Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger revealed last week that mercurial midfielder Andrey Arshavin will be leaving the club at the end of the season, but amid links with Borussia Dortmund playmaker Mario Gotze, isn’t it about time that in order to try and bridge the gap on those above them, that they splash out on a genuinely exciting name that could be the envy of the rest of Europe?
With four wins on the bounce in the Premier League against Swansea, Reading, West Brom and Norwich, four games which the club would always expected to have picked up at least 10 points from, Arsenal all of a sudden look guaranteed to make the top four again this season, with an easier run-in than both Chelsea and Tottenham between now and the end of the campaign. Should they go on to secure Champions League football for a 17th successive season now, it makes them a much more attractive proposition and better off financially than many initially feared was possible after the north London derby defeat in February at White Hart Lane.
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This near-death experience from a footballing perspective should serve as a cautionary reminder that Wenger needs to spend more in the market to have an impact at the latter stage of the term. The last time the club made a splash in such a fashion was the purchase of the 31-year-old Russia international back in January 2009, but a move for Gotze could prove to be a real signal of intent and a mark of the club’s ambition for the future; they haven’t shown too many of those lately.
It’s not a coincidence that reports that Arsenal have things such as a ‘£70m transfer war chest’ in the summer to spend happen to always come out around the same time that season ticket renewals are on the agenda after yet another disappointing season. Being treated to such inconsistent and frustrating fare for the highest ticket prices in Europe will only be furthered by the promise of something at the end of the rainbow, with many crying out for Wenger to finally invest heavily in the squad.
Having spent approximately £53m this season on the likes of Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski, Nacho Monreal and Santi Cazorla, but after the big money departures of both Alex Song and Robin van Persie to bigger clubs before the season began, that still just takes their net spend to around £9m. The needless penny-pinching ways have to stop if they are to make giant strides in terms of their league performance, otherwise they’ll simply continue to bang their heads against that glass ceiling to the top two.
The main problem that the club has faced in recent years has been not replacing departing players with new faces of the same quality – after Cesc Fabregas left, Mikel Arteta was bought, Giroud and Podolski were added to the squad to make up for van Persie’s exit, while Gervinho has done a ropey job of replacing Samir Nasri. The balance of the side is heavy in certain positions and light in other areas and needs addressing, but this flawed and constrictive approach has coincided with the club finding it more and more difficult to achieve their aims and compete at the top level. A move for Gotze this summer could change all of that.
The issue is whether Wenger, becoming increasingly zealot-like on the subject of Financial Fair Play, will dig deep into the club’s pockets and sanction such a deal. The one thing going in Arsenal’s favour is that for the first summer in the last four years, they don’t have a top player looking to leave to try and win silverware elsewhere, having been cherry-picked by vultures all too regularly. Jack Wilshere remains the crown jewel, and he may one day move elsewhere, but they’ve got him for the foreseeable future and it’s a sad indictment of the lack of potentially world-class players at their disposal.
Instead of treating this as something to be negative about in the long-term, though, it could be used as an opportunity to build from a position of strength, which is what they’ll be in if they make the top four. Arsenal remain an inconsistent beast, held back to some extent by the constrictive fiscal policy of the board, but on the topic of Gotze, given what he could bring to the side and his potential for the future, it’s a no-brainer.
Spending money is always fraught with risks, but after identifying such a talented player, if they manage to pluck out a Champions League qualification place in a season where so much has gone wrong for them, they should allow themselves this luxury; for a club obsessed with the cost of everything and the value of nothing, the fans at least deserve something to get excited about for a change.
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