“It will be busy, but the main thing for us will be to keep the stability because we feel we are close (to the title), we want to add something that makes us even stronger, but number-wise it will not be massive.”
Yep, those are the words of Arsene Wenger. And that’s right Arsenal fans, it’s Groundhog Day.
With work to be done this summer, money to spend, players to replace, Wenger has once more been rolling out the same old clichés, commonplace for this time of the year.
There seems to be nothing the Gunners’ boss enjoys more than to pooh-pooh media speculation. He doesn’t stand for rumours, and doesn’t give much for Arsenal fans to dream big about. In one fell swoop, Wenger can lower the collective expectations of the club’s fanbase. He does it year on year, and has already done so.
The club finds itself under-performing, thus resulting in the clamour for new signings. The media reports of increased financial potential, fuelling expectation around the club and in the media. Glamorous names emerge as ‘number one’ targets, but Wenger denies any interest. Cue fan frustration. The process undergoes a similar pattern next year, and the next. Like the hydrological system, Arsenal’s transfer operations have a predictable, cyclical pattern to them.
Wenger has moved to assure Arsenal fans that, in terms of numbers, the activity this summer will be minimal. The need for stability within the current squad is of greater value in Wenger’s eyes, whilst there will only be the need for ‘two or three’ additions.
The situation surrounding the contracts of Bacary Sagna and Lukasz Fabianski has been foreseen. Both have been likely to depart this summer for a number of months now. As the calendar ticks towards June, and neither have committed their long-term future to the club, the need for replacements becomes more and more urgent.
So let’s say we allow for replacements to each of these to be two of the potential three recruits. This leaves room for just one more addition. Will this be the lightning fast wide man Gooners have missed since Theo Walcott buggered his knee? Or the ‘world-class striker’ the Twittersphere raves about every time Olivier Giroud shoots anywhere that isn’t the top corner? Or maybe the ‘next Patrick Vieira’, who has been missing since the actual Vieira’s departure? Or EVEN another centre-back (an area where the Gunners could be woefully short if Thomas Vermaelen pushes for a transfer)?
Well, simple maths says it can’t be all four. The reality is that, regardless of who the ‘two or three’ names will be, it probably won’t suffice. Arsene Wenger is fearful of the negative ramifications major additions can cause to the squad, or as I like to refer to it, the ‘Tottenham effect’. Too many players to bed in, with too little time can result in an imbalance which is difficult to rectify, as Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood have aptly proven this season.
In terms of transfer market business, the World Cup provides an inconvenience. For someone in Wenger’s position, the last thing you want is for potential targets to be on display to the world of football. It just increases the likelihood of competition and higher prices.
Replacing outgoing players should be pre-emptive. Groundwork should be laid weeks – arguably months – in advance in order to avoid the dangers of a last-minute trolley dash. Sadly, fear and ill-preparation have pushed Arsenal into the shark-pit that is ‘Transfer Deadline Day’ – brought to you by Jim White and Natalie Sawyer – twice in the last three years. Effectively remove one month from this summer – the World Cup – and time constraints ramp up the need to conclude deals quickly.
Instead of laying groundwork for a pro-active summer in the transfer market, Wenger has started laying the groundwork to lower the expectations, hopes, and dreams of the Arsenal fans. The current campaign went west due to largely inadequate squad depth, exacerbated by injuries. And there is nothing more Arsenal fans would love to see than Wenger break the habits of a lifetime. Sadly, this doesn’t appear to forthcoming.
The summer may end up being a busy one, but the fears remain that Wenger has yet to come to terms with what many people perceive to be the weaknesses at the club. Neglecting the necessities of the summer would be a major grievance for many Arsenal fans. Transfer windows are supposed to be periods of renewed hope and aspirations. Sadly, once more for Arsenal, the manager seems to be readying up for more of the same; frustration and agitation. In abundance.