Rather than it being a time of desperation, it’s seen as probably the most ideal scenario, or at least the most obvious.
Dimitar Berbatov isn’t what he once was. Why else would Alex Ferguson have sold him for £3 million pounds in 2012 – 10 per cent of what he paid Spurs for him in 2008?
Ironically, what have Arsenal always suffered from, at least for the initial five or so years of their time at the Emirates? A lack of experience, a lack of veteran heads who have been there and done it. Dimitar Berbatov, provided he is genuinely on Arsene Wenger’s wish list, is a decent enough stop gap until the summer. He isn’t the striker the club are looking for to score 20-plus goals a season. Simply, the Bulgarian is a reliever for Olivier Giroud for the next five months of league action.
Arsenal aren’t shackled down by a lack of finances, rather a self-imposed barrier to spend needlessly. Wenger is famously quite particular about who he signs. It’s not a bad mindset to have, as is often portrayed. Wenger knows what to look for in a player, specifically in what they can offer to his football sides. January is a notoriously difficult period in which to buy players. The Arsenal manager can be forgiven if his list of primary targets aren’t available, as who would willingly part with their best players midway through a season?
Berbatov, therefore, does make some sense. He’s not the player to look to as an option going much further than the end of this season. If the signing does take place, he’ll likely arrive at the Emirates of an extremely short-term basis. At 32, there isn’t much left from the striker, who has already seen a decline in his numbers from last season.
But it’s those reasons that give Wenger the advantage. Berbatov won’t command a large fee, £2 million is currently being rumoured, and he won’t impede the club’s search for a marquee name in the summer. Add that to the fact that a senior January addition of almost any kind will lift the mood at Arsenal and give the players the impetus to dig deep for that little bit extra during the second half of the season.
In cases such as this when dealing with a veteran name, it’s more about the lift their arrival midway through the campaign can give the dressing room rather than what they can do on the pitch.
Alex Ferguson spoke of Henrik Larsson’s arrival at Manchester United in 2008 greatly lifting the players at the club. There was an aura about the Swede, and even though he only scored three goals in his short spell with the club, it’s the mental boost that he offered that will likely be remembered. Of course, it’s helpful that he was still capable of moments of brilliance.
Berbatov fits that mould; he fits the Arsenal way of playing. His ability to hold the ball up for others and play the intricate passing game in the final third will be seen as key attributes. He doesn’t need to score a bagful of goals. Arsenal are in a position where they get goals from forwards and the midfield.
Arsenal undoubtedly need to strengthen their cause for the league title. In fact, Wenger should have done more to bring in a stop striker during the summer. But this is the situation the club are in now. As a means to simply get from January to the end of the season, Berbatov isn’t a bad choice.