As a staunch Wengerite it’s with great sadness that I’m forced to believe the above statement. Arsène Wenger is staring down the barrel of what is undoubtedly the most important 15 days of his decade and a half tenure at Arsenal. Star players leaving, fan discontent, unwanted players still at the club and an all-round air of disillusionment permeating the air around Colney surely must be beginning to affect the great man.
The departure and imminent departure of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri have hardly come as a surprise. We’ve known Cesc’s desire to return to his boyhood clubs for years and Nasri made it very clear at the start of the summer transfer window that he would not be putting pen to paper on another contract at The Emirates. So why then were these sagas allowed to trundle on right up until the first weekend of the season? Surely common sense would have been to put a deadline of August 1st. on any transfer for Fabregas. After August 1st. tell him that he will not be permitted a move away this summer as it will interfere with our seasons preparation. If he takes issue with it let him spend a month in the reserves and let him watch his squad place for the 2012 European Championships slowly slip away in the direction of Thiago Alacantra.
In the case of Nasri we could not afford to put a deadline on his departure as we simply cannot afford to let him leave on a free next summer. However his replacement should have been bought before he was sold, not after when teams know we are desperate.
Our transfer dealings so far this season have been, to put it plainly, puzzling.
We are screaming out for strengthening in defence yet we sell our most senior defender to Manchester City, buy an unproven League One back up right back and refuse to meet the asking price for Jagielka, Cahill or Samba.
Our refusal to meet a £17 million asking price for Cahill is all the more confusing when we were willing to spend close to £15 million after add-ons on another unproven League One player in the form of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Gervinho looks like a good addition so far, however he should not be considered a replacement for Nasri, his arrival was required to supplement and freshen up the squad regardless of whether Nasri stayed or left. Ryo Miyaichi is a new squad member too, but to think he will have any real impact in this years Premier League when only a year ago he was playing High School football in Japan is far too hopeful
If the reports that we had a £35 million transfer fund before the window started were accurate well then right now, we have a huge cash surplus to spend on players.
Gervinho, Chamberlain, Jenkinson, Campbell Toral and Bellerín cost roughly a combined £28 million if you go by the most widely reported valuations of their transfers. The sale of Clichy added £7 million to our coffers leaving our original £35 million at £14 million pounds.
Add on to the the supposed £71 million we are set to receive for the sales of Nasri (£22 million), Fabregas, (£35 million), Eboué (£4 million) and Bendtner (£10 million), again just going by their reported values and it leaves us sitting pretty with close on £85 million! With that much money we could revamp our whole squad, add some top quality players and make a serious challenge on the title next year.
First stop would be a centre back. I’d like the conversation to go something like this:
Arsenal: We would like to sign Gary Cahill please.
Bolton: We want £17 million for him.
Arsenal: Grand, here you go. Gary get in the car.
It’s that simple. Yes Arsène obviously puts overpaying for a player up there with kicking a puppy in the face, but for once he needs to just meet another clubs asking price for their player. Cahill is not a ‘World Class’ centre back by any stretch of the imagination. But Arsenal have to accept that if we are consistently content with haemorrhaging our best players to direct rivals season after season then we cannot be considered in the top tier of clubs. Cahill is a good age, has Premiership experience, is an England international, is good in the air and most importantly, actually stands at over six foot. He’s not going to set the world alight, but he will improve our defence of set pieces, and unlike Samba has the pace and athleticism to play a high line and tighten up our porous defence. Rumours that Arsène is happy to let this go down to transfer deadline day in the hope of Bolton blinking first and selling at a lower price are ludicrously suicidal if true.
Next Stop Valencia. And another imagined conversation:
Valencia: Queremos €25 million para Mata favor.
Arsenal: I have no idea what you just said but here’s twenty five million euro. Get on the plane Juan.
Valencia: Me Gusta.
So now for just £39 million we’ve strengthened our defence massively, replaced Nasri and we still have £47 million left over.
Considering the price José Enrique was available for we certainly should have looked into outbidding Liverpool for him. Arsène would claim it would “..kill Gibbs career” and that we have plenty of cover there, but in reality we have one injury prone youngster, a thoroughly unconvincing back up in Armand Traoré and our last option is to move our best central defender out of position to play left back. With Enrique no longer an option Aly Cissokho of Lyon would be my next target. Fast, strong, a very pro-active defender and built like a tank he would be a solid addition. Like Clichy he is prone to the odd defensive calamity, also like Clichy though, he has the athleticism to remedy it when it does happen. Nine million pound would be enough to pry him away if reports from earlier in the summer are to be believed.
After that business we would be left with £37 million pounds. Next on the agenda is a top drawer striker. Yes we already have one in Robin van Persie, however he is too injury prone to rely on over a whole season, and his understudies in Chamakh, Vela, Afobe and Campbell simply are not good enough to play for Arsenal Football Club at this moment in time. £37 million pounds is more than enough to go out and procure a world class striker with. The links to Benzema earlier in the summer excited me greatly, however I can’t see that happening now unless Madrid go out and blow a wad of cash on Llorente, which also looks unlikely. We could always go for Llorente ourselves but I would be unsure of his willingness to leave Bilbao for Arsenal.
Another rumour to excite (and which I can’t see happening unfortunately) me was the idea that the Nasri deal wouldn’t be a straight cash deal, but more a part player exchange with Tevez coming the other way and City subsidising some of his wages for the first year. I’m aware of the Marmite appeal many people have to Tevez. I’m aware that he is mad as a box of frogs. I’m aware that he would be agitating for a move away within 18 months. One thing you cannot deny is that he is a winner, and if in those 18 months he helped us to a trophy or two it would be worth the hassle. Remember Carlos, London is closer to Argentina than Manchester.
An outside shot that I’d like to see given a chance is recent Golden Ball Winner Diego Forlan. At 32 he would be an unusual signing for Wenger, but he would be fantastic competition for Robin van Persie and a great mentor for some of our younger strikers. He certainly would not cost over £15 million which would keep Wenger happy by leaving some money in the bank.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t for one second actually think that Wenger will go out and do any of the above. This is merely an enjoyable dream that I like to console myself with in the off chance that half of it might somehow happen. Those acquisitions would give us a brilliant amount of depth and quality.
If the next fifteen days were to go anything like the scenario above well then I would go into the season more confident in our ability to mount a challenge than I have in a number of years. Even if we were to sign just Cahill and Mata I would be assured that our Top 4 place and Champions League qualification is safe for another year. However if the extent of our remaining summer signings are along the lines of Scott Dann and Joel Campbell well then I fear for our Top 4 place this year. Unfortunately, I would also fear for Le Prof’s job as there is only so long that the board can ignore the ever-growing fan discontent at his refusal to accept the failure of Project Youth.
So one more time I’ll utter the old adage: “In Arsène We Trust”. I just hope it’s not the last time.