Just what are Arsenal playing at?
Arsène Wenger; Arsenal’s most successful ever manager, amassing 11 trophies in 17 years with the Gunners, a revolutionary, the undisputed King of the Emirates. Arsène has consistently bought sensibly and nurtured youth, keeping the North London club at the top of the English game on a budget whilst all around him have lost their heads, splurging millions for every inch of successful progress, surely he is now the Premier League’s resident Godfather since Sir Alex’s retirement, regardless of whatever Mourinho might claim. Right?
Well maybe not, Kroenke and Gazidas have both suffered criticism for Arsenal’s barren spell since their 2005 FA Cup win and in certain circles, blame is now being placed at Wenger’s door. There has been little outward discontent, but if one spends a little time outside the Emirates Stadium after a midweek Arsenal defeat to Stoke, on a wet and cold February evening, with the title already out of the Gunner’s grasp, and one listens very carefully and very quietly, hushed whispers can be heard questioning whether Le Professeur has lost his Midas touch.
Indeed, in the past few seasons Wenger has seemed to lose some of the calm, studious demeanour that earned him his Le Professeur nickname, replaced by claims of ‘I did not see it’, water bottle kicking and wearing an ever longer coat. All of this has coincided with a decline on the pitch, with Arsenal seeing a steady stream of star players head out the door whilst failing to mount any serious title challenge in far too long.
This season was meant to be different. This was to be the year when Arsenal finally ended their frugal ways and really stretched their considerable financial muscles. Arsenal were consistently linked with Gonzalo Higuaín for £25million, Marouane Fellaini for £23million and Étienne Capoue for £9million, sensible yet ambitious targets. Gunners fans were expectant as the Transfer Window opened, determined that this would be their year.
Yet the fireworks never came, bids for Fellaini and Capoue never materialized, when Real Madrid upped their asking price for Higuaín, Arsenal balked, and perennial Football manager buy and French ‘wonderkid’ Yaya Sanogo was brought in on a free, attracting frowns and discontented mutterings. It seemed it would be business as usual for Arsenal, with youth team players being deployed in preseason friendly’s with the likes of Serge Gnabry and in particular Gedion ‘the new Fabregas’ Zelalem touted to be fast tracked to the first team and no significant signings. However, this week Arsenal shocked the footballing world by following up a previous £30million bid, with an improved bid of £40million, well over double the previous record amount spent on José Antonio Reyes.
So, has Arsène finally lost it or is this move a calculated move to once again compete with Europe’s big boys? Well Arsenal do need at least one marquee signing to challenge for domestic and European honours, and Suarez is world class, so on the face of it, this move is good business. However, what is odd is that Suarez is the player that the Arsenal have chosen to break the bank for.
Notoriously difficult to manage, the Anfield faithful have remained loyal to Suarez throughout his racist, diving and most recently biting controversies and the Uruguayan has rewarded this by angling for a move all summer. It is difficult to understand, given this, why Arsenal let Higuaín slip through their grasp, signing for Napoli in a £34.5million deal.
Whilst certainly Suarez’s link up play is superior to the Argentine’s, it is not as if Arsenal are lacking in creativity, with Wilshere and particularly Cazorla both capable of linking midfield and attack. With Liverpool reportedly demanding £55million for their mercurial Uruguayan, Wenger may come to regret not opting for the more reliable and more affordable Higuaín, especially since his sale means that Madrid now have the funds to challenge Arsenal in their pursuit of Suarez. Wenger’s ambition is commendable, and a rejuvenated, big spending Arsenal will certainly be great for the Premier League, however, one can’t help but think that £55million could certainly be better spent than on the notorious and unpredictable Suarez.
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