Whilst Arsenal fans around the globe await the unveiling of a record-breaking signing like Gonzalo Higuain, Luis Suarez, Marouane Fellaini or Wayne Rooney, is there a case to be made for not breaking the bank this summer?
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger endured what was undoubtedly his most difficult season at the Emirates this term – his side crashed out of two domestic cups to lower league opposition and only just clinched fourth place in the Premier League ahead of North London rivals Tottenham on the final day of the season.
Cries of ‘spend some ****ing money’ rang around the stadium on occasion and the ‘WengerOut’ hash tag on Twitter put the longest-serving manager in the league under immense pressure.
With the sales of top players in the last few summers – Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song and Samir Nasri – the board and the boss have had to answer to discontented fans that the club is ambitious and wants to win silverware, keep and attract the best players.
Arsenal are now heavily linked with a £23 million bid for Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain who is, according to his father, in talks over personal terms with the North Londoners. The suggestion that Marouane Fellaini could leave Goodison Park, London bound, is a tantalizing prospect for Arsenal fans who desperately await big name and big money signings.
However, Arsenal’s signing last summer of Santi Cazorla from Malaga for £12 million – the Spaniard was undoubtedly their best player – along with £11 million Lukas Podolski and £12 million Olivier Giroud demonstrates aptly that the club doesn’t actually need to break the record transfer fee to bring in quality players.
Those three together scored a combined 45 goals this term and not one of them broke the transfer record of £15 million for Andrei Arshavin in 2009. It’ll likely be an unpopular assertion but I don’t believe Arsenal have to break the bank to bring in quality – enough quality to mount a genuine title challenge next season.
Whilst the prospect of £30 million Luis Suarez may be exciting, I can’t see that ‘deal’ ever coming to fruition. Higuain would be a bargain at £23 million given that he’s 25 years old and one of the best strikers in La Liga at a top top club.
Arsenal went on an unbeaten run at the end of the season – that’s what edged them in the fourth place qualifying spot for the Champions League ahead of Spurs – their run-in was unrivaled by any other club in the English top tier.
With the talent they’ve already got all across the pitch, they likely only need one, two or possibly three additions to add strength and depth to their squad. A striker and a defensive midfielder will likely be the priorities for the boss.
But there are quality players in those positions available in the market for £15 million. The likes of Toulouse’s Etienne Capoue or Celtic’s Victor Wanyama as well as Vitesse’s Wilfried Bony who netted an astonishing 31 goals in 30 Eredivisie appearances last term or Bayer Leverkusen’s Stephan Kiessling who scored 25 goals and made 10 assists in 34 Bundesliga appearances were all available this summer; with some now moving elsewhere.
These are not big names and their values reflect that but they could improve Arsenal immensely – enough to genuinely challenge for titles and trophies that the fans desperately desire.
Wenger has always maintained his stance that spending money for the sake of it is foolish but I wonder whether, under such pressure to spend his ‘kitty’ this summer, the boss has effectively been backed into a corner by the fans, the media, and even the chief executive who said the money is there to spend, that he now has to spend it all in one go to appease everyone when he might have preferred lesser known targets for less fees.
Arsenal under Wenger since 1996 have always operated in that fashion – the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, the majority of the stars over the last decade, all came in as relative unknowns at reasonable prices. The problem in my estimation has been letting them go, not bringing them in.