Having money is a new frontier for Arsenal, so too is the idea of spending it well. They’re not in the same bracket as Chelsea, even though both clubs appear to be shopping in the same, if not mostly similar market from here on. Arsenal have to be meticulous, cute, forward-thinking; Chelsea can afford to be reckless.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic may be on the market this summer, though we’re still waiting on a conclusive answer, one way or another. The giant Swede is, in theory, a goldmine, a player who produces title-winning performances wherever he goes and hasn’t appeared to lose any of the talent and ability that made him one of the world’s leading forwards.
But then, even with all the money that is said to be available to them, shouldn’t Arsenal think a little harder on matters such as this and how it will affect them in the long term? Clubs like Chelsea, PSG and Monaco can buy Ibrahimovic and get away with the idea that he might be off in a year or so. There is a project on the cards at each of those clubs, but it’s different to what we’re seeing and have been witnessing at Arsenal.
There’s the issue of intent and making a statement to the rest of Europe, and Ibrahimovic would offer all of that in abundance for Arsenal. He’d settle the masses who are desperate for a big name, while the trophy drought that continues to hang over the club like a dark cloud would almost instantly start to dissipate as soon as the ink dries on the contract. Such are the positives of buying Ibrahimovic, even in a year when he’ll turn 32, that it almost defies you to compile a list of negatives.
Ibrahimovic is an enigma, and with him comes a character where the team’s entire play is focused around him. Is that what Arsenal need? Would Ibrahimovic be a success at, say, Dortmund? Well that’s a bit of an open-ended question. Of course he’d help them win another league title, but would he be a success in their style of play? The high pressing and the work rate from top to bottom? No matter how good a player is, there is such a thing as a very good player not being an ideal fit for certain teams, no matter the guarantees they bring.
Chelsea are a different proposition to Arsenal. In Ibrahimovic, Jose Mourinho could have another Didier Drogba figure, one who is able to hold up the play as well as integrate seamlessly with the high technical quality of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, etc. Ibrahimovic provides options to a team who may wish to lean on his notable qualities.
And then there’s the financial issue. Would Bayern Munich, for example, have spent €40 million on Javi Martinez if they knew he wasn’t going to be around a year or two later? It’s got nothing to do with age for Ibrahimovic, rather the fact that he’s a nomadic forward who has never settled anywhere in European football. His lengthiest spell at any club was with Inter, where he spent three seasons following the move from Juventus. But we’re unlikely to see him replicate that again.
Arsenal are much like Bayern from a financial perspective. It’s all their own money that they’re dealing with and they can’t afford to throw caution to the wind. Chelsea and Roman Abramovich can make a signing like Ibrahimovic for a year because it’s the way that club are run: short-term decisions for instant success. If Ibrahimovic signs for Chelsea and they win the Champions League again, then it’s job done. Chelsea get what they wanted and the player may once again be free to leave after a year.
So yes, on paper there does appear to be an endless list of reasons in favour of signing the forward. But a player like him, including his ego, isn’t always an ideal fit, especially for a club like Arsenal.
Arsene Wenger is finally in a position where he can build with purpose and generate plenty of excitement from within and mountains of concern for rivals. But it has to be strategic; there can be no “gambles” when the price is that high. Ibrahimovic, as good as he is, isn’t what Arsenal are looking for.
Should Arsenal and Chelsea look to make an approach for Ibrahimovic?
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