The problem Arsene Wenger has is that he’s built up a magnificent reputation for himself with picking up wonders in the transfer market. Now it’s very much a case of drawing parallels with his success in transfers and the team’s success on the pitch.
The Arsenal manager’s set of contacts in the game has always given him a strong hand, specifically with knowledge of French football. But is it now time to move on from the well-trodden path of Ligue 1 and switch focus?
There is a perception that Arsene Wenger is living in the past with his views of football and his approach to management, and that may be so. 10-years ago it would have been normal for him to look to France and pick up a player of exceptional quality for a bargain price, adding significantly to his squad and further improving their fortunes on the pitch. Now, however, it seems very much a game of hit and hope.
Gervinho was never a top target for Arsenal; I’m struggling to believe the Ivorian was anything other than a last resort option over Eden Hazard. The fee was more in line with the spending at Arsenal and there was a decent safety net following his numbers and title win the season prior. Olivier Giroud, while looking to have much more about him than Gervinho, was also never intended to be a starter in the Arsenal team. Laurent Koscielny was the same and was forced into more games in his first season at the club due to injury, all the while the very best players in France are being overlooked for one reason or another.
You’ve got to believe that it’s all financial, where clubs in France are unlikely to ask for prices that you’d find in Italy or England. Karim Benzema, Eden Hazard and Hugo Lloris were among the best France had to offer, however Wenger doesn’t shop in the elite market of French football, rather looking a step or two down.
It’s also a concern for the club that Arsenal aren’t picking up players like Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa. Where once Wenger’s homeland has been so good to him in providing quality for his teams, he is no longer getting value for money.
But that raises another question as to whether he is losing his ability to pick up hidden gems in the manner he used to. Players like Cesc Fabregas don’t come along very often, and even Santi Cazorla was a gift from a club in serious financial trouble. There are no longer anymore Thierry Henrys or Freddie Ljungbergs waiting to be snapped up and ready for first team action, so why does the manager continue to miss out on very good options that do become available to other clubs?
It also appears that there is no reasoning to some of the transfers. Yes, the club needed a striker and a creative midfield force, but is there any debate as to whether they’re the right players for each other. The system the team play in also springs up, and how likely was it that players like Marouane Chamakh or Chu-Young Park would be successes at Arsenal, regardless of their quality?
Unfortunately, it again comes down to the lack of willingness from whichever party at the club to spend big. You get what you pay for, and at the moment Arsenal aren’t doing too well on the pitch and in regards to trophies. Where is the everlasting belief that Wenger has picked up another diamond in the market? Cazorla doesn’t apply, while none of the manager’s most recent players have contributed to such an extent that they’d be categorised in the same group as Robert Pires or Freddie Ljungberg.
Arsenal have underlined their desire to focus much more on German football moving forward, having already picked up Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski, Serge Gnabry, and Thomas Eisfeld from Bundesliga clubs. But does that create a better feeling among supporters? Will the club look for the very best available or will it be the tier below?
The disappointment is that a club like Arsenal relies on people like Wenger in the game. His knowledge of talent around the world is what the club needs in order to stay competitive. So why is the club missing out on players like Robert Lewandowski prior to his move to Dortmund? Where are the very best players from the far east that are now in Germany? And once again, where are the buys like Yohan Cabaye?
The fact that Arsenal wrote off the signing of Park says a lot about their recklessness with regards to the transfer market. This is a player that should have been deemed not good enough by the scouts set up in France, yet the club moved for him anyway. There was no bargain there and it was evident almost immediately that Wenger had no use for him.
There are a number of factors that make the club seem limp and lifeless with much of their activity in the market, and many will continue to point to the lack of David Dein at the club. Would the Juan Mata deal have crumbled if Dein were at the club? The sensational story over the weekend originating in France that Wenger wanted Hugo Lloris but the board wouldn’t sign off on the deal sums up the club right now.
There are certainly bargains available around Europe, but these past few years have done a lot to show where Arsenal are at the moment. They need bargains who are going to come in and do much, much more than just fill in a squad place and do a job. But Wenger isn’t identifying these bargains anymore, and that should be one of the overriding worries for the club in their need to move forward.