Arsenal fans should not and will not be surprised at their lack of progress in the transfer market so far this summer.
Men, even when they aspire to change, rarely make a complete overhaul of themselves and instinctively find themselves heading back into their comfort zone.
Florentino Perez suffers from it – the Real Madrid president is now on a pursuit of Gareth Bale with the exorbitance that echoes the failed galacticos project. A project he seemed to have foregone when he invested in youth with the signings of Isco and Asier Illaramendi. Pep Guardiola also seemed to have suffered it – promising to adapt to Bayern Munich and not turn it into Barcelona, then purchasing Thiago Alcantara, sticking Javi Martinez at center back and re-igniting his obsession for possession.
And – to what has caused a dividing of opinions among Arsenal fans and football fans alike – it is what Arsene Wenger is suffering from.
The frugal spender, cautious and willing to push for a bargain has refused to change. For the time being at least. At the time of writing, the only signing Arsenal have made is for the young French striker Yaya Sanogo. He was on a free from AJ Auxerre.
This is despite the Arsenal board claiming that there is a treasure chest of money at Wenger’s disposal. Indeed, that has been evident by the players who have been targeted – Wayne Rooney, Gonzalo Higuain and Luis Suarez.
But while the Rooney option has looked far from ever materialising, the pursuit of Higuain set about the motion that would culminate in bids for Suarez. Already having agreed personal terms with the Argentine, a complication as to his image rights meant that the deal would become more expensive than ordinarily envisioned.
It is why Wenger abandoned it and put his pursuit firmly in Suarez. Logically, it makes sense – instead of paying an amount for a player who would be making his Premier League debut, why not invest the same amount in a player who is a proven Premier League goal scorer?
And even though it was misplaced belief that the odd 40 million pounds would be enough, it is in the negotiations that Wenger’s true colours have shone. Wenger, even in these circumstances is hesitant to pay more than what he values a player to be.
It is the principle upon which he has worked with. Never paying exorbitantly for a player and only looking for the right price. In return, he has made economic profits. The practice has translated into buy cheap, sell expensive. The profits made on Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure, Samir Nasri, Robin Van Persie et al will attest to that.
In the same light, the principle has dictated buying young, so as to sell later on when players are at their peak, and thus commanding higher transfer fees. But while all this has made for profit on the balance sheet, it has not done the same on the football pitch.
Indeed, the climate in which he finds himself is not overly conducive for such practices. With the cash kings of Manchester City and Chelsea around and while Manchester United operate on a more balanced pedestal, Wenger will have to tweak his ideal somewhat.
It is probably what he did last season, for in the Wenger era, signing players of Santi Cazorla’s age has been a rarity. Then again, so does the 40 million plus bid for Suarez. It would smash Wenger’s (and Arsenal’s) transfer record. But his reluctance to fully compromise may mean the deal stumbles.
Having money is one thing; using it is another. All indications point to the fact that Arsenal have it and are willing to spend – with Arsene Wenger though, things are a bit different.
Because Wenger is a man of principle, and men of principle are ideally stubborn to the point of being quixotic. If it does not fit his ideal, Wenger will be fundamentalist and will thus reject it. He will wait for the perfect deal. Even in conditions that demand change, Wenger remains a pillar of difference.
Then again, Wenger’s legacy will forever be his theory rather than his practice. His perceived model rather than his actual achievements. It should be no surprise that even now he is refusing to change --- all Arsenal can hope for is that his method eventually justifies his madness.
image: © wonker