Arsenal face a season-defining month.
Arséne Wenger is a manager known for his caution in the transfer market. He loathes having to pay out big money fees and surely objects to the ludicrous amounts of millions being thrown around in this summer’s transfer window but it is becoming clear that now, more than ever, Wenger might have to bite the bullet and abandon his principles by joining in with the big-spending.
During Wenger’s time at the club, Arsenal have qualified for the Champions League an impressive nineteen seasons in a row without having to break the bank. Wenger isn’t completely adverse to spending big i.e. Mesut Özil for £42.5m but often only one marquee signing has arrived per-season. While Wenger did have initial success, winning 3 Premier Leagues, 4 FA Cups and 3 Community Shields, Arsenal have rather been rather left behind ever since 2004, when football made the transition from millionaire’s game to billionaire’s game. Since then, Arsenal’s invincibles of 2003-04 failed to achieve success over more than one season which gave way to a 10-year trophy drought which was only ended in 2014 with an FA Cup victory over Hull City and now Arsenal’s perfect Champions League qualification record under Wenger is under more threat than it has ever been.
The new Premier League season is a mouth-watering prospect as the league could be on the verge of entering a golden age. Four of the world’s greatest managers, Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte and Jurgen Klopp all go head-to-head and who could forget champions Leicester and the impressive Tottenham Hotspur. All of the previously mentioned four managers are proven winners who have achieved success at some of Europe’s best clubs and as such possess serious pulling power. After his £37million move to Manchester City, Leroy Sane stated that the chance to work under Guardiola was one of the deciding factors in his move.
Other big-name players that have joined these revolutions include Michy Batshauyi, N’Golo Kante, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Ilkay Gündoğan, Sadio Mané and Georgino Wijnaldum. With the likes of John Stones, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku possibly about to follow. Tottenham and Leicester too have made stellar signings such as Victor Wanyama, Ahmed Musa and Bartosz Kaputska. While these clubs have identified their weakness and have started to build towards their aims of winning the title, the same can’t really be said of Arsenal.
The only big name to join Arsenal so far this summer has been £30 million man Granit Xhaka. While he has the potential to go a long way to solving Arsenal’s weak underbelly, the same old faults of the last 10 years are still very much there. At the back Arsenal look lightweight and lack depth, the problems have recently been exasperated by Per Mertesacker’s knee injury which is expected to keep him out until 2017. Coupled with Wenger’s promise to give his stars who appeared at Euro 2016 a four-week holiday, Arsenal could start the season with Gabriel Paulista, Calum Chambers and Rob Holding as their only options at Centre-back, a prospect that will surely fill Arsenal fans with dread. Rumours linking the club with Jonny Evans and Federico Fernandez of West Brom and Swansea respectively will hardly improve their mood.
Arsenal fans will be hoping that rumours surrounding Valencia’s Shkodran Mustafi are closer the mark as the club need a real leader at the back that won’t be bullied by physical strikers such as Andy Carroll who dominated their defence on his way to scoring a hat-trick in April. Time and time again Arsenal have been criticised for lacking leaders and this summer is surely the time to sort it out once and for all.
The situation up-front is just as dire for the Gunners. It seems a well-known fact to everybody but Arséne Wenger that Olivier Giroud is not good enough to lead the line for a team that his aspirations to win the Premier League and Champions League. He is a striker that seems to score his goals in clumps and in his baron spells Arsenal have often struggled and dropped points. With Giroud unlikely to ready for the start of the season and Alexis Sanchez injured, Arsenal could be left with the misfiring and injury-prone Theo Walcott, “Bambi on ice” Yaya Sanogo and unknown new signing Takuma Asano as their only fit forwards. Three options that hardly strike fear into the opposition, especially not Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Arsenal know that one injury to Giroud and their season ould be over.
This is why they must pay whatever it takes to prize Alexandre Lacazette away from Lyon. Lacazette has scored over 50 goals for Lyon over the last two seasons and after missing out on Luis Suárez and Gonzalo Higuain in recent years is just what Arsenal need right now. I’m sure Wenger would have been disappointed to see his £30 million bid knocked back earlier this week and I’m sure thst he feels that upping his bid would see him paying over the player’s value but these are the times we live in. You can’t expect to sign a natural goalscorer for anything less than £10 million above his true value as there are so few around. While Wenger may not like it he simply has to cough up or Arsenal risk being left behind.
The transfer market has gone crazy this summer and players seem to be moving for vastly inflated fees and while I’m sure this has left Arséne Wenger wanting to run and hide, he no longer has that option. Years of penny-pinching has left him in the position he is now. He simply has no choice as the Arsenal squad looks wafer-thin at the moment and just a few injuries could see Arsenal hit freefall. Football is changing and so is the Premier League. As many as six clubs are on the verge of greatness and are looking for the right players to create their dynasty. This means that buying players is harder than ever but Arsenal can no longer stay out of all the mayhem. In doing so they risk missing out on the Champions League and could even finish as low as 7th. Arsene Wenger’s legacy has been a fading one over recent years and he perhaps only has this summer to stop it disappearing altogether. His stubbornness has held Arsenal back for too long, so come on Arséne, you know what needs to be done!