Arsene Wenger has finally given Arsenal fans something to be pleased about with a win in the Premier League against Aston Villa following Arsenal’s shock defeat to Blackburn in the FA Cup and their poor display in the Champions League in which they were clinically outclassed by their opponents, Bayern Munich. But furthermore, the Frenchman has enticed supporters by linking the Gunners to the race to sign Ramadel Falcao from Atletico Madrid – the world’s most sought after striker.
I remain slightly suspicious. Arsene Wenger has a knack of telling fans the odd white lie to stop the murmurings of discontent. In January, big signings were promised, most notably a top quality striker, however by the end of the transfer window only Nacho Monreal had joined the club, for a fee of £8.3million.
To give credit where it’s due, Wenger has managed to shift a lot of the club’s deadwood off the wage bill, even if it is only until the end of the season, but their newly acquired Spanish left-back is hardly the glamorous signing that Arsenal fans have been crying out for; someone who can instantly affect and improve the starting XI, in terms of the way they play and their ability to win football matches. Monreal may be a solid defender, and arguably more reliable than Kieran Gibbs, but he’s hardly going to turn around the club’s fortunes from full-back.
Why am I so distrustful of Arsene Wenger willingly paying out £40million for potentially the best striker in the world? Well, first of all, it is a complete u-turn on the French gaffer’s transfer policy over the past 17 years, in which time the club’s record transfer fee has been just £15million for Santi Cazorla – a long way short of Chelsea’s £50million deal for Fernando Torres, Manchester United’s £30.75million for Dimitar Berbatov and Manchester City’s £35million for Sergio Aguero. But secondly – and far more importantly if you are an Arsenal supporter – is such a deal even possible for a club like Arsenal anymore?
Arsene Wenger had announced that money is no issue, which may surprise those on the outside of the club who have seen a definitive lack of spending power over the past few seasons. According to the Gunners boss, there is an £80million transfer kitty available in the summer, that would hypothetically be split almost exactly in half between Falcao’s transfer fee – his release clause of £43million – and the Columbian international’s wages, which are reportedly £150k per week. But yet again, there are more questions than answers. Surely this salary package would go against the club’s ridged wage structure that has allowed the likes of Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri and Emmanuel Adebayor leave for better money at rival clubs, and also has Marouane Chamakh on the same wage as a number of the Gunners Starting XI.
So money is not an issue, but even if Arsene Wenger could throw an endless supply of money at Falcao, would he even want a move to the Emirates? It’s no secret that the club have slowly and steadily entered into a declining period in their long history. Not only does this year’s poor performances all round in the FA Cup, League Cup, Champions League and Premier League highlight the current malaise, but the sheer fact that Arsenal haven’t lifted a trophy since 2005 is evidence enough that the club is much different to what it used to be during the era of “The Invincibles”.
I do not wish to simply point out the club’s failings without reason, and thus my argument is simple; Would Radamel Falcao actually be willing to leave a club that are second in La Liga and furthermore won the UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup at the start of the season, for one that are currently fifth in the Premier League, and haven’t any silverwear to their name in almost ten years? The only saving grace in regards to attracting the Columbian finisher is the prospect of Champions League football, but for the first time under Arsene Wenger, the club are facing the realistic possibility of failing to qualify for Europe’s most prestigious cup competition.
Furthermore, Arsenal will be up against a number of clubs for Falcao’s signature which they surely can’t compete with. Of course, any club is up against it when the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona are involved, but even Chelsea and Manchester City would be higher up in the pecking order for the Atletico striker. Simiarly, Bayern Munich, a team which really showed up how the Gunners have fallen with their 3-1 Champions League win at the Emirates are also preparing to make a bid in the summer.
And I suppose, that is in many ways what is at the heart of this argument. It’s all come too late from Arsene Wenger, even if his interest and desire to sign Falcao is genuine. The club are now in a position, due to the Frenchmen’s penny-pinching, where they can no longer attract the big money signings even if they wanted to. Arsenal have a solid, if somewhat imbalanced, first team, but if they are to ever return to their past glories, they need at least a couple of marquee signings to firstly make a declaration of intent to the fans, and secondly to really raise the quality of the Starting XI so that they can become competitive with the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea.
But what player, of such quality, would be willing now to join a club that are stuck in a rut, with a divided fan base, that don’t hand out large wages and have spent the last few years far more concerned with getting into Europe than they have the title race? I highly doubt the most prolific striker in the world is such a player.