Unfortunately for those whose allegiances lie in N5, that statement not only rings true, it also sounds like a damning verdict on what dangerously looms as yet another squandered summer.
The transfer window had barely opened its doors by the time the Arsenal board informed everybody that Arsene Wenger had a sizeable “war chest” at his disposal, thought to be in the region of £70m, and was free to spend as he pleased, ideally to land the sort of top class players needed to transform Arsenal into title challengers once again.
As early as June, Arsenal were linked with Real Madrid forward Gonzalo Higuain, a player of proven quality as his record of 106 goals in 188 La Liga appearances abundantly testifies, as well as with Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney, who has since edged towards a move to the west part of the capital, that’s if he does in fact move.
While Chelsea and Manchester City have hit the ground running in the transfer window in customary fashion, Manchester United and Arsenal are still to land a significant signing. While United’s failure to bolster their squad can be ascribed at their insistence to purchase unrealistic targets, Arsenal’s struggle can be traced to one man.
Arsene Wenger will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the greatest and most innovative managers to ever grace British football, but his stubborn refusal to accept that football is no longer what it was a decade ago has hindered Arsenal’s chances over the last couple of years.
For a manager so ahead of the times when he first landed in England, Wenger has been remarkably stuck in a bygone era as far as signing players is concerned and, despite a sizeable transfer budget, his attitude isn’t likely to change in the foreseeable future.
For a club of Arsenal’s size, history and ambition (not to mention their sizeable war chest), having failed to sign a player worth more than £15m is simply ridiculous for, in this day and age, top players – bar a few notable exceptions – inhabit an echelon above the £20m mark.
If Arsenal had pushed through the signing of Higuain for a ‘mere’ £22m when they reportedly had the chance, they would have landed an absolute bargain, an early candidate for signing of the season even! If you put that in to perspective, Higuain would have only cost Arsenal £7m more than the total fee they reportedly paid for Andrei Arshavin, a player that remains the club’s record signing.
Arshavin – for whom, amazingly, Arsenal paid an initial fee of £12m, less than they had paid for Sylvain Wiltord in 2000 – was a gamble that failed spectacularly, perhaps strengthening Wenger’s belief that the equation turning money into success isn’t always as linear as it sounds.
The Russian, however, was a good player, but turned out to be neither the goal-machine or game changer Arsenal craved then and are desperate for now. Higuain, on the other hand, would have ticked all the boxes, and would have also represented the statement of intent Arsenal have been desperate to issue their rivals, much as United did last season by purchasing Robin Van Persie.
Wenger and Arsenal seem to have panicked as soon as Napoli entered the race for Argentine with the prospect of having to fork out more than £22m becoming a real pain point. As the Italian’s struck a deal to pay around £31m for the Argentinian, you would say is a fair price for a proven striker in this current market and Arsenal shouldn’t have shied away from such a fee, especially with a lack of proven strikers available for transfer.
With just over a month to go until the transfer window shuts, Wenger and Arsenal have now offered £40,000,001 for their now very public number 1 target Luis Suarez, an offer which, if Arsenal are serious about signing the Uruguayan, will likely need to be improved by at least £10m. In the process of this very public pursuit, Liverpool have used it to their benefit to show they do not want to sell their star man, and if they do, it will take a huge offer of aroudn £50m – a figure more than three times Arsenal’s reported record fee.
In short, Wenger could be forced to do what he’s always openly disdained: buying an expensive player of proven quality, rather than nurture talent and shaping young players into winners.
Ironically, Arsene Wenger’s stubborn refusal to move on with the times could cost him a lot of money and, more importantly as far as the Frenchman is concerned, some of his principles but, by then, how will he explain the last eight trophy-less years?