Will his signings ever be ‘spectacular’ enough to appease Arsenal fans?

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

Arsenal seem to be making a habit of promising big spending but never really delivering on it, but with the club now emerging from the confines of the stadium debt burden and with boardroom support for expenditure, can Wenger change the habit of a lifetime?

Loyal fans of the Premier League club have been subjected to year after year of disappointment in terms of player recruitment. The finest stars the club can offer are consistently passing through the revolving doors at the Emirates to greener pastures. In their place have arrived streams of mediocre replacements, which range from Marouane Chamakh to Andre Santos. Don’t get me wrong I actually think Wenger has been able to pick up a few gems along the way, particularly towards the younger end of the scale, but is he averse to that big name signing?

An air of optimism around Arsenal was created by the recent comments made by Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis. Asked by the BBC whether Arsenal could afford to spend a £20million transfer fee on a single player, and offer salaries of £200,000 per week, he said:

“Of course we could do that. We could do more than that.”

But then appeared the age-old caveat that Arsenal fans fear:

“It is going to be the players that Arsene believes in.

“He is pretty blind to price tags, he looks at what he sees with his eyes and makes judgements based on that, not on reputations and prices.”

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Herein lies the problem for Arsenal. It does not matter how much money a manager has at his disposal, what matters is his propensity to part with it. The situation is not dissimilar to a stingy mate in a bar. Even if he were to win the lottery, I doubt he would be willing to buy you anything more than a pint, you can certainly forget about that magnum of champagne. Famed as ‘Le Professeur’ by many fans, Arsene has an eye for talent which he believes allows for the capture of players with an overall goal of improving them. I would imagine Wenger recognises the class of a player like Higuain, but simply doesn’t see the figure quoted as representing anything near value for money.

This doesn’t mean he is totally averse to spending money. The capture of Santi Cazorla last summer for a fee around the £18m mark completely dispelled that fear. The Spaniard has been a hit at the Emirates and the fee has so far been vindicated. Even now his market value is probably touching the £20m mark, something which no doubt would please the manager. A concern for fans is that the characteristics of Wenger’s transfer policies all smack of a selling club. Buying players in relatively cheap and developing them to sell on at a higher price is not something a fan of a club of Arsenal’s stature should be dealing with.

I simply cannot see Arsene Wenger splashing out over the odds on any player. Players have a market value (i.e. what a club is willing to sell a player for) but then they also have a playing value which is something a manager like Wenger will decide based on their on-pitch abilities. Edinson Cavani, who has recently made his move to PSG, is undoubtedly a world-class footballer. Even if Wenger had £55m to spend he just simply wouldn’t buy the Uruguayan because he would no doubt feel his value is closer to the £30m mark.

Wenger is not a young inexperienced manager, he trusts what he does because he has been previously successful with it. I doubt he pays any attention to media criticism at all. I’m not cynical enough to believe he is just happy in a well-paid stable job, but I severely doubt his culture of player recruitment will ever be enough to satisfy Arsenal fans.  A stubborn man largely set in his ways, an inundation of wealth is unlikely to change the way he approaches things. It is actually a very sustainable way of approaching management, and has led to Arsenal being one of the few top clubs on sure enough financial footing to easily comply with FFP. Wenger should be applauded for these aspects of his management, but in the current footballing world they just simply do not lead to success.

You only have to look at the way clubs that win trophies spend their money to see a pattern. Manchester City and Chelsea have both spent over the odds on players they bring to the club. However, they take the hit safe in the knowledge that with it comes close to a guarantee of success later down the line. Unfortunately I think Wenger’s utopian approach to recruitment is delusional and has held the club back.

While Wenger is manager I severely doubt the club will see anything other than the second tier of footballers coming in. Santi Cazorla is the marquee signing of the last few years, and I believe he is a man of incredible talent. However, on the world stage he lies in the shadow of many of his contemporaries. If Arsenal have the aspirations to recreate the kind of team that allowed them to be one of the major powerhouses of European football then they must bring in the best. With Arsene Wenger at the helm I just cannot see this being a possibility.

Will this Leopard change his spots and spend big?

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