The scope to criticise the Gunners this summer is becoming so vast that even Tottenham fans are getting bored of the customary once-per-day Arsenal-bashing articles that circulate almost every mainstream newspaper and the World Wide Web.
We are now just a matter of days away from the midpoint of the summer transfer window, and the Arsenal management are yet to fulfill their mid-to-late season promises of serious revamping at the Emirates, as the North London outfit look to reassert themselves in the Premier League title race.
But I would pledge, and prove me wrong if you can, that no squad has ever won the domestic title in England after coming fourth place the year previous, without changing a single member of playing personnel, which is the current situation at the Emirates, assuming that Arsenal’s one purchase of the summer, Yaya Sanogo, brought in on a free transfer from Ligue 2 side Auxerre, very much the human epitome of the Gunners transfer policy for the last decade, will rise from complete obscurity to rock the English top flight with a 30 goal haul next season.
I have my doubts, as do the vast majority of the Arsenal faithful. The £70million transfer kitty, rumoured to exist according to Arsene Wenger, is most likely in a sweaty gymbag, gathering rust and cobwebs somewhere under a desk in the backrooms of the Emirates, and has certainly not been put to good use as of yet this summer, and holes in the first team, most namely up front, in defensive midfield, at the heart of defense and in goal, are yet to be filled.
The Gunners gaffer continues to bear the brunt of the vast majority of criticism thrown Arsenal’s way. Perhaps that’s the ultimate responsibility that comes with the monolithic style of Wenger’s management, but there is little doubt Chief executive and Wenger ally Ivan Gazidis deserves his fair share of the negative limelight.
The South African-born businessman took over from Keith Edelman on January 1st 2009, whilst his new role as Chief Executive also incorporated the former duties of Vice Chairman David Dein, and in that time, the Gunners have failed to finish a Premier League season with more than 75 points, or higher than 3rd. Of course, it would be wrong to suggest Gazidis is the ultimate cause of Arsenal’s recent malaise, considering the last time they bettered such a league standing was 2004, but he has headed up the club’s transfers for the last four years – an area where the Gunners have hardly excelled.
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And in that time period, we’ve seen Arsenal’s three biggest stars leave the club for unsatisfactory fees, only to be replaced by unworthy understudies. Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri left the Emirates in the same transfer window, to Barcelona and Manchester City respectively, for a combined total of £50million, and last summer, Robin van Persie jumped ship to Manchester United as he stalled over a new contract, for £20million, a miserly sum considering the Dutchman’s efficiency in front of goal, and proven record in the Premier League. All have gone on to claim titles and auxiliary silverware since leaving North London, whilst the Gunners management have replaced them with second-rate counterparts of a similar mould. Every Arsenal acquisition throughout Gazidis’ tenure as Chief Executive has left the club worse off than it was previously, and they now look further off the title race than ever.
Yet again this summer, the Arsenal executive has failed to deliver on explicit promises. In May, coincidentally before the Gunners season tickets – the most expensively priced in the English top flight – came on sale, Gazidis gave his annual rousing speech, giving his word to the Arsenal faithful that the club’s ambitions were not limited to Champions League qualification and as a result, the North London outfit would be spending big this summer.
But the business man has already let ample business opportunities pass him by over the last two months, most notably, his failed pursuit of Gonzalo Higuain. At this point, it’s hard to tell fact from fiction with the Argentine’s transfer saga, but it was only a few weeks ago when it was reported that the Gunners were discussing a £23million deal with Real Madrid, with the striker on his way to London for a medical. Now however, Higuain is on Napoli’s doorstep, with a £32million fee already agreed; it’s not the price Gazidis was looking for, but we’ll never know what could have happened had he been more pro-active, rather than dither and haggle with Los Blancos over whether their for-sale forward was worth £19million, £21million or £25million.
Meanwhile, long-term target David Villa opted for a switch to Atletico Madrid, for just £5million, French prodigy Clement Grenier has signed a new contract with Lyon, despite the Gunners launching a £6million bid earlier in the season, potential stop-gap solution Jeremy Toulalan has joined Monaco for a pittance, and we are yet to see any movement on a host of players previously linked with a move to the Emirates, including Marouane Fellaini, Julio Cesar and Ashley Williams.
Similarly, the slow pace of their hunt for Luis Suarez is becoming tedious. Gazidis has headed bids of £30million, £35million and £40million plus £1, to trigger possibly the most irrelevant contract clause of all time, despite it being common knowledge that Liverpool are reluctant to sell, especially to a divisional rival, and will only be convinced by offers that exceed £50million, with Edinson Cavani’s move to PSG being this summer’s benchmark. Reds owner John W Henry’s twitter response – “What do you think they’re smoking over there at the Emirates?” – was an incredibly fitting reply.
And despite the potential Suarez deal currently being the most pressing matter on Arsenal fans’ minds, the South African couldn’t be further away from his base in London, or Anfield, as he’s currently riding the tour bus with the Gunners roster as they continue their pre-season schedule in Japan. Say what you want about Manchester United’s failed attempts to sign Leighton Baines and Cesc Fabregas so far this summer, but at least Ed Woodward has returned to England in the hope of getting some serious business underway.
Perhaps it’s wrong of me to suggest that the entirety of Arsenal’s transfer woes, this summer and those previous until 2009, can be attributed to the club’s Chief Executive; Arsene Wenger’s spendophobia has undoubtedly played an integral role. But Gazidis’ biggest crime throughout his tenure is his inability to challenge the Frenchman, despite Arsenal’s continual stagnation.
Rather than insisting Wenger’s transfer policy, which is yet to spawn a single purchase that exceeds the £20million mark, is too far adrift from Arsenal’s domestic rivals, or inform the Gunners gaffer that the club are letting numerous transfer targets slip into the hands of other Premier League or European clubs, or even go against the Frenchman and dish out competitive salaries to the club’s biggest stars, Gazidis has disturbingly toed the line throughout, despite the duties of his job tacitly implying that he should be doing otherwise.
My humble opinion on Arsene Wenger is not too kind. The Frenchman’s arrogance and insistence on his own ethos of how Arsenal should be run and play their football has held the club back since their last title win a decade ago. But there is no doubt that those closest to him, those whose purpose it is to keep Wenger accountable, have equally failed, and the biggest area of disappointment at the Emirates has by far and large been the transfer department.
Recently, Ivan Gazidis stated the Gunners board needed fresh blood, as Chairman Peter Hill-Wood stepped down for health reasons. Club legend Tony Adams applied, but instead, the role went to 73 year old Sir Chips Keswick, who has been on the board since 2005. It sums up how the Arsenal Executive talks a good game, but is yet to follow through with his actions.
Arsene Wenger will take the ultimate responsibility for the mess at the Emirates, but there are other guilty parties too, and one of them is Ivan Gazidis.
Should Ivan Gazidis receive a fairer share of the blame at Arsenal?
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