Arsene Wenger last week managed to cap off a thus far dismal January—both on and off the pitch—for Arsenal fans by declaring he was in favour of abolishing the January transfer window.
The Frenchman has built up a reputation of being incredibly frugal when it comes to transfers at Arsenal; not wanting to pay over the odds for players he believes are only worth in or around the initial offer he puts forward for their services. Yet, while the club are experiencing their lowest point in Wenger’s time as manager, he fails to see the extremely rewarding benefits a major signing can do for a club who are completely stagnating.
While Arsenal fans are having to come to the realisation that Champions League football could be out of reach for next season, their fierce North London rivals Tottenham are at this moment 10pts clear, and a number of extremely ineffective players continue to eat into the water-tight wage bill at the Emirates; the last thing supporters want to hear is a manager who dismisses a midway helping hand that the January transfer window offers.
On one hand, Wenger is absolutely right when he says players can sometimes look to the winter market as an easy way out. There are certainly individuals who pull on the red and white each week who are undeserving of the famous cannon. Yet, he often stubbornly fails to see the reverse and look upon the offering as a way to give managers and clubs a lift and a way out of trouble
The club are crying out for a forward-thinking, creative spark on the pitch. Robin van Persie needs help, as well as an incentive to extend his contract beyond 2013. Theo Walcott needs to know there are equally talented players waiting in the wings should he fail to overcome his dip in form, and, most importantly, the fans and the manager need a lift out of what has become an extremely spiky atmosphere at the Emirates.
Of course, there is the fear that a big money signing could completely back-fire, as we’ve seen in recent transfer windows. But surely the benefits from a big name coming into the club heavily outweigh the negatives. And fans are not necessarily screaming out for £40 million to be spent either. Lukas Podolski—who’s availability at the moment is unclear due to the upcoming Euros—could be prized from FC Koln for a reported fee in the region of £16 million. Equally there were rumours in Spain during the summer that Arsenal had agreed fees for Santi Cazorla and Juan Mata but failed to pull the trigger. In a climate where there are players moving for ridiculous, unwarranted sums of money, why were the Spanish duo not deemed good enough to take a gamble on?
While I don’t believe the club have simply run out of money, or never had any in the first place; supporters are continually reminded that a big-money signing could financially cripple the club who are striving to stay in the black. There is the notion that Arsenal can’t compete in the same market as Man City, AC Milan or Chelsea, and yet the move to the Emirates was seen as the key that would unlock that door to the elite market.
But while the club continue to raise ticket prices off the back of poor sponsorship deals during the move to Ashburton Grove, they neglect to see that a signing in the mould of Podolski, or even long-term target Eden Hazard, could have a positive impact on the club’s success both on and off the pitch. The club have recently added personnel such as Tom Fox, the Chief Commercial Officer, to oversee Arsenal’s transition into a global brand. Yet, it almost seems that the club are lacking the foresight to see the benefits big name players have. Sponsors will actively look to link themselves up with clubs who are boasting impressive European and Worldwide footballing names. Moreover, the income from merchandise will go a long way to help ease the heavy price paid in the transfer fee.
A club who are letting star players go every season, while failing to address the free-fall into the dreaded Europa League, cannot sit back and spell out every reason why a superstar should not be brought in to help the club progress. And yet, Arsenal seem to be the only major force in Europe who cannot bring in players of necessary quality when it is absolutely needed. Ricardo Alvarez, for example, didn’t snub a move to the best football league in the world because of his compatriots at Inter Milan; he saw the uncertainty surrounding the future of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. Would the outcome have been different if a major player had been bought in previous windows to perhaps help the club over the finish line for the title or even Carling Cup?
With Arsenal there is too much concern for the bank balance and not enough on the quality supporters are seeing on the pitch and in the league table come May. As the article suggests, a £30-40 million pound signing isn’t necessarily what fans are crying out for, but ambition in the market certainly is. The club may go into the red for the short-term through the purchase of real quality, but every club takes such relative gambles. It’s part and parcel of the game and is necessary for the development of any club.
Fans are always told that after a horrific defeat or a poor run of form that simply buying new players isn’t always the answer. But sometimes it is. Sometimes it absolutely is the answer.
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