So far in this off-season, we have seen the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester City hog the headlines in their transfer activities. Real Madrid raised the bar in shattering the world transfer fee, not once, but twice in a span of two weeks! Manchester City continue to flex their transfer muscles with signings of Carlos Tevez, Gareth Barry and Roque Santa Cruz allied to the continued rumours regarding Bruno Alves, Adebayor (unsigned at the time of writing) and John Terry all purportedly set to join the club. With increasing financial pressure on the “big 4” to maintain their status quo with the Champions League revenue not only providing financial incentives, but also crucial revenue streams the big 4 have come to rely on, the temptation to dip into the transfer market can overwhelm the most stingiest of managers. With the ever-present threat of big spending Manchester City looming in the rear mirror, Arsenal fans must surely be questioning why Wenger is not being pro-active.
So far, Liverpool have splashed out on Glen Johnson, in the process writing off the £7m Portsmouth had owed them (according to widespread media reports) in the Peter Crouch transfer, Manchester United have only restricted themselves to a shrewd low risk free agent signing in Michael Owen and the £16m transfer of Antonio Valencia and £3m gamble on Gabriel Obertan despite the sale of Ronaldo for £80m and departure of Carlos Tevez. Chelsea have splashed out in their usual but comparatively reserved fashion in the signings of Daniel Sturridge, Ross Turnbull and Yuri Zhirkov with continued rumours of Ribery’s arrival.
What of Arsenal?
Wenger has so far proved himself to be one of the better managers in the league at managing his “company’s” finances. As in the real world, he has balanced the books in impressive fashion despite media and fan pressure that comes with the job. His economic background has led to a cautious and pragmatic style that has seen spectacular results. Evidence of which is his handling and development of Nicolas Anelka and the likely spectacular profits of Adebayor. But in the here and now, he has been accused of being too cautious by some sections of the Arsenal support. Why?
As in the real world, Wenger has in mind the mortgage Arsenal has just started repaying for ensuring the long term future of the club that would enable them to compete with the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool. Wenger’s philosophy has always been with one eye on the club’s future and pragmatically, their vision of an operating club in 10 years’ time. Whilst that may not satisfy some fans whose needs for instant gratification in today’s culture where Big Brother contestants can enjoy 15 minutes of fame and expect thousands of pounds in “earnings” for their “work”, they must realise that the quickest route to glory is not always guaranteed and worth the trouble that may befall those who chose that very same route. Leeds Utd is the ultimate cautionary tale in that they chose to spend, spend, spend and at the same token, found that they could not guarantee success thus defaulting on their repayments leading to the dismantling of a once proud club now languishing in League One.
Yes, Wenger has perhaps been more cautious then he could’ve been but that old saying, “it’s better to be safe then sorry” springs to mind. He has addressed a defensive need in signing Thomas Vermaelen from Ajax though fans would no doubt accuse Wenger of overpaying for him. However, consider the prices of Steven Fletcher, Darren Bent, David Bentley and Glen Johnson and he has to be considered market value with his European experience. However there are continued rumblings of William Gallas’ departure as his contract expires next season and given Wenger’s modus operandi, surely a sale is imminent? At 31 yrs he won’t fetch much on the transfer market and Wenger may yet decide, he could try and extract some measure of compensation or he may simply allow Gallas to run down his contract for essentially a year’s rental given the likely high fee a replacement of similar calibre. Kolo Toure continues to be linked with Manchester City and it remains to be seen if Wenger would accept a bid of around £12m for his defensive stalwart as there are not many impact defenders on the market who could offer a viable alternative to Toure who has proven Premier League and Champions League experience.
In midfield, he has a need for an experienced enforcer and the previously targeted “Melo” has now signed for Juventus. I’d much rather have bid for former enforcer, Mathieu Flamini who seems marginalized at Milan playing out of position at full-back. He’s proven in the Premier League and shouldn’t cost relatively too much. Instead Arsenal have also been linked with other names that fans will not have heard of. Given his track record of recruiting and developing the likes of Patrick Viera, Robert Pires and Emmanuel Petit into household names and ultimately world-class stars, Arsenal fans have to continue to place their faith in the manager. He has recently been strongly linked with Blaise Matuidi, a young French player whilst long term target Gokhan Inler of Udinese has risen to prominence meaning the likely high fee will play a huge part in Wenger turning elsewhere. In any case, he does have Alex Song and Denilson who should continue to develop and mature as young talented backups.
In regards to the situation up front. Do Arsenal need another frontman even in the event Adebayor leaves? Not really. They definitely need a midfield enforcer in the mould of Makelele or Mascherano and some measure of defensive depth, which Wenger has addressed assuming the likes of Gallas or Toure do not leave. With Bordeaux’s Chamakh mooted as a possible replacement or Adebayor, Wenger looks likely to have the perceived prerequisite of 4 strikers. Can Arsenal realistically compete for the title with this squad?
They’ll need their young players to continue their maturity and development and the injured senior players like Rosicky and Eduardo to stay fit and healthy but all signs point to a fascinating season for Arsenal fans. Arsenal certainly have the players to sustain a title challenge and it may boil down to experience and the depth of the squad.
All in all, Arsenal fans should be content that Wenger is showing prudence in today’s economic climate when the likes of Tottenham and Manchester City are splashing almost double Wenger’s total outlay in a futile attempt to achieve Champions League football. Even the likes of Brazilian wonderkind, Douglas Costa would cost a £20m fee which Manchester United reportedly leaning towards passing on and whilst Ferguson does deserve plaudits for gambling £12m on an unknown 18 yr old who has since blossomed to be become one of the best players in the world, let’s not forget the signings of Nani and Anderson who cost the same and 4m more respectively.
Would you rather Wenger splashed out like Real Madrid borrowing even more to fund a title challenge that may end in tears and endangering their future? Would you prefer Wenger spend plenty of money on young talent who may not succeed at the expense of the possibility of a missed mortgage payment or rather for instant football fans, an established star? Allied to the market conditions favouring European clubs in terms of wages (taxes) and the exchange rate, the balance of power has swung from the Premier League to La Liga in startling fashion.
But at the end of the day, there’s not a better manager I’d trust to run a football club then Wenger. That’s the bottom line!
In Wenger we trust!