Following a disappointing season it is now time for Arsenal to look towards August and contemplate how best to improve their current squad of players. There is a glaring requirement between the posts (in case the half dozen recent errors have gone unnoticed) and a nearly done-deal with Bordeaux striker Marouane Chamakh but the rest is largely speculative. Arsene Wenger is notorious, irritatingly so if you ask some, for his frugal transfer policy but the recurring question in his half decade dealings has reached fever pitch: just how much money does he have at his disposal?
Next month Arsenal’s chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, faces an inquisition from the shareholders with regards to another fruitless campaign. The hard line of questioning will inevitably take an impatient tone due to the club’s failure to win any silverware since 2005’s FA Cup. The board has reiterated in previous seasons – and as recently as the turn of the year – that the Arsenal chief has a substantial transfer budget to plough into. However Wenger himself has often taken a diametrically opposed stance by publicly stating that the £390million Emirates Stadium has caused a deficit that only a disciplined, highly regimented transfer policy can offset. The repercussions of such discord not only taint the integrity of Arsenal’s background running but also rouse speculation from both fans and rivals as to the depth of Wenger’s proverbial pockets come the summer transfer window. Had the board and the manager both conceded that there are strict financial constraints on the club then the pressure on Wenger would have eased. Conversely, had the board and the manager acquiesced to the public at the earliest opportunity that there is in fact a significant transfer budget available, again the immediate pressure would have relented somewhat and the fans simultaneously reassured that their club has the resources to contend for top honours. The paradox of the club’s current condition is that neither stance is particularly helpful at this moment for the following reasons:
1. To now admit that there is less to invest than anticipated in new faces at the Emirates could further alienate already disgruntled fans (given the nearly-nature of Arsenal’s narrative for the past few seasons) who were recently told the exact opposite; a lack of faith in the board would certainly ensue, not to mention the lack of harmony between the Gaffer and board translating negatively onto the pitch.
2. To confirm, categorically, the exact figure at his disposal not only severely undermines Wenger – evidently he wishes to keep this hand close to his chest – but it would, I believe, increase the pressure on him and his players to a detrimental degree. Not simply pressure to perform but pressure to spend every single penny. Monetary input fused with short term goals create a divisive tension that cannot aid anyone at Arsenal at this moment in time. Unity and belief is a far more worthwhile investment.
As ludicrous as it sounds the lack of absolute clarity on Wenger’s transfer budget must remain because a definitive answer at this juncture damages the reputation of either the board or the manager. The cloud surrounding supposed transfer funds hasn’t transmogrified into the incessant media circus it so easily could have been this season; instead there is the board’s stance voiced bi-annually followed by Wenger occasionally dispelling their claims and at other times coyly alluding to the potential to buy (in January and also in the past few days). For this reason, an exact figure should not be disclosed to the public. It would pressure Wenger to spend all he can and give the clubs he is buying from a barometer with which to calibrate their inflated valuations of players. Pragmatically it is wiser to keep this information in house then to share it with rivals. Fans’ reassurance should be measured by the faces brought in instead of figures in the press. So, rather anticlimactically and counter intuitively, silence is a far more potent short term gamble than clarity. In Arsene we continue to trust…