In early June it was announced that Arsenal will have a large transfer budget this summer. Various reports suggested that manager Arsene Wenger will have between 70 and 80 million pounds at his disposal, in order to bring in reinforcements. It’s been a month and a half since then, and the only player The Gunners have signed so far is Yaya Sanogo. The France U-21 forward came to London with a free transfer from Auxerre. So, what happened to all the money, and is Wenger planning on using any of it at all, or should the fans start getting ready for yet another long and woeful campaign?
While it’s true that Arsenal have never finished outside the Top 4 since the Frenchman arrived in 1996, it’s also fairly obvious that he needs to improve the squad in order to start winning trophies again. The last time the team won one was in 2004/05, when they actually lifted both the Community Shield and the FA Cup. Eight seasons have gone by since then, and in that time Arsenal reached two finals in the League Cup and one in the Champions League. They lost the 2006 European Cup final against Barcelona (1-2), although it has to be said that they got there without losing a game and conceding just two goals on the way (both in the group stage).
Then, in 2007, a very strange Arsenal with the likes of Justin Hoyte and Jérémie Aliadière in the starting line-up almost shocked Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in the League Cup final, but eventually lost 1-2 again.
Four years later it was the same story – 1-2 in the 2011 League Cup final, this time against Birmingham City, who were later relegated from the Premier League.
After so many disappointments, it seemed that Wenger is at last ready to invest funds in order to make Arsenal the team they used to be in his early years in charge (The Gunners finished either 1st or 2nd between 1997/98 and 2004/05). There were rumors that the manager was interested in signing players such as Swansea duo Michu and Ashley Williams, Wayne Rooney and Nani from Manchester United, Celtic’s Victor Wanyama, David Villa and Victor Valdes from Barcelona, Montenegro international Stevan Jovetic, Marouane Fellaini, Luis Suarez, Christian Benteke and Gonzalo Higuain among others.
Most of these names might have been just rumors, fair enough. But even so, the fact is that Villa went to Atletico Madrid, Jovetic joined Manchester City, and Wanyama was bought by Southampton. Fellaini will probably join David Moyes at United, while Rooney, although seemingly set to leave Old Trafford, would more likely go to another London-based club – Chelsea. Higuain travelled to the English capital and was thought of as Wenger’s first marquee signing this summer, but now might end up teaming with Rafa Benitez at Napoli. According to The Mirror Online, Arsene Wenger has been given the go-ahead to spend £40million on Luis Suarez. Such a bid will meet his release clause, but Brendan Rodgers might be able to convince the Uruguayan star to stay at Anfield. Liverpool have at least shown ambition to improve, after spending almost £25 million on Luis Alberto, Iago Aspas and Simon Mignolet, as well as landing former Arsenal captain Kolo Toure on a free transfer.
The latest reports said that Wenger is keen on getting Bernard, the 20-year old Atletico Mineiro winger. The manager himself denied them, stating that they “aren’t true”.
It’s been a mass exodus from Arsenal this summer, with no less than 20 players heading for the exit. While most of them were from the Reserves or the Academy, some first team players were also either released or sold. Andrei Arshavin returned home to Zenit St. Petersburg, Vito Mannone was sold to Sunderland, Sebastian Squillaci went to Bastia, and Brazilians Denilson and Andre Santos went back to their country, joining Sao Paulo and Flamengo respectively.
The Gunners need at least one player in every line. Buying a new goalkeeper is a must, as there are only two in the squad right now – Wojciech Szczęsny and Łukasz Fabiański, the latter not being particularly reliable. Defensively things don’t look too bad, but getting a new central defender is essential. Thomas Vermaelen is decent, as is Laurent Koscielny, but Per Mertesacker is slow and a bit gawky. In midfield, Jack Wilshere, although great, is injury-prone, Tomas Rosicky is not exactly young, while Abou Diaby, Emmanuel Frimpong and Ryo Miyaichi are not what you’d call “world-class footballers”. This leaves Wenger with Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla, who are all good, but won’t be enough to help win a trophy. The Daily Star says Wenger made a bid for Michael Carrick, which was rejected, so that’s his latest failure. Looking at the attacking options, Aresenal have quite a few awesome wingers, such as Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Up front Olivier Giroud had an alright first season, but none in-between Marouane Chamakh, Park Chu-Young and Nicklas Bendtner seem up for the job, should they all stay at Emirates, of course. New boy Sanogo is just 20, so miracles shouldn’t be expected of him either.
All in all, Arsenal have a squad that needs strengthening badly, if they’re to challenge for silverware. Manchester City and Liverpool have been spending profusely, Chelsea welcomed Jose Mourinho back, Manchester United have some cracking players, especially Robin Van Persie, and promising youngsters such as Phil Jones, Wilfried Zaha, Rafael and Tom Cleverley. Tottenham have been active as well, securing the services of Paulinho and Nacer Chadli for a combined £24 million. If they keep hold of Gareth Bale and get a new striker, they might do better than last year, when they finished 5th.
Having said that, if Wenger doesn’t start spending soon, The Gunners will probably finish outside the Top 4 for the first time since 1995/96. The team is decent, but by no means spectacular. Arsenal don’t have any financial difficulties, on the contrary, they’re in a very secure position. So, what happened to all those money that were there for the spending? Or is it just that no big names want to come to a club, which hasn’t won anything for 8 years?
WENGER’S SUMMER TRANSFERS IN THE LAST 10 YEARS
Season Player Fee Signed from
2003/04 Philippe Senderos N/A Servette
2003/04 Jens Lehman £1,500,000 Dortmund
2003/04 Johan Djourou Free Etoile Carouge
2003/04 Gael Clichy £250,000 Cannes
2003/04 Cesc Fabregas Free Barcelona
2004/05 Manuel Almunia N/A Celta Vigo
2004/05 Mathieu Flamini N/A Marseille
2005/06 Nicklas Bendtner £75,000 FC Copenhagen
2005/06 Vito Mannone £350,000 Atalanta
2005/06 Armand Traore N/A Monaco
2005/06 Alexander Hleb N/A Stuttgart
2006/07 Alex Song £1,000,000 Bastia
2006/07 Tomas Rosicky N/A Dortmund
2006/07 Julio Baptista Loan Real Madrid
2006/07 William Gallas Swap Chelsea
2006/07 Denilson £3,400,000 Sao Paulo
2007/08 Łukasz Fabiański £2,000,000 Legia Warsaw
2007/08 Eduardo £7,500,000 Dinamo Zagreb
2007/08 Havard Nordtveit N/A Haugesund
2007/08 Bacary Sagna £6,000,000 Auxerre
2007/08 Lassana Diarra £4,000,000 Chelsea
2008/09 Aaron Ramsey £4,800,000 Cardiff City
2008/09 Samir Nasri £12,000,000 Marseille
2008/09 Amaury Bischoff Free Werder Bremen
2008/09 Mikael Silvestre £750,000 Manchester United
2009/10 Thomas Vermaelen £10,000,000 Ajax
2010/11 Marouane Chamakh Free Bordeaux
2010/11 Kyle Ebecilio Free Feyenoord
2010/11 Philip Roberts Free Norwich
2010/11 Laurent Koscielny £8,500,000 Lorient
2010/11 Sebastien Squillaci £3,500,000 Sevilla
2011/12 Carl Jenkinson £1,000,000 Charlton
2011/12 Gervinho £10,500,000 Lille
2011/12 Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain £12,000,000 Southampton
2011/12 Joel Campbell £900,000 Deportivo Saprissa
2011/12 Park Chu-Young £1,800,000 Monaco
2011/12 Andre Santos £6,200,000 Fenerbahce
2011/12 Per Mertesacker £8,000,000 Werder Bremen
2011/12 Mikel Arteta £10,000,000 Everton
2012/13 Lukas Podolski £11,000,000 FC Cologne
2012/13 Olivier Giroud £13,000,000 Montpellier
2012/13 Santi Cazorla £16,500,000 Malaga