Wenger must have something up his sleeve… he can’t afford not to

Arsene Wenger didn’t fancy Cesc Fabregas because the Spaniard’s position was already occupied by Mesut Ozil. The Arsenal boss turned down the chance to re-sign Carlos Vela. It’s hard to understand why. Perhaps Wenger hasn’t gotten over the Mexican’s failure to convince the first time round. Arsenal are now said to be in an advanced stage of selling their right to buy back the player. Or something like that.

Either way, Wenger has passed up on two players Arsenal need. Arsenal need Vela because the team have no pace beyond Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and are in need of adding goals to the team. Above all, it’s the issue of injecting speed into an oft-sluggish attack that makes the lack of interest in bringing Vela back so curious.

In total, Wenger has passed up the option to sign one world-class midfielder and one very good forward – who has been doubling up as a winger for Real Sociedad – for just under £35 million combined. You’d hope that Wenger has something better up his sleeve.

The Arsenal manager, like his team were for much of last season, is running on empty. Or at least it’s very close. The FA Cup did a lot to mute the always impending groans, anxiety and general anger following his contract renewal. There are still sections of the support that believe offering the Frenchman any kind of stay, let alone three years, was the wrong decision.

The latest rumours doing the rounds are that Arsenal are after Alexis Sanchez or Marco Reus, while the links to Mario Balotelli won’t go away. If we’re using Zlatan Ibrahimovic as a measuring device, Mino Raiola, both Balotelli and Ibra’s agent, can’t resist the temptation of transfer negotiations.

That’s more like it. Any combination of Reus, Alexis or Balotelli would be deemed a considerable step forward. I have my doubts about Balotelli, primarily because of his now infamous baggage, and I can’t see Borussia Dortmund selling Marco Reus now, but considering Arsenal’s much-flaunted wealth, this is exactly where they should be shopping.

This is a club that needs something big. Some fans are still riding that high of having signed Ozil last summer. The German had a good game against Portugal in his side’s World Cup opener. It left fans purring. He looked refreshed, but it’s almost as if the higher standard of player around him played a part in him having a good game. I know, what a concept.

What is important for Wenger this summer is that he does enough to convince supporters that passing on Fabregas was the right choice. Suggesting that the former club captain wasn’t needed due to Ozil’s purchase a year ago completely ignores the wider picture: Mikel Arteta is 32, Mathieu Flamini is 30, Tomas Rosicky is 33, and Santi Cazorla is 30 later this year. Very little can justify Wenger’s decision, but it is down to him to bring in the kind of quality that can allow supporters to comfortably move on. It’s not just the romantic idea of Cesc returning to the Emirates, it’s the passing up of a world-class player who wanted join the club.

Wenger carved out a reputation for himself over the best part of the last two decades as a manager who scours the market in search of hidden gems. The secrets of that method is as good as out now, and while the Arsenal manager still has a trick or two up his sleeve (Laurent Koscielny), Arsenal need something bigger and far more obvious now. Not to the total disregard of high-value bargains, but certainly in reply to the flat out rejection of a player (or pair of players) who would undoubtedly have made Arsenal far more convincing title contenders next season.