Wenger defends Arsenal transfer policy – but has his approach changed?

Henry Statue Arsenal

The Emirates Stadium chief has defended the club’s lack of new faces this summer and said he is not worried about what others in the Premier League do.

Arsene Wenger and Arsenal have had to endure a lot of criticism this summer, with inactivity in the transfer market being compounded by a shocking opening day 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa.

With the north Londoners selling or releasing 17 players this summer and a host of others injured, Wenger’s squad is starting to look paper-thin.

Young French forward Yaya Sanogo is the only new face, while cross-town rivals Tottenham have been on a spending spree over the off-season.

With a crucial Champions League qualifier against Fenerbahce tonight in Turkey, Wenger has defended his actions and claimed he does not care what Spurs have been doing in the transfer market.

"I cannot listen every minute to every state of mind for everybody," Wenger said.

"You cannot look all the time in life at what others do. You do what is right for you. I would just like to reiterate to you that in the last 16 years we have been very successful with transfers.

"If you look at the players who play [against Fenerbahce], they are top quality players. You should never forget that. It is not always to think what is outside is better than what you have. What is important as well is to rate what you have and our fans have to understand that as well.

"What is important is to go out and see a good football game. All that other stuff is good for the newspapers, but it is not real football. A squad has to have the right number. And we will have the right balance when the transfer window closes, don't worry."

Despite Wenger’s reassurances, I can’t help but think that his recruitment policy has seemingly changed in recent years.

The players at his disposal during his most successful periods at the club were scouted from Europe and coached to play the way the French coach wanted them to. Wenger’s reputation for going out and buying young players that were unknown in England and developing them into world beaters was uncanny.

The likes of Nicolas Anelka, Patrick Vieira and countless others came in as youngsters and proved their worth. What about the inspired decision to buy out-of-form Juventus winger Thierry Henry and turn him into one of the best strikers in the game?

However, when was the last time that Wenger has brought in an obscure or young player into his squad and that player turned out as a success? Most of the deadwood in the Arsenal squad that was gotten rid of this summer were players who at one point in time promised to be the next Anelka or Vieira.

Yes, Jack Wilshere has come through the youth system. He made his debut five years ago. The club has struggled since.

There also seems to be a change of tact in Wenger’s transfer policy. Looking at the last couple of transfer windows, the players that he was brought to the club are generally established international players rather than players of potential that can be worked with and molded into the finished product.

Think Arteta, Giroud, Podolski, Mertesacker, Cazorla, Gervinho, Monreal.

In Wenger’s most successful periods the bulk of the players were signed from the continent, however this summer all their targets play in the Premier League – think Suarez, Rooney, Cabaye, Michu and Williams.

As a result the potential fees have been considerably higher, as Premier League sides are reluctant to sell to a domestic rival.

This change in tact may well have played a part in the reason why the Gunners have toiled in the market, as the things that made Wenger astute in the transfer market in his early days are no longer apparent.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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