It's too late for Wenger to panic buy out of trouble.
By Oliver Wilson
There was a gentleman who walked past the press area of the Emirates Stadium on Saturday afternoon who stood out from all the others heading to the exits with five minutes remaining in Arsenal’s fixture with Aston Villa.
Short, with a scruffy beard and a Chicago Bears jacket covering his top, the gentleman turned back from the archway that would have taken him under the stands and out of the magnificent ground that sits just a few yards away from the Gunners’ historic home of Highbury. In this moment, the fan decided to unleash a torrent of abuse towards the Arsenal dugout, a good 75-100 yards away, asking where exactly was his hard earned money going after he’d continually invested both the contents of his wallet and his emotion into the club.
Calls of “where’s the f’ing money,” rang out from all side of the ground as the gentleman carried on his tirade for around three minutes or so, before disappearing away into London to lick his emotional war wounds from the afternoon. The message was clear, Arsenal, according to the fans, need to spend like they’ve never spent before.
“I’m not here to say who is right and who is wrong,” was Wenger’s response when asked if the fans were right to call for new players to come to the club.
“I’m here to make people happy who love this club and when we don’t do it I feel sorry,” he added.
“I had to deal with the situation at the start of the game. We couldn’t go out at 2.55pm and buy six players but when the game starts you have to go out and win the game. Could we win the game with the players we had, I say yes, that is my answer.
“After, we are out to buy players but we have to think as well. People always say you have to buy players, buy players, buy players, but tell me who. It becomes much more problematic.
“We could talk for half a day [about why Arsenal are struggling to buy players] but we take our work very seriously and believe me we analyse every single player in the world and we work 24 hours a day for that.
“We want to spend, we are ready to buy players.”
Three days after that disastrous start and Arsene appears to be living up to his word as an explosion of transfer rumours has hit the back pages with players form all over Europe suddenly being linked to the club.
The early week gossip columns listed name after name of stars whom the French manager is intent on bringing to the north London including Iker Casillas, Samuel Eto’o, Yohan Cabaye, Willian and Erik Lamela. Keep calm and PANIC BUY is Arsenal’s message but even then, their tight-fisted transfer policy and slow reaction time is thwarting their attempts to buy, as Tottenham snapped up Willian from Anzhi and Lamela from Roma, while Newcastle – much like Liverpool did when Arsenal offered £40,000,001 for Luis Suarez – felt insulted by the team’s move to distract their star midfielder just hours before his club’s fixture against Manchester City. Cabaye never played in the game and Alan Pardew felt a strong grievance against the Gunner’s actions after his side’s heavy loss. The chance of the two clubs doing amicable business together before the close of the transfer window now seems a little difficult to imagine.
One wonders why Casillas, Real Madrid’s and Spain’s golden gloved boy of the last 15 years, would decide to leave a side being tipped for Champions League glory this season while others are speculating if an Anzhi fire sale will be enough to lure Eto’o to the Emirates, with Chelsea too looking to reunite the fromer Inter Milan striker with Mourinho at The Bridge.
Arsenal appear to be plucking names out of the air, desperate to find gap fillers and named stars to appease the fans and players who all expect new purchases to be made. With two weeks to go, though, will they be able to find enough players with enough quality to help lead their charge back to the Champions League?
A goalkeeper is on the shopping list as Wenger loses faith in his Pole between the posts Wojciech Szczesny, while defensive cover for the injured Nacho Monreal, Thomas Vermaelen, Bacary Sagna and possibly Kieran Gibbs would be a welcome addition before the window closes.
A bulky midfielder would be ideal to play a ball winner role in the heart of the pitch, a player that can turn back time and be the next Patrick Viera or Gilberto Silva - two players that have never really been replaced since their disappearances from the club - while others still see a need for another creative player to join Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere in the attacking line-up, especially with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain taking a knock on Saturday that could see him out for around six-months.
Finally a striker has been called for to help last year’s solid signing, Olivier Giroud. While Giroud never replaced Robin van Persie’s goals last season, he proved that he can play at both Premier League and Champions League level with competency and quality. When he does go on a goal drought, however, another finisher is needed to help carry the load.
That, according to my list, is at least five new players that needed to be bought, with four of those gaps that need filling being there before the injury and suspension problems that have begun to ravage the Gunners a week into the season.
Could this not have all been solved earlier in the summer? Other clubs went out and bought what they needed in late July and early August while Arsenal struggled to stump up the money for Mourane Fellaini, Bernard, Gonzalo Higuain and others who have now found new homes or are firmly rooted in place at their current clubs.
Will Arsenal, for all the scouting ability that Wenger is praised for, be forced to bring in new versions of Andre Santos, Marouane Chamakh, Gervinho, Denilson and Nicklas Bendtner to provide cover for his first team stars, rather than being able to bring in stars of his own?
With a huge game against Turkish side Fenerbache on Wednesday night and the tolerance of the fans towards their manager dwindling, Wenger should be focusing more on their fight to reach the Champions League group stage and less on buying players this week. That business should have been done a long time ago this summer and now it seems too little too late for a side that continue to maintain a tight grip on their purse strings.
Spend the money on what’s left in a dwindling transfer market in which Arsenal have shown they have little power? Don’t spend and begin the season fighting an uphill battle?
Or more importantly, is this the start of the end of Wenger at Arsenal?