So the Premier League is back, and the biggest talking point is Arsenal, who lost 3-1 at home to Aston Villa after failing spectacularly in transfer market.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Wenger will go down as one of the greatest managers the Premier League has ever had.
But his strategy appears to be outdated. He almost sees making established signings as a failure, not a challenge, not in line with his purist vision of coaching.
The board have come out and said they have money, and that they will compete with the biggest spenders. Over to you Wenger…
Incredibly though he has said he’s finding it difficult to sign players, despite having seen several targets – Gonzalo Higuain, Bernard and Luiz Gustavo – join smaller clubs due to his reluctance to spend the money needed to buy them.
Additionally, the two major signings Tottenham have made would have certainly improved Arsenal’s team. Roberto Soldado is a fantastic goal-scorer, while Paulinho is exactly what they are missing in the middle of the park.
Other excellent players were also available, yet either they have gone elsewhere due to Wenger’s reluctance to spend money (Victor Wanyama), are at an impasse (Marouane Fellaini, Michu) or aren’t even on his list, because he does not want to spend money on players in defensive positions (Ashley Williams, Asmir Begovic).
You will note that the players listed encompass a lot of different positions. And that is why there is such a sense of urgency for Arsenal – they are desperately short in different areas of the park.
Manchester United, for example, don’t really need anyone – the won the league last season and are almost certainly going to finish top two this time out, even if they don’t sign the creative central midfielder that they lack. Anything extra is a bonus, with the pursuit of Leighton Baines a long-term replacement for Patrice Evra as opposed to an urgent target.
If Arsene Wenger has £70-100m to spend, that moves the goalposts. With that sort of money should be challenging for the title, not fourth.
The biggest crime is how threadbare he has left the squad. With Laurent Koscielny banned, and Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna struggling with injury, they could go into their second game of the season with only two fit defenders.
Arsenal’s problem is they have to play well to win games – United, Chelsea and City can win playing badly because they have mentally strong players who can withstand pressure. Arsenal don’t – they need to buy these sorts of players but Wenger shows little interest in doing so. In fact he does the opposite, looking to ship players out once they pass their 30th birthday.
Even Barcelona, the epitome of beautiful football, have always had a strong, tough enforcer in the middle – Busquets, Mascherano, Yaya Toure before that.
Arsenal still have time to bring in one or two top players, but at this point of the transfer window you have to spend big money to get top quality players. But they keep running away from deals because Wenger’s concept of value is outdated. The value isn’t in the transfer fee, it’s in the trophy cabinet at the end of the season.
There are no bargains at the top level. Arsenal need ready-made footballers, men who can step in and win matches and trophies.
He pulled out of deals for Gonzalo Higuain and Luiz Gustavo over money – it’s true that over £30m for Higuain is a lot of money, but if they don’t sign a viable alternative they could easily miss out on the top four, costing them more than they would have paid for him.
Having kept the club financially strong while they were paying for the new stadium, Wenger needs to cut the purse strings and spend the money of the fans who pay for the most expensive season tickets in English football.
To shell out upwards of £1,000 a season and see your money sitting in a bank account must be galling in the extreme.
And it will border on farce if they have to deploy midfielders like Aaron Ramsey and Emmanuel Frimpong at the back. Maybe Steve Bould fancies a game. At least he’d get them organised on the 18-yard line.