Yesterday, I tweeted something that just seemed like common sense to me:
If a striker was available, who wanted to come to Arsenal, that Arsenal could afford, and who was better than Giroud, Wenger would buy him.
You could add other qualifiers like “and had the right attitude” or “proven to be a hard worker on and off the pitch” and “doesn’t get into a sword fight with a taxi in Copenhagen” but in general, I think this is how Arsenal’s transfer strategy works.
That belief comes from watching Wenger over the last few years. If players are available in the positions he’s interested in and if they are better than our current players he has no problem spending the money. Özil came in and immediately ousted Cazorla from the attacking midfield role and, contrary to the old chestnut that Wenger wouldn’t want to “kill” a player, even pushed Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey out of the attacking mid role.
Last year, Wenger went two steps further and landed Alexis among other players, many of which were bought in order to upgrade on Arsenal’s existing squad. Alexis upgrades all of Arsenal’s front line attackers. Debuchy was a replacement for Sagna but Chambers was bought as an upgrade on Jenkinson. Wenger also brought in several players on a gamble, to see if they could break into the first team. I count Welbeck and Gabriel in that group.
And this season, Wenger finally broke down and bought an upgrade on ‘keeper by landing Petr Cech. Wenger had tried (Schwarzer) and tried to get one in but the deals kept breaking down for one reason or another. Usually because the team in question simply refused to deal with Wenger and Arsenal.
DM is just behind ‘keeper in Wenger’s list of desires it seems. Just llike ‘keeper, Wenger has famously tried to land a big name DM but they player (or his agent as is the case with Schneiderlin and Gustavo) refused the deal. I suspect that like ‘keeper, Wenger is looking but having a hard time finding the guy who fits all the criteria I listed above.
The misstep in logic is to see a player’s name appear in the transfer rumor page and think that means he’s both available and wants to join Arsenal (for fans of other clubs reading this, insert your club here). Just because Pedro went to Chelsea, and even given the fact that he switched from Man U to Chelsea at the last minute, doesn’t mean that Wenger wanted or needed him at Arsenal or that the player wanted to go to Arsenal. It’s a huge leap in logic to go from “well, he was sold” to “we could have bought him, if we (showed the right ambition, paid more money, offered the player better terms, has a better negotiating team, scouted him earlier, tried to get our transfer business done sooner, and the myriad of reasons why people complain about transfers).
There is another misstep in logic which happens all the time: X player is better than Y. I heard that all morning regarding Giroud and Dzeko. But if you look at things objectively, how much of an upgrade is Dzeko?
Giroud: transfer £13m, salary £80k/wk, 137 games, 59 goals, 0.43 gpg
Dzeko: transfer £27m, salary £130k/wk, 189 games, 72 goals, 0.38 gpg
Dzeko didn’t play as many minutes as Giroud, so, he ended up with a decent minutes per goal of 153 (all competitions), but Giroud isn’t far behind him with a goal every 167 minutes (all competitions). That works out to 6 goals difference between the two players over 189 games or 11,020 minutes. And for what City have paid for Dzeko, you really have to ask “was he worth that much more?” Double? No.
It’s another leap in logic to see that player’s name linked to Arsenal and think that means he wants to join Arsenal. Player’s agents often use the papers to get a link to a big club in order to secure a bigger deal than they would have.
The problem at Arsenal is one similar to the problem at a club like Man U. United’s recent transfer struggles are proof that even a club with endless amounts of money and a recent history of winning trophies, along with Champions League football can still be “gazumped” by a rival club like Chelsea. It’s no coincidence that the Pedro saga is being reported as one of dithering on the part of Man U, or of perhaps Cesc Fabregas’ girlfriend tapping up Pedro, United being cheap, and even that Chelsea’s females lured Pedro away from the “Hispanic” hating van Gaal and over to Chelsea. The press love these narratives because they can throw them out there as “opinion” and let the conjecture lie in the minds of the fans.
The problem is that there are really only three clubs who can land any player they want — Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich — but fans of Arsenal (and all of the clubs below those three) feel like they are in that elite group. We aren’t. We aren’t even close. I think that after the big three, there are the big money clubs — Man City, Chelsea, and PSG — and below them are the clubs with a pretty big draw but who aren’t at the level of a club like Bayern Munich — Arsenal, Man U, and to a lesser extent, Liverpool. I know that we like to think that Arsenal are “the greatest club, the world has ever seen” but by any objective measure we aren’t.
If you’re a club below the top three you have three choices: spend a shedload of money gathering a supersquad of mercenary players, do a constant rotation of expensive players kind of like a compost heap, or buy a little bit more wisely, wait for the really good players to be available and willing, and build slowly.
Which is what Arsenal are doing. They are looking for players who are available, who want to come to Arsenal, that Arsenal could afford, and who are better than our current players. If that player exists, Wenger will buy him.
I would like improvements, there are plenty of roster places we could improve, but I don’t think Wenger is blind, or stupid, or lacks ambition, or won’t spend the money or any of the countless calumnies people cast at him and the team. I firmly believe the players just aren’t there for us right now. Maybe they will be tomorrow. Maybe that guy on TalkSport is right and Arsenal had a £48m bid for Benzema accepted and we are going to have Benzema at Arsenal next season.
In the mean time it’s probably best not to look at other team’s transfers and assume that we could have had that player. Because even the mighty Man U, a team with a recent history of winning and a huge stack of cash, can’t just get any player they want. We’ve seen that time and again over the last three years.