Arsene Wenger’s transfer policy is enormously flawed. It’s held Arsenal back for much of the period in which they’ve called the Emirates Stadium home, while confirming Wenger’s own reluctance or inability to adapt and modernise his methods.
Arguably a great strength of Wenger is his ideal of waving off a player to another club and then bolting the door shut. Of course, that didn’t apply with Jens Lehman, Thierry Henry and Sol Campbell, but those were different circumstances, though funnily connected to the initial premise that Wenger’s recruitment policy is flawed.
The only player to come back to Arsenal who wasn’t a three-month stop-gap was Mathieu Flamini, but yet again there wasn’t a great deal of goodwill towards Wenger for that signing initially.
So, in the event Arsenal re-sign Cesc Fabregas this summer, would it be viewed as a weakness from Wenger? Here is a man who doesn’t waver on his principles, but even he can’t ignore that tremendous upside of signing someone like Fabregas a second time.
There’s nothing wrong with it. It won’t uncover a weakness in Wenger, nor will it give restless fans ammunition to use against the manager. Quite simply, clubs re-sign ex-players. It isn’t exclusive to one group of clubs or even one sport. It’s commonplace, and for the most part, it doesn’t confirm that the club were wrong to part with the player the first time around, highlighting a flaw or bad judgement. That logic is far too simplistic, too black and white and doesn’t take into account the various subplots that led to the sale.
As an example, Wenger didn’t want to sell Fabregas back in 2011. He didn’t want to because he had a vision for the club and because, obviously, who would want to sell a player that good? But he had to sign off on the deal for a player who irrevocably wanted Barcelona.
Then there’s Carlos Vela, who’s also been linked with a move back to north London. I’m in the minority. I was always a fan, albeit a frustrated one, of the Mexican, but letting him go when Wenger did was the right call. He wasn’t developing at the club or anywhere in England, and going to Real Sociedad has been to the benefit of everyone – especially Arsenal if they can buy him back for £4 million.
What that amounts to, provided Vela returns, is an extremely long-winded loan, basically what Chelsea have been doing with Thibaut Courtois. No harm; plenty of upside.
Going into this summer’s transfer period, Arsenal are looking at a clean slate for the players on the market. Vela and Fabregas’ signings at Arsenal will generally be weighed up in terms of what they can provide going forward, not what has happened in the past. If Vela has truly turned a corner in his career, then he’s definitely a player the club should be looking to re-sign. Fabregas’ potential involvement requires little explanation.
Wenger will long be criticised for the way he has worked in the market in previous years. But the re-signing of old players, especially good ones, doesn’t go hand-in-hand with that criticism. There will be no uncovering of poor judgement on Wenger’s part if any ex-players arrive at Arsenal this summer.