Arsenal “have to find some money from somewhere”, says Nigel Winterburn, as becoming a “self-funding club” is not a recipe for success.
A frugal approach to recruitment has been favoured at Emirates Stadium for some time.
Arsene Wenger was happy to play by those rules during his 22-year tenure and faced regular rounds of criticism for relaxing that stance all too infrequently.
The Spaniard has been made aware that only loan moves can be made in the January transfer window, at a point in the season when big-spending rivals are prepared to invest again if required.
Winterburn has questioned the logic of adopting such a stance, with the former Gunners defender telling Love Sport Radio: “Obviously, I don't know the nitty gritty runnings of the football club but looking from the outside it almost seems to me that Arsenal want to be a self-funding club, and I'm thinking that if we want to get back to challenging Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United - who are going to spend more money, and Chelsea who will probably spend again - then we're going to have to find some money from somewhere.
“But we're going to find ourselves in this frustrating period where we've made some progression but we're still a way off challenging for the title again.”
He added: “Is the money there? That's the question we want to know because if you hear from the manager that we can only get a loan signing in January then that doesn't suggest to me that there is lots of money around unless what they're saying is January is not the right time to go out and buy, let's see what happens and we'll be back in the market for the start of next season.
“I could understand that. That would make sense. But we're not hearing that. It's a guessing game with Arsenal and we'll just have to wait and see.”
Arsenal have fared admirably under a new coaching regime this season to keep themselves in contention for a top-four finish.
Winterburn hopes a challenge for Champions League qualification can be sustained, but admits a return to title contention remains a long way off for a club reluctant to match the ambition of those around them.
Quizzed on what the rest of the season holds for the Gunners, Winterburn said: “I'd like to see, and I hope it will happen but I've no idea, is that coming into the last five games we're in a position to get into that top four.
“I think it is fourth position. I think that is as realistic as we can be. I don't see us being able to get any higher than that with the teams around us. So, if we were to snatch that fourth place, that would be some progression but then we would need to see that progression the following season.
“From an Arsenal point of view, from a supporters' point of view, we just want to see some progression and eventually getting back to challenging for the title, but how long that is going to be is a question I wish I could answer for you!”