Much like Alex Ferguson’s last-gasp attempt for a title – signing Robin van Persie – Arsene Wenger making such an outlandish effort to nab Jamie Vardy shows that the Arsenal manager is in a state of panic about his future at the club. Where he may previously have invested shrewdly, negotiated prices sternly and worked a slow deal, Wenger is snapping at the release clause of a player that makes little sense in his set-up. In fact, it is wholeheartedly illogical as far as many would be concerned.
Panicking has never really been an emotion in the repertoire of Wenger. A calm man – with the occasional angered outburst – Wenger has always approached his transfer dealings in a similarly sensible, albeit cautious, fashion. This deal to try and sign Vardy has shattered all protocol beyond recognition and, for both parties, looks to make only a minute amount of genuine sense. Wenger, as the media will kindly remind you, needs to win another Premier League title to really justify his legacy both in the chapters of Premier League history and the pinnacle of European football. Longevity is no longer enough to make a manager an all-time great, success is a must and Wenger risks becoming a quirky anecdote, rather than a stalwart of European success.
Vardy might be the golden ticket to another Premier League trophy. Vardy’s irresistible pace and dead-eye shot fired Leicester City to league glory, but it is hard to imagine a team that would need more adapting than Arsenal to accommodate him. The Gunners’ slower build-up means they are often working against low block defences and Vardy, more than many talents we have ever seen before, thrives off of having acres of space behind the centre-backs to really torture them on the turn.
So much about this move makes no sense. Wenger is clearly getting desperate and he may be envisaging the signing of Vardy as his last hurrah, a swansong, an ageing star to launch him to a final title so he can drift off into the managerial sunset knowing that he could still win the biggest of trophies. Olivier Giroud’s flaws seem to be over-promoted by many, unfortunately, yet Vardy’s limitations cannot be being evaluated fairly by the Arsenal backroom. A player of Vardy’s distinct playing style makes sense if you wish to play transition football, but Arsenal have not shown a desire to do that since the very day that Wenger arrived at Highbury.
Leicester and Arsenal play starkly different brands of football. Claudio Ranieri’s Foxes had little interest in possession unless it was immediately going as a direct pass to Vardy, whilst Arsenal’s occasionally aesthetically-pleasing ‘tippy-tappy’ around midfield approach sees them top the possession charts in the Premier League year after year. Players – as we all thought Wenger knew – cannot just play in any old system and it is almost impossible to imagine Vardy being fine with the minute amount of space afforded to the centre forward at Arsenal. This is not to mention the fact that no Gunner is quite set up to perform the same remarkable space-creating role of Shinji Okazaki or to inject gut-busting runs from midfield like N’Golo Kante.
This move reeks of a manager desperate for one final chance at success. A dream of a heroic signing through sheer opportunism. The move makes no sense for any party, but the lure of a ‘bigger’ club for a player who should be coming towards the end of his peak may just be too hard to resist. Craving success can be a good thing, but it looks as though this panic move from Wenger cannot possibly work out how he may dream it to. It makes even less sense when you remember some of the other strikers who could’ve been available this summer.