Arsene Wenger’s signing of Kim Kallstrom, made when the club are in a three-horse race for the Premier League title, looks to be the Arsenal manager’s oddest signing in his tenure at the club.
Kim Kallstrom doesn’t serve a purpose – or maybe he does, just not one related to on-field matters. And that’s in main due to his inability to play until sometime in March.
It was interesting that Arsene Wenger said he wouldn’t have done the deal if he had two more days to work with, citing the club discovered the Swede’s injury problems at 5pm on deadline day.
Forget for a moment the annoyance and absurdity of limiting yourself to only two days max of business when January has 31 days in it, and instead focus on what Wenger’s purpose was in this signing.
With Kallstrom out for anything up to six weeks, by which time Aaron Ramsey will hopefully be Arsenal’s only major absentee via injury (excluding Theo Walcott), it’s hard to see where the Swedish international fits in.
For all of Wenger’s insistence to do things on his own terms, this does look to be a signing for the sole purpose of appeasing the support. It’s an act of, “well we tried, and due to the difficulties of negotiating the January window, this is the best we could find.”
It’s hard to point the finger at Wenger this season with too stern a face due to his accomplishment of getting Arsenal to the top of the Premier League. He’s assembled a squad who have remained ahead of the free-spending Chelsea and Manchester City, and at this time have developed a 15 point gap with last season’s champions, Manchester United.
In comparison to others in the title race, and with the exception of the signing of Mesut Ozil in the summer, this has all been done on a shoestring. Arsenal have managed to get further than Manchester United and Tottenham in the FA Cup. They’ve advanced out of the “group of death” in the Champions League, and upcoming European opponents aside, have done so while remaining at the top of their domestic league for the best part of the season up until now.
It’s why it’s all the more baffling that Wenger could end up making the progress and good work this season void by not strengthening when anyone with clarity of mind could see Arsenal were in need. But it’s also odd that he saw some value in Kallstrom – a midfielder, where Arsenal are notably strongest – a player who is over the hill and who may never appear for the club until his loan deal expires.
If there is some consolation, it’s that Arsenal have covered their backs well. There was no loan fee paid to Spartak Moscow and the player’s parent club will pay his wages until he returns from injury.
But take the signing of the player from a PR perspective. In fact, look at the whole January window from a PR perspective. In a month where the club have announced a major new signing in the deal with Puma, which further strengthens the club in the market, and having announced a three per cent increase on ticket prices, it can be viewed as a huge blunder, one which has much more to do with just the signing of an out of shape veteran midfielder.
Kallstrom will be thrown onto the pile of odd signings Wenger has made, along with Amuary Bischoff and Park Chu Young. Though without the injury, Kallstrom would have made slightly more sense than the other two.
There is very little ill feeling towards Kallstrom at this time. He may yet have a part, albeit a minor one, to play in this season’s title race. But with the stakes so high and the team clearly running on a low tank, Wenger’s latest signing looks anything but a move to strengthen Arsenal’s position in the title race.