The financial landscape of football is changing, the Teutonic plates beneath the surface are beginning to tremble and a radical change is afoot. For years, Arsenal have had to scrimp and save in order for their fiscal model to be a success but with Champions League again confirmed, the stadium continuing to provide a continuous source of revenue and the much publicised TV money, which financial experts believe could see clubs profited to the tune of £130million over a 5 year period, the Gunners are now in a position of power. Arsene Wenger is sitting with pocket aces, and the ace of hearts has just been turned on the river.
There will be an enormity of transfer rumours this summer. Arsenal have already been linked with Raheem Sterling and Petr Cech, whilst talk of Morgan Schneiderlin has been persistent throughout the season. But what can Arsenal fans truly expect this summer? The simple answer is, no one knows. Wenger notoriously plays with his cards close to his chest and I doubt this silly season will be any different. Recent transfers, namely Ozil and Sanchez, have indicated a more ambitious policy and whilst I, and I think every other Arsenal fan would love to see this trend continue; I think I would also like to see a more ruthless streak from the Arsenal manager. Wenger’s footballing philosophy often places him on a pedestal; he refuses to be the type of manager who talks about other players or disrupts rival clubs with reported transfer bids or hangs out the side of his car on transfer deadline day, giving any reporter in the vicinity a quote for the back page. He simply has too much class for such antics. But there is a need for Wenger to change tact, to add a soupçon of aggression to his mild mannered negotiating tactics. He needs to be more of a ‘big blind’ bully and use his leverage to give Arsenal that final boost to challenge for the title.
In recent years, Manchester United have been prolific in this type of transfer warfare. Bidding on a rival player in order to, firstly, weaken their counterparts and secondly, strengthen their own ranks. You only need to look at United’s feeder club, Tottenham Hotspurs, who have been ravaged by the footballing beast for two of their best players: Berbatov and Carrick; and were close to the signing of Bale before Madrid came knocking. Similarly, United took advantage of Arsenal in a moment of weakness, possibly after a late night of too many cocktails and a lack of sleep, we were left vulnerable to the filthy beast’s advances and sold one of our best players at a pittance of his worth. But with Arsenal’s continued improvement, partnered with our recent ambitious transfers business and our ability to break the wage structure for the right player, Arsenal are now considered a big player. Players like Cech, Schnederlien, Sterling and, possible free-agent, Milner all consider Arsenal a potential destination; a club who are self-sustaining and moving in the right direction.
Wenger is loath to sign players in order to keep them from the clutches of other teams; Fabregas was the most recent example, opting not to sign the player due to Ozil’s status at the club despite knowledge that Chelsea would follow up with a bid. Similarly, Wenger recommended Antonio Valencia to Wigan back in 2008; having scouted the player for quite a while, Wenger recommended him to Steve Bruce as we were well stocked for wide players at the time. It is one of the attributes that makes him such a fantastic man to work with, his compassion and respect for his players is well known and is one of the reasons he is spoken of so highly of by former players. But with the financial arsenal at his disposal, it may now be the time to become rather more cold-blooded.
In addition to being ruthless in the transfer market, Wenger must weed his own back garden again. Arsene did well to rid the ranks of Bendtner, Fabianski, Vela and Vermaelen but deadwood still remains. Expectations of Arsenal are forever changing and as we begin to exercise our monetary influence more often, a higher calibre of player will be sought. A quick glance to our squad this season would tell you that the quality of individuals at Arsenal has risen in the past few years. Theo Walcott, who many would have pointed to as one of our key weapons in years gone by has found himself marooned on the bench, unable to make any sort of meaningful contribution to the season, West Brom hattrick aside. Additionally Wilshere is not the central cog we all expected him to be several years ago with Cazorla, Ramsey and Coquelin all upping or altering their game to make the Englishman’s absence less of a hindrance. But several players must surely be wary of finding themselves on the proverbial chopping board. Twitter sensation and all round good guy Lukas Podolski can expect a polite request to clear out his locker and Abou Diaby and Mathieu Flamini may also be following him out the exit door, having both the appreciation and/or sympathies of the Arsenal fans but not much else. A more dismay inducing axing may be that of our smile provoking Little Mozart, Tomas Rosicky. The pint-sized Czech holds a lot of good favour amongst the Arsenal crowd and is loved for his energy, technical ability and his knack for changing the tempo of a game. His career at the Emirates, never lived up to its potential but he has provided some real moments of quality and joy. None of these players are bad players, in fact they are all excellent, consummate professionals; players who I think have a huge impact in the locker room. But for Arsenal to move up the league ladder, competition for places needs to become more aggressive. It’s a form of progression, an evolution rather than revolution. There is no need for whole-sale changes, just for a more Darwinian approach to recruitment. Wenger has the backing of the fans, he has the support of the board, he has the foundations of a great team and he has the resources to improve upon it. It is now time to press his advantage and go all in.
‘Til next time,