Following Arsenal‘s rather lukewarm campaign, another step backwards in terms of quality and league position from the year previous, Arsene Wenger has vowed to spend big in the summer. In a bid to move the Gunners back towards the Premier League title race, the Frenchman will be handed a cheque of £70million to spend on summer recruits, with a number of areas of Arsenal’s squad in need of bolstering and improving.
But if Wenger wishes to show real intent and ambition to the Emirates faithful, something which has been in short supply over the past five years or so, he will have to go back on his traditional policy of keeping transfer fees as minimal as possible by making at least one big name, high price signing that will not only raise the quality and efficiency of the starting XI but also strike fear into the rest of the top four, who have collectively taken a total of 14 points off the Gunners this season.
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In a bid to kill two birds with one stone, if the Arsenal boss is to make one overzealous purchase this summer, it will be a striker. The North Londoners can lay claim to being the only club in the English top flight to have four players reach double figures in the scoring charts – Theo Walcott, 14 goals, Santi Cazorla, 12 goals, Olivier Giroud, 11 goals, and Lukas Podolski, 11 goals – yet with the majority of their goals coming from attacking midfield, there is strong justification to bring in a more prolific front man.
Earlier in the season, Arsene Wenger briefly flirted with the idea of bringing in Radamel Falcao, yet, as expected, the level of quality available to the Gunners has diminshed somewhat as we edge closer to the transfer market. Falcao, Edinson Cavani and Robert Lewandowski – three of Europe’s leading strikers who are all reportedly up for sale this summer – appear to be out of the Gunners’ grasp, due to their price-tags, wage packages and competition from clubs with a stronger record in Europe and domestically over the past few years, whilst the tabloids have speculated the next bracket of continental forwards, including the likes Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, Stevan Jovetic and Christian Benteke, are much more likely candidates to become summer signings at the Emirates.
Yet there is one striker who fills the gap between the two brackets of calibre, is already well acquainted with the Premier League and will be available for a realistic fee in the summer – Wayne Rooney. Arsene Wenger has always been an admirer of the England international, but would he be a good fit at the Emirates? Will the Arsenal boss be tempted to launch a bid for the Manchester United forward? And would Rooney reciprocate the Gunners’ interest?
Upon murmurings of discontent on Rooney’s part following Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to bench him for Manchester United’s Champions League clash with Real Madrid, the reply from the rest of Europe regarding acquiring the 27 year old’s services was a resounding ‘no’. With no continental powerhouse interested in the Englishman, the only link the redtops could forge with a move away from Old Trafford was PSG, whom due to their huge financial backing, have been connected to almost every player of European standard looking for a new challenge.
It seems that Rooney’s particular skills set only make sense in the Premier League. In terms of technical ability, although over the years he has produced goals of world class quality, the United forward is still a long way behind his La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga counter-parts, with a few too many simple passes failing to reach their targets, and a number of uninspiring performances against the big teams. Similarly, Rooney’s work rate, which in England he is continually praised for, is a much less desirable attribute abroad. The notion of a striker filling in at right-back for the sake of the team or clearing off his own goal-line would not be particularly welcomed in Spain, and if anything would be judged as a waste of a front man.
It seems therefore, that should Rooney seek a new home over the summer, it will have to still be in England. With Manchester City clearly off the cards due to the controversy it would cause, the England international’s options remain slim if he is to remain at a top club.
Whilst Chelsea would be a far more attractive prospect than the Gunners, as they are much closer to the Premier League title than Arsenal and now have one of Europe’s most consistently successful managers at the helm in Jose Mourinho, it seems unlikely the Blues will opt for Rooney with the likes of Edinson Cavani and Robert Lewandowski still available to them, and the power of Roman Abramovich’s purse capable of attracting almost any striker throughout Europe whom the Portuguse desires.
Arsene Wenger will almost certainly be able to lure Rooney to the Emirates, not only through a lack of better alternative for the United man, but if he is to assure him a role as a striker rather than in midfield – choice of deployment was the underlying motivation for his second transfer request in the space of three years, and it is clear where Rooney sees his future in terms of how he is utilised as a footballer.
But does he tick all the boxes as the Gunners’ new front man? First of all, Rooney can certainly score goals – a side of his game which is often unfairly underplayed by his critics. For United, the 27 year old stands with an impressive record of 197 goals in 400 competitive appearances, whilst twice scoring in excess of 25 league goals in a season and never finding the net on less than 11 occasions. His strongest campaigns in terms of goal scoring have come when United have needed his abilities the most, suggesting he would be capable of handling the pressure of increased importance should he opt for a move to the Emirates.
Yet, Arsenal’s current style of play would require modification to get the best use out of Rooney. Olivier Giroud has not been quite so prolific as his preceding reputation suggested, but there is no doubt that he has been integral in attack at times for the Gunners this season. The Frenchman’s ability to hold up the ball has been crucial for Cazorla, Podolski and Walcott, whilst his height and leap make him Arsenal’s only aerial threat barring their centre-backs. That being said, Rooney is well acquainted with playing alongside wingers, and his robust strength in addition to his technique make him a suitable target man for the Gunners’ forward-thinking midfield to play off of.
Similarly, Rooney can play in a supporting role when required to do so, and would only cause a fuss if it became his permanent position in the starting XI, whilst the North Londoners could certainly do with the added intensity, physicality and determination that the United forward provides. He would furthermore fit in well with the English contingent that is emerging at the Emirates, with Carl Jenkinson, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs all becoming first team regulars this season, not to mention the potential for an excellent on-pitch partnership with Jack Wilshere.
Rooney would be the kind of signing that could really change things at the Emirates. The message of intent that would ring out from the Three Lions man’s transfer would alone be a huge advantage to signing him, not to mention he quality he would add to the Gunners current starting XI. It seems a realistic prospect for both parties, yet the question that remains is whether or not Arsene Wenger is capable of parting with £25million – Rooney’s current price-tag.
Any other season, you’d instantly say no, with Arsenal’s current record transfer fee set at just £16million paid for Santi Cazorla last summer. But with Wenger’s job on the line, his contract set to expire next year, he may just decide to take the risk. For £25million, he’s the most consistent, proven and talented candidate available, and the fee strikes a balance between the fans’ need for a marquee signing and Wenger’s concern with spending big for the sake of it. Rooney is the ideal solution to Wenger’s transfer conundrum, and the Gunners Gaffer would be a fool to let the opportunity to sign the United man slip by.
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