In June, Ivan Gazidis earmarked this summer as one that would prove crucial for Arsenal’s fortunes. In the mind of Arsenal’s chief executive, this transfer window was supposed to inaugurate a new era for the club, one in which their newfound “financial firepower” was going to reserve them a seat at the table of Premier League’s big spenders.
If the way Arsenal have operated since Gazidis made that now infamous statement, and Arsenal’s performance against Aston Villa are anything to go by, this summer could still prove to be crucial for the Gunners, however not in the way the Arsenal chief executive expected.
In May, Arsenal fans celebrated wildly as their side pipped Spurs to the holy grail of modern football that is Champions League qualification but, barely three months on from then, that effort could be made to look completely meaningless given Wenger’s failure to strengthen his squad.
Arsenal have never bought into the spending policy that has been the pillars of Chelsea and, more recently, of Manchester City but, as admirable a stance as that might be, Arsene Wenger and the board have failed to grasp that football has moved on.
Wenger’s stubborn refusal to accept the direction football has taken since Arsenal left Highbury behind for the Emirates has altered the way the Frenchman is perceived by many, including fans of his own club.
What was considered as a romantic, non-mainstream, philosophy based on nurturing talent and shrewd purchases, has since developed into a force that fans believe is holding the club back.
Furthermore, and that’s perhaps even more worrying for Wenger, for the first time in recent years Arsenal do not possess the bargaining powers they enjoyed in the past, when Wenger parted ways with some of the club’s prized assets.
The sales of Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Robin Van Persie irked many among the Emirates faithful, but placed the club in an infinitely better position than the one they find themselves into at the moment.
Arsenal’s much publicised “war-chest” of around £70m would have, and should have, been enough to secure a couple of high profile signings, yet the Gunners have managed to lose out on every single one of their targets.
Gonzalo Higuain was allowed to join Napoli for £32m, when Arsenal reportedly had the chance of signing him for £23m, while Luiz Gustavo opted to sign for Wolfsburg for £17m, a side that has finished 11th, 8th and 15th in the last three seasons in the Bundesliga.
While Higuain’s choice to opt for Napoli over Arsenal makes sense given that the Partenopei have emerged as Serie A’s second force in recent years, Luiz Gustavo’s decision to move to Wolfsburg speaks volume for how far Arsenal have fallen.
Arsenal endured torrid starts to the last two seasons, picking up a mere three points out of an available 15 in August, and Wenger has stressed that there’s no need for Arsenal fans to start panic just yet, even though Arsenal have to negotiate a testing trip to Istanbul with a depleted squad.
Fenerbache stand between Arsenal and the Champions League group stage and Wenger’s decision to bid for Yohan Cabaye did nothing to dissipate the growing fears that Arsenal might find themselves into the same situation where they were in 2011, when the signings of Per Mertesacker, Mike Arteta, Andre Santos and Park Chu-young were borne out of desperation, rather than strategy.
Wenger’s pleas, however, are increasingly sounding like a tired, half-hearted, excuse as neither he nor the Arsenal board seem willing to take responsibility for the club’s failure in the transfer window.
If Wenger has been starved of the financial resources required to strengthen his squad, then it’s the board, rather than the Frenchman, that should come under intense scrutiny from the media and the fans.
However if, as it seems increasingly likely, Wenger is simply refusing to go against his principles and pay what’s required, then the Arsenal manager has probably reached the end of his cycle in North London.
For his and his club’s sake Wenger must find a solution, otherwise the summer of 2013 will be always remembered for the wrong reasons.
Is Arsene Wenger waiting to qualify for the Champions League group stage before spending? Will Arsenal bring in a top signing this summer, and if not, who should be held responsible? Let us know below or get in touch via our Facebook or Twitter.