It is usually the likes of Man City who are accused of being reckless as they wave their grotesque wad around, paying massive amounts to sign star players without a thought about balancing their books.
Wenger is often seen as the antithesis of this, preferring to buy cheaply and carefully as he nurtures his squad over time. He is championed as someone doing things ‘the right way’, standing by his principles as he does battle with rich oligarchs on an uneven battle field.
Indeed I admire him for this and appreciate the way he has seen us through the financially challenging post-Emirates era, keeping us in the Champions League while paying off the stadium debt. However, while I do not for one second wish us to spend obscene amounts of money like Man City, Wenger has been overdoing this for the past couple of years. At one end of the ‘Transfer Policy’ spectrum stands Man City and PSG throwing silly money about and right at the other end, stubbornly refusing to get involved in a market he views as over-inflated, stands Wenger.
The correct strategy for a club of Arsenal’s means and stature is somewhere between the two. By not strengthening a threadbare, mediocre squad this summer Wenger is actually being more reckless than Man City because he risks falling out of the top four which would be a disaster. Let’s face it, we only just qualified in the last couple of seasons and it is ridiculous to take that risk again when we have the financial power to ensure it is not such a close call next time.
Wenger’s job is to assemble the best possible squad with the resources at his disposal. Leaving a £70m transfer kitty untouched and sending us into the first game of the season with a thin squad vulnerable to injuries is at best foolhardy and at worst a plain dereliction of duty.
It would appear his target each season is Champions League qualification. That is not good enough in my opinion, but nevertheless we have had to squeak narrow victories on the final day for the last two seasons just to hold off Spurs and achieve that. This summer though, Spurs have strengthened considerably. Even if they lose Bale they have still made quality signings to compensate (something Wenger never did when he sold Nasri, Fabregas and RVP. He still hasn’t replaced Song for goodness sake!) While Wenger continues to have faith in the likes of Fabianski and Diaby, Spurs have added proven quality like Soldado and Paulinho to their ranks.
In fact Wenger has had a busy summer in the transfer market, but it has mostly been getting rid of the deadwood he has recklessly put on massive wages over the last few years. Santos and Gervinho have been sold for a combined loss of £8.7m on what he paid for them. He managed to presuade Denilson to have his contract cancelled (which probably meant paying up a big chunk of it) and was freed of massive drains on the wage bill as the contracts of Squillaci and Arshavin expired. Marouane Chamakh was also belatedly shifted off the payroll as he secured a free transfer to Crystal Palace and youngsters like Eastmond, Watt, Meade and Henderson were released.
So with all this money freed up from the wage bill and a £70m transfer fund, there were NO financial reasons why he couldn’t have strengthened. Gone are the excuses that Arsenal can’t compete in the transfer market because they are financially restricted. Gazidis confirmed that with his now infamous interview, proudly proclaiming an escalation in our financial firepower (a piece released on the eve of the deadline for season ticket membership renewals you may remember – read into that what you will).
So if lack of finances isn’t to blame, what is? Lack of quality players available? Wenger likes to use that excuse but it simply doesn’t wash. For example, Fellaini had a £23m release clause that has just expired and Cesar is available for free – two proven players in key areas that we desperately need to strengthen, yet for some reason Wenger neglected to even bid for. And there are plenty of other very good players who have found new clubs in this window.
No, the blame for our woeful summer lies squarely on the shoulders of Arsene Wenger.
The way he handled the pursuit of Higuain was painful and embarrassing. Wenger dallied so much, taking so long to agree a price with Real Madrid, that by the time a deal was near Napoli found themselves with bags of cash following the sale of Cavani and swiftly gazumped us. If he had any competence he’d have had that deal wrapped up weeks before, but he dithered and missed out on his main target.
Of course there is still time before the transfer window shuts and the tedious Suarez saga will rumble on. I’m not convinced Wenger really wants him (I’ve read rumours the board are trying to force that one through) and to be honest I hope we don’t get him anyway. He may be a brilliant player, but this odious, racist little thug will turn on us as soon as he sniffs a better contract elsewhere. Imagine we sign him and he bags 25 goals for us, shining in the Champions League. You know that the big boys will come in for him next summer and he will do to us what he has done to Groningen, Ajax and now Liverpool – turned nasty to get his move. He sued Groningen to secure his transfer to Ajax and has threatened legal action against Liverpool, a club who stood by him as he repeatedly disgraced himself on the pitch with his racism, biting and diving. I just don’t believe a prudent man like Wenger would treble his record transfer fee to take a chance on a maverick like Suarez.
Besides, the clues have been there all summer. Take this quote from the BBC’s reporting of Gazidis’ infamous proclomation back in June that Arsenal are ready to spend big on players:
Asked whether Arsenal could afford to spend a £20m transfer fee on a single player, and offer salaries of £200,000 per week, he said: “Of course we could do that. We could do more than that.”
‘Whoopee!’ thought thousands of Arsenal fans as they rushed to renew their season tickets. But on the very next paragraph was the reality:
But he warned that boss Arsene Wenger, who Gazidis says will stay “long term”, will not necessarily spend such money. “It is going to be the players that Arsene believes in,” Gazidis said. “He is pretty blind to price tags, he looks at what he sees with his eyes and makes judgements based on that, not on reputations and prices.”
Exactly. He believes in signing young potential like Sanogo instead of proven names for big fees and he will never change his mindset. That is how he has always done things. Apart from Arshavin (who he signed in desperation as we were languishing in 6th place at the time and Fabregas was injured for two months) can you name one star Wenger has bought? There aren’t any. His most successful signings were rejects at other clubs or promising youth players who he took under his wing and nurtured into superstars (Henry, Vieira, Anelka, Fabregas etc).
Recently I read another quote which revealed his true strategy:
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger: “Our base of young players can have a special bond and they are on the way upwards – they are not over the hill. They will be better this year and that is why I am confident we will be stronger this season.
The same old mantra is being repeated – selling us the future, urging fans to ‘believe’ in a young squad which doesn’t need new signings. Well we had a promising young squad a few years ago which contained players like Fabregas, van Persie, Clichy, Nasri and Song. I wonder what happened to them?
So here we are with the new season a matter of hours away and we have only added an injury-prone youngster from France who we picked up for free. You couldn’t make it up, talk about a typical Wenger signing! Meanwhile our small, shallow squad has been left exposed by a few injuries and our predicted line-up will be less than ideal for the Aston Villa game. The latest is that Arteta will be out for up to six weeks. Who will cover him now? Play Ramsey out of position? Or Frimpong, a guy who hardly shone on loan at Fulham last season? Wouldn’t it have been lovely to be able to select Fellaini there for tomorrow.
In summation, with Spurs getting closer every year and Liverpool improving under Rodgers, we needed to learn from the close calls of the last couple of seasons and Wenger had a duty to spend decent money in order to protect our minimum target of a place in the top four. The fact that hasn’t been done is nothing short of reckless as stubborn Wenger gambles yet again on a small, young squad — a gamble that, given our improved financial situation, really isn’t necessary.
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