A transfer U-turn at Arsenal?
With Arsene Wenger amid his most unsuccessful season to date since taking the reins at Arsenal back in 1997, the French gaffers is expected to and has hinted at making a u-turn in the summer on his tight-fisted transfer policy and finally make some large fiscal investments during the next transfer window.
With the London club already eliminated from the domestic cup competitions, well away from the Premier League title race and up against the seemingly impossible task of overcoming a 3-1 deficit in the second leg of their Champions League clash away to Bayern Munich, their 2012/2013 campaign is already over, having just the pride and financial rewards of remaining in the top four left to play for.
The shoddy season at the Emirates has quite rightly bred discontent amongst the fans, who are dismayed by the club’s announcement of making annual profits, without any stand-out talent being brought into the squad or adequate replacements for the number of top quality players who have left to domestic and European rivals in recent years.
But just as the pressure had begun mounting on Wenger, with his position as manager becoming seriously endangered for the first time at Arsenal, he begins talking big when it comes to transfers. A few weeks ago, he openly discussed the possibility of signing Radamel Falcao – the most sought after striker in world football.
But something doesn’t quite add up. Would Wenger, a man who has constantly turned his nose up at the big money deals, launch a £48million bid to buy out the Columbian hitman’s contract? Furthermore – and even less likely – is the Frenchman ready to disrupt the club’s incredibly rigid wage structure to pay the striker’s estimated £40million in wages spread over five years? It seems unlikely, and from the other end of things, would Falcao be willing to join a club that is on the decline when he could sign for any team that are willing to pay his transfer fee?
Of course, he’s not the only striker on Wenger’s radar. Arsenal have been linked with a number of high quality forwards over the year, as the side struggle to fill the void left by Robin Van Persie, most notably Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and more recently Stevan Jovetic.
However anything further than a wink and a nudge speculating at a move is yet to materialise regarding the latter, and the Gunners missed their chance in January to sign the Dutchman, who has now decided to extend his contract at Schalke.
So with the knowledge that Wenger has an £80million transfer kitty at his disposal, Arsenal fans will surely be expecting some major transitions in the summer, but will he stick by his word or will it be another transfer window of relative disappointment for supporters screaming out for a marquee signing?
It wouldn’t be the first white lie that Arsene Wenger has dished out to the Arsenal faithful. The Gunners boss has a track record of promising bucking his trend in regards to transfers only to continue on his usual route of settling for a cheap alternative rather than the real deal. In January, he assured disgruntled fans he would be signing a forward, only to end the transfer window with a number of outgoings and only bringing in former Malaga defender Nacho Monreal.
Perhaps this time it’s different – Wenger’s back is well and truly up against the wall, and the fans will not put up with another season of mediocrity. Their ambition is to be challenging for the Premier League title, not aiming for a fourth place finish.
It’s clear the policies over the past few seasons in regards to transfers and contracts haven’t worked. Allowing player’s deals to run down to their final year has lead to impromptu departures, and the replacements brought in at mid range prices are simply not as good as the team’s former personnel. Over the course of a few seasons, the constant cycle of transfers has left the side depreciated in terms of value and quality.
To an outsider, it seems obvious that a big few signing is required to turn the club’s fortunes around, as Wenger currently possesses the makings of a good team, but is lacking in that true star quality needed to compete with the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea.
Whether Wenger shares that view or not is hard to tell. Like almost every top level manager in the world of football, he’s arrogant and egotistical and firmly believes in his sole vision of Arsenal’s future. I don’t wish to criticise; they’re all characteristics that come with the trade. However, the growing concern is that there’s no one at the club who can confront his views, or scrutinise for the sake of progress. In politics, it’s referred to as checks and balances, and it appears there are very few placed up Wenger largely because of his integral role in the Gunners’ past successes on and off the pitch.
I won’t attempt to second-guess the man. He quite rightly has pointed out that in the past few years, transfer funds have been limited by the debt payments on the club’s new stadium. But now that he has no financial constraints, there is no reason the Wenger can’t compete with the rest of the Premier League’s elite when it comes to spending power.
I will point out however, that Wenger has always been relatively reluctant to change his ways, taking outside criticism as a misunderstanding of the facts rather than a valid argument. But one thing is for certain; if he is not relinquished of his duties at the end of the current season, which he most likely won’t be as he’s now discussing large transfer fees to appease the Arsenal fan base, the next campaign will be his last if it’s the case of another white lie to stop the discontent.
It’s not that a quality signing must dictate a large fee, although that appears to be the way the transfer market is constantly moving towards – especially in England – but it’s the large fees that prove the club’s ambition. More than anything, what the Arsenal fans most desire and miss from the glory days is simply the ambition.