It has been my intention to write a season preview but one thing keeps preventing me from starting; my naive belief that a goal-keeper and center back will arrive at the club and change the entire prognosis. While that continues to be the case, it’s no excuse for failing to write altogether. The season preview will have to wait a few days, but there’s always time for a little transfer debate.
It’s clear where our needs lie. Theres really no debate among arsenal supporters or even the manager. Wenger has been clear that he considers an additional CB a priority. We also know with reasonable certainty at he has been on the lookout for a new keeper. But with only five days until Anfield, neither has arrived. Has Arsene given up his pursuits? I don’t believe that he has.
This has been a quiet transfer window by recent standards. It seems that teams are either unwilling to spend, or unwilling to sell without collecting an astounding transfer fee. The latter problem can be blamed squarely on Manchester City. The former can probably be blamed on the global recession. But needs must, as they say, and certainly some teams will be forced into the market before the window slams shut.
Once again, City may hold the key to player movement. They have a massive squad at the moment. In order to comply with premier league regulations and the new homegrown player rule, they will be forced to sell, and they won’t have the luxury of demanding an exorbitant price. Once their players start moving to new clubs at cut-rate prices, other clubs might flinch and make a few deals on players they had hoped to sell for greater fees.
Arsene Wenger has never been afraid of transfer brinksmanship, and he loves a bargain. You need only look as far as Chamakh and Arshavin to prove that point. Wenger was willing to wait an entire season to get Chamakh for free, rather than paying a small fee for him last summer. Arshavin arrived in January because Arsene wouldn’t meet Zenit’s demands in august. So it’s not difficult to imagine that Wenger might be playing the same game this summer. However, the stakes have never been higher.
Arsene himself recently suggested that the title race could be closer than ever this season. Surely, he considers Arsenal one of the clubs that will be challenging for the trophy. And if he expects the competition to be fierce, then small margins will certainly be the difference between glory and disappointment. Wenger can proudly claim the league’s most exciting collection of attacking talent. He has among the best full-backs and a fierce center-back in Vermaelen. The pieces are certainly in place for a title challenge. But the failure to sign another accomplished CB and a reliable GK could be the reason we are lamenting another nearly season rather than celebrating our first trophy in five seasons.
It’s not as if Wenger doesn’t realize the failings. He noted very clearly that we conceded too many goals to win the league last term. But if he believes that replacing gallas, campbell and silvestre with koscielny and djourou is an improvement, he will find that he is very lonely in that appraisal. And the suggestion that promoting Fabianski is anything short of a major step backwards is madness. Almunia is not the abject failure that some might claim, but we saw how far he can take us last season and it simply wasn’t far enough.
Arsenal need a CB and a GK. We need them now. Not in January and not even at the end of august. Plainly speaking, we needed those players yesterday. We already stand to take a depleted side to Anfield where most gooners will be very skeptical of escaping with a result. After that, we must take full points until our trip to Stamford Bridge. Conceding silly goals like we did at Birmingham, Wigan and a host of other lower tier premier league grounds last season is a surefire way to relinquish 3 points. But with our current assortment of central defenders and keepers its hard to see us keeping clean sheets at places like Blackburn where fat Sam will have his thugs pumping long balls and set-pieces into the box at every opportunity.
We know that Wenger believes that buying a player can kill the career of a developing youngster. That objection, however, doesn’t seem to apply in this case. We are short of the necessary numbers in central defense, and even Djourou and Koscielny would acknowledge that they are far from experienced at the premier league level. Wenger would neither kill their development, nor deny them chances to play if he buys a CB.
As for goal-keepers, only Szczesny and his bevy of consonants seem to have a real future at the club. But Arsene has said very clearly that he is not ready to be the #1 for a title contender. So it would do no disservice to him to sign an experienced, quality GK under whom Szczesny could apprentice.
So the manager’s principle objection to buying players doesn’t seem to apply to our current situation. Moreover, Wenger’s contract with the club is running out and he’ll be desperate to garner some additional silverware before contemplating his future. So if he thinks we’re close to being title worthy, I’m sure the need to spend a few quid won’t stop him this time around. Recent revelations about the club’s finances further obviate any need for parsimony. The real question is whether the players are out there to be bought.
So far, the answer seems to be “no.” Arsene might be frugal but he’s not stupid. He knows what he needs and I think he’d be willing to spend the money if that was the only obstacle. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Mertesacker apparently wasn’t for sale. Fulham seem desperate to keep schwartzer. And I’m sure there are a several others who might have been genuine targets but couldn’t be pried from their current clubs.
Arsene’s critics suggest that he’s waited too long to resolve obvious deficiencies in the squad. You often hear it said that the manager needs to “splash the cash.” But if the deals can’t get done, then he can’t be blamed. Arsene identifies the targets, but ultimately it’s Gadzidis who does the deals. And although I think the time for excessive frugality has passed, when James Milner is commanding £35 million, you have to exercise some discretion.
So now we wait. We wait for clubs to get fidgety. We wait while Arsenal play “chicken” with other clubs over potential transfers. But if the players don’t arrive, then a promising season might well be lost with the failed transfer attempts.