Julio Cesar is set to join Napoli on loan from QPR, and with it the best chance of Arsenal strengthening their goalkeeping department with a genuine high-end talent – because we know Arsene Wenger likes a bargain.
On Sunday Arsenal kicked off their pre-season campaign with a 7-0 with over an Indonesia Dream Team, with Lukas Fabianski starting the game and Damien Martinez relieving him during the second-half. We can take what we want from this: the fact that it still is only the middle of July, or the idea that Wenger was chasing Cesar and is therefore still on the hunt for another goalkeeper. But the easiest deduction is that once again Wenger would prefer to do nothing as oppose to “gamble” on bringing in another option.
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It’s been the downfall of Arsenal so many times in the past. Fans were quick to look past Mark Schwarzer’s age and lack of big-game experience in 2010; all the hope was thrown into the then Fulham keeper because he represented an alternative to the calamitous Manuel Almunia and the even worse Fabianski. As deadline day ticked over, Wenger opted to keep Laurent Koscielny, Marouane Chamakh and Sebastien Squillaci as his only first-team signings of the summer, choosing once again to stare down the barrel in full knowledge that his goalkeeping duo would cost Arsenal a handful of points in the Premier League title race. Very few could have foreseen the unlikely emergence of Wojciech Szczesny midway through that season.
But maybe it is too knee-jerk to assume Wenger is going with what he knows – or has – ahead of this season. Maybe the focus is on another goalkeeping talent. Maybe Wenger has been so impressed by Kevin Trapp this past season at Eintracht Frankfurt after being relegated the previous season by Kaiserslautern. Maybe the Arsenal manager is looking to take advantage of the financial downturn of Spanish football and snap up Vicente Guaita from Valencia. Unlikely. Those conjuring of ideas seem like pipedreams when talking about Arsenal’s transfer business.
It has once again come out this summer that Wenger is notoriously slow at getting deals done and that he changes his mind almost daily on whether to finally pull the trigger. It’s that game of Russian roulette that he almost always seems to lose, as there are very, very rarely alternate options when Wenger doesn’t quite fancy the first-choice at the head of his wish list.
Cesar would have offered Arsenal everything they’ve needed since Jens Lehmann departed in 2008. The sale of Vito Mannone to Sunderland alone would have funded the Cesar deal with QPR, and there was every indication that the Brazilian No.1 wanted to remain in London.
The form of Fabianski last season, notably in the game against Bayern Munich, was always going to be a short-term gain with a long-term curse. How Wenger has strived to get the best out of a goalkeeper who he’s always talked up as one of the best in Europe – in training, though, that is. Finally we were seeing it on the big stage, but there are no guarantees that the Pole would keep his nerve for an entire campaign.
When Wenger chose to ignore the need for Schwarzer, he gambled with the team’s season, though the calls for a new manager weren’t quite as pronounced. This summer, it seems as though the roars for something different haven’t quite reached Wenger and the Arsenal board. We’d all love for him to get it right with his gambles and the faith he continues to show in perennial underachievers, but the reality of each matter has once again failed to come to the fore.
In some sports, the saying is that the deals you don’t make are as important as the ones you do. That is most prominent in American sports where teams have to trade assets such as players or draft picks instead of cash. Yet it doesn’t really apply in European football, and especially in this case with Arsenal. Ivan Gazidis’ speech on the club’s spending ability this summer is not going to be forgotten anytime soon, and it will certainly only prove to be a nuisance for the manager. Wenger will want to continue in his managerial style of developing rough or raw talents into top-class footballers. But it doesn’t always work, and the safety net and line of near assurance for a problem position in the Arsenal camp has just found his way to a new-look and ambitious Napoli.
Has Wenger made a mistake in passing up on the opportunity to sign Julio Cesar?
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