“I don’t know well about the situation but it is certainly the worst financial situation in football [that I have seen] in 13 years," said Wenger.
“We are [in debt] as well but we manage to pay it back. What I mean is people are just concerned with who you buy, but at the moment when a guy asks me ‘will the transfer market be very busy?’ I can’t see the reason why the transfer market should be very busy because many clubs struggle financially.
“What is so terrible about debt is that at some stage you have to pay it back, that’s what is terrible. If it was just an intellectual problem it is not terrible but at some stage somebody will knock at your door and say ‘Please, can you pay me back?’ And that is what is going to happen in football.”
Portsmouth's problems are well-documented but they are not the only top-flight club peering anxiously at their balance sheets. So does Wenger expect any of them to go under in the current climate?
“I don’t know, I hope not," he replied. "But what is happening at the moment, all the clubs live in debt and think a rich owner will come and buy them.
"That is what happened to Chelsea, you know, and that is what we thought happened at Portsmouth but you will find out that not necessarily everybody has the amount of resources needed today in football.
"But the change with 20 years ago or ten years ago is that the amount of money you need to buy a club is much higher and the amount of debt you find is much higher.
"I don't know well enough the situation of any individual club. I read [the papers] all week, and what I read is that many clubs struggle in the Championship, many clubs struggle everywhere... when you have players out on loan, they struggle with the wages of the players. It is difficult and for the first time I see empty seats."Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 18 Dec 2009