Arsene Wenger could reportedly be handed a budget of £100m to spend this summer but how would the infamously frugal Frenchman spend it?
The 64-year-old is expected to sign a new contract to stay on at the Emirates past June this year and a big summer budget could be just what the boss needs to ensure he puts pen to paper.
Arsenal are in relatively desperate need of a striker – any striker – but I suspect the fans’ thirst for a top quality frontman to not only compete with Olivier Giroud but to lead the line perhaps ahead of the French forward is what I expect to ensue this summer.
However, despite the boss’ outlay on Mesut Ozil last summer, I don’t particularly expect him to break the club’s transfer record again in a hurry – I think it’s more likely that he would spend around £40m on a highly rated striker in the mold of Jackson Martinez or Karim Benzema – we know he was prepared to spend that (plus £1) on Luis Suarez and I think he’ll be looking for someone around that price, if not a little bit cheaper.
There are, meanwhile, some departures expected this summer – backup goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski is almost certain to leave on a free with doubts remaining over the futures of Bacary Sagna, Thomas Vermaelen and Lucas Podolski. I don’t think all four will leave but I expect at least two to go in search of pastures new.
Assuming Fabianski leaves, Wenger will need to bring in someone with a similar amount of top-level experience to give Wojciech Szczesny competition enough to keep him on his toes – someone perhaps like Rene Adler who has been approached previously or Steve Mandanda but I would expect a figure of around £10m or less to get the right man in.
If the skipper leaves because he is not getting enough starts I would expect him to be replaced in a like-for-like fashion but it Sagna leaves when his contract expires this summer, he’ll be difficult to replace – for the fullback’s quality and experience it will likely take between £15m and £20m to bring in a genuine replacement which is costly and I wouldn’t be surprised if Wenger, as the economics expert he is, offers Sagna a last-ditch bumper contract instead, recognising it as the wiser option (if Sagna can be convinced to stay, obviously).
Podolski’s situation is difficult to judge at present – if he gets enough opportunity between now and May, he could very well stay but he hasn’t been given the kind of role at the Emirates he probably would have expected when he joined. In 2012 he came in from Koln and I thought when Robin van Persie went, the German would be ahead of Giroud in the pecking order but, as the story unfolded, it’s clear Wenger doesn’t see him as a centre-forward and possibly even has reservations about his effectiveness as a left winger week in week out.
That being said, Wenger sold Gervinho last summer and didn’t replace him because of the emergence perhaps of a player like Serge Gnabry who can function in a wide or central attacking role – I wouldn’t anticipate anyone coming in to the midfield given the abundance of options there when everyone is fit.
I wouldn’t be surprised if a young and dynamic winger came in, someone along the lines of Julian Draxler (but cheaper and lesser known) who can perhaps be a future centre-forward in the same model that Thierry Henry and Van Persie were. Unfortunately I can’t see Wenger meeting Draxler’s release clause this summer and I think he’ll look elsewhere for an alternative for around the £20m mark.
That comes to roughly between £80m and £90m, give or take which leaves just enough to finance a replacement for Johan Djourou – a young fourth-choice centre-back like Kyriakos Papadopoulos or his Schalke teammate Joel Matip (I’m expecting Wenger to raid the Bundesliga this term in the way he has Ligue 1 in the past).
As a disclaimer I don’t realistically expect Arsene Wenger to spend £100m this summer but he will likely be forced by outgoings to spend at least half that and I think he’ll look at the challenge from Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool this term and understand he has to adapt his transfer policy ever-so-slightly, not just to placate the fans, but to challenge for the title he wants more than anything, the Champions League – the Gunners weren’t that far off Bayern Munich this term and I think it will only take a couple of top signings to make the team complete.
There is a great combination of experience and youth in the squad with plenty of quality in the starting XI and even the bench when everyone is available, enough that I expect Wenger to add quality up front and depth at the back without breaking the bank to do so.