Why is Arsene Wenger finding it so difficult to add to his Arsenal squad?
Despite winning eight of their last ten matches, there is a common opinion that the Gunners were somewhat fortunate to finish fourth in the Premier League last season. Whilst this may not be the consensus amongst those who frequent the Emirates Stadium on a regular basis, what they do agree on is that unless there are quality additions to their squad, finishing higher than fourth is highly unlikely this time round.
Yet in a summer in which the club are in the strongest financial position they have been in for years, Wenger has added just one player to his options: Yaya Sanogo, a 20-year-old French striker who was plying his trade in Ligue 2 last season. Supporters have allowed themselves to become excited at the prospect of Luis Suarez, Gonzalo Higuain or Luiz Gustavo arriving, yet none of these have materialised.
And following the humiliating 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa on the opening day of the season, even the most patient of fans appear to have snapped as chants of ‘spend some f*****g money’ rang around a stadium which has yet to celebrate silverware since it opened in the summer of 2006. When asked about the lack of signings following the match, Wenger went to lengths to explain just how difficult his job is.
“We are there to spend money,” he said. “People say buy players, but who? We analyse every single player in the world and work 24 hours a day for that. We are serious about it. Until we buy players we have to win football games. I am here to make people happy who love this club. But we couldn’t go out at five to three and buy six players. We were on the market before the game and exactly the same after the game.”
I dare say nobody asked Wenger to buy six players at five to three on the opening day of the season. But there have been plenty of people who have asked him to sign players since the end of last term or, to be more precise, during the previous 89 days. And although he claims to be serious about spending his healthy transfer budget, until he does so, then fans will inevitably wonder just how serious he is, because he has had the chance.
Higuain is the obvious example. A proven quality goalscorer for one of the biggest clubs in the world, the Real Madrid forward was, by all accounts, willing to make the move to Arsenal, yet a lack of urgency allowed Rafael Benitez to step in and take him to Napoli. Suarez was always going to be a long-shot, but even so, the fact Wenger offered one pound over a reported £40million release clause perhaps showed that he isn’t that serious about spending big money as he claims to be. Gustavo, who helped Bayern Munich win the treble last season, was available for £17million, but he has joined Wolfsburg.
Aside from these three players, there are others. Marouane Fellaini had a release clause in his Everton contract last month. The Belgian midfielder may divide opinion, but would he improve the Arsenal team? Of course he would. Is Wojciech Szczesny, who has regressed alarmingly over the past 12 months, a better goalkeeper than Maarten Stekelenburg, the Dutch international who joined Fulham for less than £5million? Or why hasn’t Julio Cesar, currently kicking his heels at Queens Park Rangers, been approached?
Giroud has been in fine form pre-season and is off the mark in the Premier League already, but where was Wenger when Loic Remy was joining Newcastle United on loan from Loftus Road? Or where was he in January when the same club signed Moussa Sissoko, the France international midfielder, from Toulouse for just £2.5million? Wilfried Bony, Marco van Ginkel, Victor Wanyama…all have moved to England this summer for reasonable prices, and all would have improved Wenger’s current first team options.
You could even argue that instead of trying to pull of the unlikely signing of Suarez, Wenger would have been better off battling Tottenham Hotspur for Roberto Soldado. Or why not offer Kolo Toure a return to the club when his Manchester City contract expired? You may scoff at such a suggestion, but he is still capable of defending to Premier League standard, as Liverpool will now find out, and having a player around the place who has actually won silverware with the club would only have benefited those around him.
There is a little over two weeks left until the window closes; not a great deal of time, but there are still players who are available. The financial plight of Anzhi Makhachkala could result in the Russian side offloading the likes of Brazilian forward Willian. German international playmaker Mesut Ozil is said to have an uncertain future at Real Madrid, or what about a controversial bid for Luka Modric, which would not only give them a proven Premier League playmaker, but it would also put one over their closest rivals? Arda Turan, the Turkey midfielder, is thought to be considering leaving Atletico Madrid.
So there are players available, and you don’t even have to look hard enough.