Arsenal's Transfer Debacle: Wenger Has Run Out of Excuses
Arsenal’s domination of Stoke City brought a pleasant shift of focus away from the summer long transfer window debacle yet has done little to quell the discontent surrounding the club.
I, like most passionate Arsenal fans, am just beginning to regain some semblance of calm in the wake of yet another farcical summer. Wenger will no doubt be relieved to have the team back playing football, yet despite the confident display, Arsenal’s striking deficiencies have never been more clear.
This may sound strange to onlookers considering it was Walcott and Giroud’s finishes that won the game. However, anyone to have watched the performance will know it was nigh on incredible that we found ourselves with only a slender one-goal lead until the 84th minute. 29 shots including blatant misses from both players may not cost three points against the league’s bottom side but finishing of this caliber will prevent any serious title challenge if it is to continue.
One thing was clear in the Emirates on Saturday and that is that the overwhelming majority of Arsenal supporters are itching more than ever to blame any impending failings on the club’s transfer dealings, or lack thereof, and in turn the manager.
After all this was the summer, the one where everything was in place, the stadium paid off, over 20 players shipped out and a decent season to build on. Except it wasn’t, and the sad thing is that despite widespread incredulity, none of us can truly claim to be all that surprised.
For years fans have bemoaned Wenger’s repetitive tactics, which take little regard for opposition and the situation. This galactico style football relies on one thing... galacticos.
For me only Alexis truly lives up to that billing and with no new purchases the style will continue to be insufficient. After all, even Madrid struggle with a team made up of the world’s finest. Without such superstars, and in competition with the likes of City and Chelsea, the possession-based system will be enough to secure top four but is destined for failure when it comes to superseding these more powerful clubs.
A real tactical approach, like the one utilized by Atletico Madrid in their La Liga triumph a couple of seasons ago, is what is needed to genuinely compete on the pitch if we are not willing to compete off it.
The question most of us find ourselves asking is why?
Why are we the only side in Europe to not have signed an outfield player?
Why has every Premier League club signed at least 4 more players than us?
Why is our manager spending the last days of the transfer window taking ‘dizzy penalties’ with the Gunnersauras?
Wenger is going nowhere until the end of the season, regardless of results and whether you like it or not. Ultimately he will, to coin his yearly catchphrase, be judged in May. However, there is a crucial difference this time around. This time the age old excuses no longer hold credence. Ultimately Wenger has made a simple and clear statement in refusing to sign anyone other than Petr Cech, the Champions second choice goalkeeper, and that is that this squad is already strong enough to seriously compete for the title.
If, as I fear, he cannot make this a reality then it is his sword to fall on.
Reports of a £200m ‘war chest’ may be somewhat exaggerated but make no mistake, there is more than enough money in the bank to attract superior players to many of the ones currently in our ranks.
In defence Wenger has claimed ‘You either find someone who strengthens your squad or you do not’. Wengerites, as they have come to be known, have stuck firmly to the tune of ‘who would you have signed’ when defending Wenger’s transfer inactivity but the fact is the man is paid £8m a year, with one of the world’s most extensive transfer networks at his disposal, precisely in order to answer that question.
There were so ‘few players available’ that every Premier League club managed to make at least five additions… makes sense. The signing of Cech, despite Ospina’s highly promising season, was one I hoped symbolised more ruthless approach, one where merely competent performers are not guaranteed their places. Unfortunately this was not the case. The team is left a couple of injuries away from fielding some frankly inept players, contributing to the yearly ‘crisis’, and we all know those injuries are on the horizon.
If you cannot achieve the ideal signings you wish to, you must at least attempt to bolster the squad in other areas. With top quality strikers purportedly lacking, the chance was there to shift some of the deadweight (Flamini, Arteta, Rosicky etc.) and bring in more serious competition for Coquelin.
Don’t forget this was a window where Vidal and Kondogbia both went for 25m.
The much sought after ‘world class’ centre forward is admittedly a difficult acquisition to make considering the shortage in the game but to tell the fans there are none available that can improve on Giroud or at least compete with him, bearing in mind he is our only legitimate striker, is laughable. Walcott, Sanchez, Welbeck and Campbell are all good forwards, but they’re not strikers.
I like Giroud, there should be no doubt that he is a good Premier League striker, nor that he deserves his starting place in the current squad. The fact remains that he is a circa 15 goal a season man and this is not enough to be the focal point of a team that wants to compete for the big trophies. As counterproductive and ridiculous as it is he finds himself booed by large portions of his own fans both domestically and internationally there is a reason why.
With the amount of chances the team creates a top quality striker should be netting 30 goals a season in all competitions.
This inability to sign a quality striker in an individual transfer window may be excusable but not when it has been so obviously needed for the last three years. It’s been 11 years since we signed a player that became a world-class striker and that was Robin Van Persie.
The list of strikers obtained in that time could be used to create a Premier League who’s who of comedians, and that’s only the strikers.
Wenger and his supporters claim he simply couldn’t find anyone better than what we have, if that is his reasoning then how on earth did we end up with the likes of Chamakh, Bendtner, Sanogo and Park? Strong reports of a £50m asking price for Edinson Cavani only further diminish the ‘who else is there’ argument. £50m is steep, but we have it, and it’s by no means crazy money for a 28 year old striker in his prime who would undoubtedly improve the squad. Reportedly his lack of resale value due to his age was the issue.
A true winner cares little for resale value and more for the game changing potential of a signing. It was this attitude that lead to that insane Suarez bid. You spend big to win big. The more you win the more revenue generated. This highly logical line of thinking seems to be totally missing.
Wenger has essentially decided that a signing must now be utterly fool proof in order for him to make it. The strategy makes sense to an extent, one or two low risk, high quality signings will always prove more effective than acquiring a string of £20-30m players in the fashion that Tottenham and Liverpool have done over the past few seasons.
The issue is, barring the ‘un-signables’ (Ronaldo, Messi etc) there is no such thing as ‘full-proof’ and thus we are left with this bizarre dithering approach toward to the market.
Any significant signing is a risk, a risk you have to take. Angel Di Maria’s failure at United epitomizes this risk factor. Chelsea cruised to the title last season yet have brought in five new players, and Mourinho remains discontent with this. City in turn have spent 140m after finishing second last season. Our reliance of FFP has proven to be totally flawed as the system has become virtually redundant.
To think that Arsenal do not have to strengthen in such a way is either downright arrogance or admittance that we are not a big club. In any case, to find the club frantically scratching around on the final days of the window each season is proof of nothing other than poor, unorganized, reactive management.
Indeed the manager should know his team better than anyone but when almost every pundit, player, manager and fan is synonymous in highlighting the same weaknesses year on year, one wonders what it will take for Wenger’s supporters to accept that it may be a simple case of stubbornness, rather than ‘genius’ on the part of Wenger.
For years the consensus was that Arsenal desperately needed to field a proper defensive midfielder yet Wenger resisted. Eventually he succumbed and Coquelin, though far from the finished article, was brought into the fold last January and quite literally transformed our season.
The same effect will be witnessed come the day this striker situation is sorted.
This team remains strong enough to secure a top four place and potentially challenge providing the miracle of staying injury free occurs, but unless the Wenger adopts an approach more in line with that of a genuine title-challenging club soon, which we have the resources to do, it won’t be long until the likes of Alexis, Ozil and Ramsey begin to start looking elsewhere in precisely the same manner Van Persie, Fabregas and Nasri did a few years ago.
As the clubs around us continue to outspend us, there is now a serious fear that Arsenal could get left behind. And should we fail, Wenger will be the man to blame.