By the time I came to actually writing this article, in comparison to when I thought up the title, I had fully expected Gonzalo Higuain to be an Arsenal player by now. Gunners fans are undoubtedly concerned that the Argentine international is yet to arrive in North London, with reports from Madrid insisting Real President Florentino Perez is yet to actually receive a formal bid for the 25 year old.
But in some ways, it makes this article easier to write, as it centres around Arsene Wenger’s transfer policy. Earlier in the season it was announced that the Gunners gaffer would be handed £70million to invest in new players and propel the club back towards the Premier League title race, whilst the potential sales of Gervinho, Bacary Sagna, Marouane Chamakh and Andre Santos would add further revenues to spend on reinvigorating a stagnating squad, and the departures of Denilson, Andre Arshavin and Sebastien Squillaci would free up a troubling wage bill.
It’s all good news in theory for Arsenal, with this summer for many reasons marking arguably the most important transfer window at the club throughout the last decade. A Gunners fan will tell you that Wenger is on the cusp of turning it all around – he’s accepted that you can’t win the Premier League title, or even auxiliary silverware, by spending £10million here on Mikel Arteta and £10million there on Olivier Giroud based on one season of noteworthy success in the French top flight, whilst at the same time, he’s understood that spending an overzealous fee can have subliminal and psychological effect in a positive sense, even if some number-crunching analyst points out it’s not cost-effective.
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But are we yet to actually see Wenger take on board any of this season’s criticisms? It may be early in the transfer window, but Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United have all made substantial ground, whilst the Arsenal boss has made just one acquisition from his favourite recruitment pool – Yaya Sanogo, from Ligue 2, for free.
If there’s one player who sums up Wenger’s transfer policy since their last title win, The Invincibles’ unbeaten domestic campaign in 2004, its Sanogo. I’m not suggesting the France U21 international doesn’t have the potential to be a good player, whose transfer is undoubtedly a sensible piece of business, but is another unproven teenager what the squad needs this summer?
I’m sure at some point Arsene Wenger will break the club’s record transfer fee amid the current off-season, which currently stands at just £16million for Santi Cazorla. If it won’t be Higuain, and his proposed £23million deal, it will be another striker with a similar price tag. Wayne Rooney remains the obvious candidate, whilst the Gunners’ apparent pursuit of Luis Suarez I personally find rather difficult to believe.
My hunch is however, that the purchase of a new, proven centre-forward will be where the Gunners gaffer decides to draw the line. If we look at his previous history in terms of signings, the last purchase to exceed the marketing norm was Sylvain Wiltord at a fee of £13million, which wouldn’t be eclipsed at the Emirates for the next eight and a half years.
Arsenal fans will point out that the situation is different now – spending as a means to succeed has become compulsory over the last decade at the Premier League’s summit, whilst Arsene Wenger’s plan of making his club almost entirely autarkic and self-sufficient on their youth products has failed, and the apparently impossible-to-overcome burden of a new stadium has now been fully paid off, despite the fact the Gunners’ pre-tax profit continually grew in this period, from 2002 to 2010, freeing up the club’s finances to invest in a cast of continental talents.
But old habits die hard, and Arsene Wenger is hardly known as a man who is always keen to change his ways for the better. Wenger’s monolithic approach to management appears to be centred around determinedly sticking to his own philosophies and principles, compromising only when he has to. His rumoured spat with Steve Bould over the first team’s defence is a prime example, whilst the board must also take a share of the blame for failing to challenge Wenger’s methods and ethos, despite the club’s continual decline. At one point it seemed the Frenchman would be forced to spend this summer, with his job on the line after a lukewarm at best campaign, yet the board have now offered him a new contract, amid their perpetual fear of change.
Similarly, it wouldn’t be the first time the Gunners boss has sugar-coated a message for the Emirates faithful. In January, he promised a striker and turned up with occasional Spain left-back Nacho Monreal, and the summer previous he promised a viable replacement for Robin Van Persie, and turned up with Olivier Giroud.
Would it be that inconceivable if Wenger spent around £25million on one player, and then reverted back to making £10million acquisitions to address other departments of the Arsenal roster that require improvements? The North Londoners have already been linked with the likes of Sebastien Corchia and Etienne Capoue, and although both are decent footballers who can claim impressive 2012/2013 campaigns, they won’t be pushing the club back towards the Premier League title race any time soon. The same can be said for Swansea’s Ashley Williams, who is regularly rumoured to be on his way to the Emirates, but would bring no substantial improvement to the Arsenal backline.
The fan base has dreams of Marouane Fellaini, Stevan Jovetic or even Christian Benteke arriving at the Emirates this summer, but I firmly believe Arsene Wenger will come up short, and once again maintain the damaging ideology that he knows best when it comes to all things Arsenal.
Even if I am wrong about the Gunners manager’s intentions, he is still yet to overcome the most important hurdle. The transfer of Gonzalo Higuain must go ahead, or failing that Wayne Rooney’s, or else, even if Wenger plans on bringing in players of the calibre the fans are desperate for, they will be repelled by the club’s inability to make star signings, and opt for domestic or European rivals who are moving in a promising direction.
My advice to the Arsenal faithful is quite simply not to get your hopes up. Once again from Arsenal and Arsene Wenger, we’ve heard a lot of talk, but are yet to see any action.
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