Turn your mind back to 17th August 2013. The first day of the Premier League season. At every club the excitement of the resumption of domestic football gives birth to a newfound wave of optimism at every club. Well, every club except Arsenal, that is..
At the Emirates Stadium, on this day, frustration bubbled under the surface. By the time the final whistle was blown to signal a 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa, boos resonated about the arena. A summer of negligence on the part of the board and the management had come to fruition on the pitch as the team showed signs of the same lack of discipline and fight that they had been accused of on numerous occasions in past seasons.
After toiling for weeks over prospective deals for Gonzalo Higuain and Luis Suarez, the club had achieved a grand total of one signing by the time the Premier League kicked off – Yaya Sanogo, from Auxerre in Ligue 2, on a free. The club had failed to strengthen the areas of the squad that quite clearly required it after a scrap to fourth place the previous campaign.
However, after another predictable Premier League finish – this time with additional success on the trophy front – the signs are positive to suggest the club are heading in the right direction.
While the team showed strength to rebound from the negativity of this defeat, showing a great deal of progression on the field, repeated faults absolutely must be addressed this summer if the club wish to continue moving in the right direction. The annual league implosion left fans and players alike with an overawing sense of ‘what if’ as the Gunners slipped from first to fourth in the space of less than a month. Without having improved the squad when given the time to – both in the summer and in January – the depth in certain areas of the squad buckled under the weight of fixtures and expectation.
Upon the announcement of Arsene Wenger’s new three-year contract with the club, the boss – in a very atypical fashion, I might add – admitted to it being a big summer in North London. When asked about the transfer window, Wenger admitted:
‘Should the fans expect a big summer? Yes, they should expect that. We have a big advantage. Players wants to join us and if we find the right quality I’m sure we can strengthen the team.’
Now the second bit of this quote isn’t particularly interesting. But the first part? That’s more like it. Wenger is used to being the bearer of bad news when it comes to transfer stories, almost taking pride in shooting them down. Only last month did Wenger tell the fans to gear up for a slow summer, with few deals likely to occur.
This time round, the Arsenal boss seems to have cottoned on to the fans’ wishes. While in the same interview he urges caution, it is so rare of Wenger to make such bold statements as the one above that you have to think he is aware of the enormity of any business this summer.
Wenger will have, for the first time, funds available from renewed lucrative sponsorship deals, allowing for a more lavish approach to business, if he so wishes. Now while you would never expect Arsene Wenger to truly change his ways, nobody will be more driven to enable the club to have sustained success. By using what he has at his disposal Wenger has the increased opportunity to continue building a team capable of winning trophies, and cultivating a winning mentality within the club.
He simply can’t afford to be hesitant this time round. Wenger is now in a position where he doesn’t have to exercise the restraint he once did. Competition will be rife, and the added distraction of the World Cup will result in an inflated and evermore congested transfer market. Business has to be efficient and assured. And above all else, it has to get done. Last time round, the club’s irresolute approach cost them time in the market. This time round, Wenger needs to be as good as his word.