This summer we have seen big clubs fighting tooth and nail to hold on to their star players while there have been few changes in the managerial positions as well. Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United have been trying hard to keep hold of their prized assets – Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale and Wayne Rooney respectively while managerial changes have taken place at United, Manchester City and Chelsea.
None of the two is applicable for Arsenal. For the first time in many years, none of their star players have been sold and neither has there been any managerial change at the Emirates. Arsene Wenger, who will enter his 18th season in charge, has no such intentions to step down. But the same susurration of doubt lingers, same frustrations oozing out and if the situation doesn’t change within next few weeks, things can get really ugly for the Gunners.
Well, the summer started with optimism, aplenty. After securing the 4th position on the final day of the last season, it gave the fans something to cheer and ponder about. A remarkable turnaround, since their defeat at White Hart Lane and after being waded through the mire all long, they somehow coalesced the spirit to crawl back and grab the final Champions League spot with a confident panache that left a blaze of optimism amongst every Arsenal supporters.
It gave the feel that this side is probably still capable of doing wonders and if one or two marquee signings can be added, a genuine shot a title-race won’t be a pipe-dream either.
Arsenal fans were morally lifted when chief executive Ivan Gazidis announced that the club has entered a new era of financial fire-power, due to renegotiated commercial contracts, where they can now compete with top European heavy weights.
A hefty transfer war-chest of £70 million has been reportedly handed over to the Frenchman to bring world class names at North London. It was time for them to delve into the transfer market and find those one or two difference-making-players that can take them to the stairway to glory again.
But, with less than one week remaining now for the start of a brand new Premier League season, Arsenal have yet to sign any major names, although Wenger has ensured that the club will try its best to land few quality players before the transfer window slams shut.
The club virtually wasted months chasing after big guns like Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain. Despite the saga taking all sorts of spins, the Gunners failed to comply with the Spanish club’s demands and in the end the Argentine chose to join the Serie A outfit Napoli instead.
The target shifted to Liverpool’s want-away striker Luis Suarez and the Gunners have had lodged two bids already but to their own demise, have only suffered rejections. The Gunners are prepared to pay £40 million, more than 50% of their transfer outlay for one single player, but are told to cough-up another £15 million more to even enter a negotiation. Surely, they can’t gamble on that.
The player has made it clear that he wants to leave and the saga could become nasty with twists and turns, but Liverpool are steadfast in the decision, making it harder for Arsenal with every passing day.
The harsh truth is this gulf of quality and league points have only pulled them towards mediocrity, where the chasm has widened gradually with the other top clubs ahead of them, while the bridge is increasingly narrowing down with those that are below.
Of course, there are positives to look up to. For the first time in few years, Arsenal will get a fully fit Jack Wilshere, who could leave a major impact for the season. Further, last season’s signings – Lukas Podolski, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud have settled in now and expectations from them are much higher. Brit boys like Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott have matured enough to be looked upon as senior pros now and should be ready to share the onerous burden too.
Crux of the matter is: Arsenal so far have failed to make the best use of the money in hand. While their rivals have looked for “very good players” in the market that are not marquee names yet players with great potentials like Roberto Soldado, Stevan Jovetic, Andre Schurrle et al; Arsenal have gone for cherry pickings in the form of marquee names and world class talents like Higuain and Suarez. And they have understood by now that getting world class players aren’t that easy. Even with money burning hole in your pocket.
The pressure is slowly mounting on them. It can’t be said with cent percent conviction that the Gunners are in a better position now from what they were last season. Nothing has changed for them. Time has probably come where somebody please give the Professor a reminder – “Spend some F***ing money, Wenger”.