Arsenal boss has cash to splash, but will he invest wisely or waste it?
Arsene Wenger’s decisions in the transfer market will be under more scrutiny than ever after Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis said the Gunners have the funds for “a big summer”.
Renowned for being financially frugal and economical, Arsene Wenger has built up a reputation for finding hidden international gems on the cheap, but there are increasing signs that this skill is beginning to desert him.
Having assembled numerous sides built on astute buys, such as Kolo Toure for £150,000 from ASEC Abdijan, Cesc Fabregas for a nominal fee from Barcelona and Robin van Persie for £2.75million from Feyenoord, Wenger has seemingly lost his way.
Gambles on cheaper alternatives in recent seasons have only compounded Arsenal’s increasing troubles, which have time and again seen them become peripheral figures in the title race.
While positive signings of international repute have arrived at Arsenal, such as Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski, chief executive Ivan Gazidis’ promise that the Gunners now have the cash for “a big summer” no longer guarantees the arrival of marquee signings who are capable of pushing the club towards silverware.
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Instead, Wenger’s tendency has been to add to his squad with players who appear to be there as cover for the club’s existing bank of first-team figures.
The purchases of Sebastien Squillaci, Park Chu-Young and Andre Santos all typify Wenger’s approach of spending comparatively less than his rivals, in the hope of finding a diamond in the rough.
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Yet the accumulated transfer spend has inhibited any grand purchase and added weight to Arsenal’s relatively tight wage structure – and former midfielder Stewart Robson believes that has hampered Arsenal’s chances of trophy success.
“Over the last few years some of the players that he’s said were going to be world-class haven’t ended up like that,” said the 48-year-old, who spent five years at Highbury from 1981 to 1986.
“People like Olivier Giroud, Philippe Senderos, Denilson, Marouane Chamakh, Armand Traore, Sebastien Squillaci, Nicklas Bendtner, Carlos Vela, Emmanuel Eboue, Park Chu-Young, Lukasz Fabianski, Gervinho and Andre Santos.
“These are the sort of players who Arsene Wenger said were going to be world-class players and they haven’t done it.
“Over the last two seasons they have spent some money on Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski, Mikel Arteta, Nacho Monreal, Per Mertesacker and Andre Santos. They haven’t been top-class players.
“Arsene Wenger doesn’t appear to want to sign the top-class players, or what other people would describe as top-class players. He goes out and says, ‘I can buy you cheaper players for a better price who are going to be world-class players in the future’, but that hasn’t been the case in the last few years.”
Andrei Arshavin is another good example, and he will be allowed to leave as a free agent at the end of the month after being a £15m signing from Russian outfit Zenit St Petersburg in 2009.
“Some of the players who he has bought have regressed under him like Arshavin and Thomas Vermaelen,” added Robson. “Nacho Monreal hasn’t been a good signing and Andre Santos has been hopeless for them.
While fans would appreciate a symbolic signing that matches their own lofty aspirations, the fear is that the money could again be shared between a crop of players who are yet to reach their pinnacle.