Can Arsenal make the most of their transfer kitty?
So Arsenal have money to spend do they? Is that any different to the past or will the board now actually release funds to compete with the top sides on player transfers and wages?
Will Arsene Wenger actually spend that money or is he still in the pocket of those same board members who are happy with their dividends? If they are going to spend where do they need to strengthen and who might that be?
There are a lot of questions at the Emirates, many of which the fans have been asking year in year out over the past decade almost. Paying the highest ticket prices in the Premier League they are somewhat justified in asking these questions and to vent their frustration when these questions are not answered.
The obsession and end result of finishing above bitter North London rivals Tottenham somewhat papered over cracks and distracted fans from their frustrations with the inner workings of their club. In truth Arsenal have shown little progress on the pitch or in the trophy cabinet and fans have been appeased for far too long now.
Albeit in the Champions League and whether Arsenal fans like to admit it or not they are fighting on a different tier to the Top 3 in the Premier League when it comes to attracting and signing top players. Ivan Gazidis has come out saying Arsenal could go and pay £25 million and £200,000 a week on a player to match these top tier sides but this simply isn’t feasible with a club who have been so structured with their wage brackets.
How would the likes of Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla react knowing a player has been brought in on more than double the money they are on? A player could be the most grounded and loyal on the planet but questions would be asked.
The way Manchester City and Chelsea managed paying the top wages is by signing a lot of players on big money who were better than what they already had. Signing a player a lot better than Santi Cazorla or Jack Wilshere would prove extremely difficult no matter how much money was being banded around due to availability and desire to move to Arsenal.
So where does that leave Arsenal? You would questions whether they will pay that kind of money given this board’s history and propensity for appeasing the fans by telling them what they would like to hear.
The top players in the world can be split into certain groups. They could be unavailable because they are at a top club and settled, for example Lionel Messi isn’t about to leave Barcelona for any money. The next players are available to an extent but will already be courted by the top clubs.
These clubs will point at recent history of winning trophies and an already world class team when negotiating with players. Also the major transfer fees and wages will help. The likes of Edinson Cavani and Robert Lewandowski will be signing for the superpowers of European football for major money, on major money.
So this leaves Arsenal in the next tier. They need to be aggressive in this market and be willing to take slight gambles. The times of signing speciality players from a certain country or area such as Thierry Henry or Patrick Vieira are now gone. The scouting networks at the world’s top clubs mean every player is known whether they are in the Brazil or Burundi.
So where do they need to strengthen and who might be available? Looking at their team and speaking to a lot of fans it seems 3-4 signings may be required to move up to that next tier and to realistically be in a position to challenge on all fronts again…
Firstly, Arsenal have not had a dominant central midfielder since Patrick Vieira. With the pretty football that Wenger favours they can sometimes be bullied out of games they should win. This will inevitably precede Wenger coming out saying his players need protection by the referees, the officials and possibly G4S.
Abou Diaby’s injuries are world-record breaking and unfortunately he cannot be relied upon. As dench as Emmanuel Frimpong is, his inability to kick a football may well be a stumbling block if he is to start for Arsenal. The ageing Mikel Arteta is a fantastic passer of the ball but is not the enforcer nor the protector of Wenger’s precious players and Wenger would admit this himself.
Arsenal were linked for a long time with a move for former Stade Rennes midfielder Yann M’Vila – now at Rubin Kazan. A deal never materialised which could have been a lucky escape as he was recently arrested for relations with an underage prostitute.
Marouane Fellaini from Everton would add some presence to the Arsenal midfield but the smart money would be with the Belgian following his former boss to Old Trafford. Thomas Vermaelen may have a word too with his compatriot to tempt him to London but the centre back may be falling out of favour himself which might not help.
Borussia Dortmund’s Ilkay Gundogan has also been linked with a move to the Emirates but at 22 years old and having just scored in the Champions League final, it will likely cost upwards of £25 million and whether the German wants that move is another matter.
The Gunners would hope they can upset the odds on one of these three but it will take a gamble and Gazidis to put his money where his mouth is.
Up front Olivier Giroud’s first season playing down the middle was far from convincing. Arguably he has potential to bring in players but in front of goal he is not at the level of the top teams as to where Arsenal will aspire. Think Robin van Persie, Sergio Aguero and whoever Chelsea sign.
A striker at Arsenal could be the result of a little bit of patience. Seeing what happens with Real Madrid’s pursuit of a front man could well open the door for either Gonzalo Higuain or Karim Benzema. Neither have nailed down a place at the Bernabeu but both may look to the exit doors and see the Premier League as somewhere that might suit their bustling styles.
Could Manchester United be persuaded to let go of Wayne Rooney should they indeed sign a centre forward and more importantly could Rooney be persuaded to come to London? His £250,000 a week wages may prove a stumbling block.
A gamble in a different way would be Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke who had a very impressive first season amongst a very poor team. Whether or not the Belgian is a one season wonder or whether he could cut it playing in a top four side is another matter but his physical presence and eye for goal seems a fit on the face of it. Villa will likely demand upwards of £20 million for the 22 year old.
At centre half, Per Mertersacker and Laurent Koscielny did look to shore things up at the back end of the season with statistics proving this. This said Arsenal may want to strengthen here also with Adil Rami of cash-strapped Valencia one who has been mooted. There has also been links with Swansea skipper Ashley Williams who has performed admirably in the past two years in the Premier League for Swansea. Whether either of these would majorly strengthen Arsenal’s back four is open to debate.
If Arsenal do take these gambles and front up to sign three or four top players you could see them moving forward and challenging for honours. Gunner fans will argue that they have seen and heard this all before and will be wary of being too prudent in the transfer market, going for half-hearted signings, slightly cheaper that will not really improve the starting eleven a great deal.
The question is, are the board members going to do anything different? Why would Gazidis come out saying they have all this money to spend surely just pushing prices up? Is Wenger going to continue to be the board’s lap-dog and be happy with second rate signings?
With all the above only time will tell as to whether Arsenal will push on or whether they will treat St Totteringham’s Day as if it were winning the double.
What are your thoughts on Arsenal? Who should/could they sign? Will they challenge next season?
This article was written by Ryan Curtis who is a regular contributor at http://www.football-rumours.net and a budding journalist.