The game has changed and it does not need too much intelligence to notice that, football has become a game where money is splashed lavishly to sign players at the same time when teams are struggling financially. Players who are not talented enough to be mentioned in a few years from now are being sold for tens of millions and now Gareth Bale, the Welsh winger who, undoubtedly, is immensely talented has been the subject of the biggest transfer fee in the history of the game and his only achievements are a domestic cup, PFA player of the season and PFA young player of the season. In short, player prices have drastically increased beyond their true values.
Many teams are being forced into spending sums for players they know are not worth it but competition in the transfer market has forced them to pay more than what other teams can offer. Though, a few teams stand defiant, such as Porto, Arsenal, Udinese and its sister clubs Watford and Granada. They refused to resort to the ugly side of football where being a big team is no longer important as long as you have money. They have tried to turn this into their advantage by focusing on unexploited markets such as youth levels, Africa, South America and East Europe where they can get value for their money. Later on, those same players are sold for huge figures giving them profits.
Arsene Wenger has been criticized by nearly everyone for selling his best players, the ones he nurtured for years at his club, and failing to act on the transfer market to replace them. Primarily, this philosophy was adopted to repay debts especially when moving to the Emirates Stadium meant that they had to slash their transfer budget for a few years. The formula worked, the London-based club has managed to keep income high enough to fund its stadium and still with young talents they still qualified to the Champions League every single season with no exception despite criticism of all sorts coming their way. Arsenal have always managed to make it even further than the group stage of the competition every single season with no exception following their ‘Invincible Season’ something none of the other Premier League clubs has been able to do since then. Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool have all participated in the Europa League at a certain point. Arsenal, however, are yet to feature in the reborn UEFA Cup because of their consistent performance not only domestically but also on a European level. Under Arsene Wenger’s guidance, the club has managed to break into the top four 17 times out of 17 attempts and the Gunners made it into the group stages 16 times in the past 16 seasons!
The man’s coaching skills cannot be doubted and he certainly is one of the best who entered this game, season after season he managed to put his club among the best, despite a recent title drought, he managed to get the best out of the players at his disposal though he was not able to sign world class players. Does it mean that Wenger is the wrong person to handle Arsenal’s funds and transfers? Not at all, financially, Arsenal is healthier than ever with an Arsenal season ticket being the most expensive in the league, the club has a very solid income. Moreover, the French Manager has an economic background having a degree in Economics. The problem is that he is the right man in the wrong era.
Football has been turning into this ugly game where clubs have had to go to the extreme to sign a player. Realistic player values have been disregarded as giant clubs aim to exploit the less rich clubs. Nearly all clubs have been forced to dip their hands into this transfer policy because of player greed. Players are now moving to clubs who offer more money rather than ambition. On the long run, transfer records will keep on being broken season after another. Now it seems completely normal for a club like Southampton or Sunderland to splash out about 20 million Euros on players who will be forgotten five years from now. Wenger opposed this, he stuck to his principles, Gonzalo Higuain seemed to be a step away from London but the asking price was far more than the real value of the player even if he could have assisted Arsenal.
Despite a single free transfer, the Gunners have one of the best starting line-ups. Their front four positions seem to be quite enough with Olivier Giroud, who has found his best form this pre-season, Lukas Podolski, Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky, Santiago Cazorla and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain all competing for starting places. New signing Yaya Sanogo might not be needed at all if injuries do not keep on haunting Arsenal. Behind the attacking four, Jack Wilshere is one of the best talents around and this season Aaron Ramsey has exploded showing great signs of improvement while Mikel Arteta who is currently injured has the quality to play for any Premier League club. Though Arsenal are one player short in this position and although they could have signed plenty of players, it is important for them to sign someone who could improve the squad and not just any player thus the fans should not pressure Wenger into adding a player who will not be a starter. The current players on Arsenal’s books now have some good chemistry between them and seem to have adapted to each other quite well.
Another problem is clearly at the back, there is no doubt that the players at hand can provide the Champions League football provided they have a cover, with only three players in the heart of the defense, Bakary Sagna has had to play out of position following Laurent Koscielny’s injury against Fenerbahce when Thomas Vermaelen was unavailable. Signing a good quality centre-back to fill in the squad depth and probably a better goalkeeper could do them well. 21-year-old Marc-André Ter Stegen has already three caps with the German national team despite the likes of Rene Adler and Manuel Neuer being present. He is quite a commanding goalkeeper despite his young ages he has the qualities to control his four defenders and with one German defender in front of him, he can quickly fit into the Arsenal formula, but his price tag would be quite high and Borussia Mönchengladbach might just not sell him this season.
Ahead of the North London derby, Spurs are enjoying great praise from the media while Arsenal are heavily criticized. Tottenham Hotspur finished below Arsenal last season yet their fans labeled the season as a success and hailed their manager Andres Villas Boas. On the other hand, Arsenal fans were frustrated from the end result. This reflects the size of the club and its ambition. Arsenal have proven that they are a big club while Tottenham’s celebration of a fifth position reflects their size. Arsenal fans have to look at the game from another perspective, competing with the three titans Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea is getting tough and it requires a lot of investments not only in terms of playing staff but also board and coaching staff something that would require a risky revolution at the club which no one can guarantee.
The French manager has recently accused the media into brainwashing the fans. His words are quite accurate, Arsenal only lost the season opener and this does not mean at all that there is a crisis at the club; they quickly bounced back with three victories against Fenerbahce twice and Fulham scoring eight goals in total and conceding only once. Moreover, the media’s praise of Tottenham’s transfer campaign seems to have fooled Arsenal fans and loyals. Spurs have splashed a lot of money this summer but it does not mean they have become far too competitive. Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, Etienne Capoue, Nacer Chadli and probably Erik Lamela are definitely good players but they are not enough to lead the team, there is no true star among them and Tottenham’s two league games reflect that. Creativity is still a problem without Gareth Bale and despite them grabbing two consecutive wins; they have only scored from the penalty spot while they had a fairly weak opponent in the Europa League. Losing Bale and Clint Dempsey will affect Spurs heavily and this is where Arsenal did better in the transfer market. The gunners sold fringe players such as Gervinho, Denilson, Marouane Chammakh, Andrei Arshavin and Sebastien Squillaci as they kept all their stars. On the contrary, every single past season has seen them lose out on an important player but this time they kept every single player needed and this is what will give them a push.
At the moment, they need to look at the battle they have with Tottenham and Liverpool. By labeling both teams as direct rivals to the final Champions League spot, Arsenal can have realistic and achievable goals. When Arsenal as club and fans realize that they are close to achieving those goals, they will produce better performances and can strive for even better.
It is no wonder Jack Wilshere threatened to leave the club if Wenger is forced out, because only the players know the true quality of their manager. “If we stay together and build something then we can win a trophy in the next few years.” Those were Wilshere’s words and it is true, keeping their players is better than selling them and replacing them with players from outside the club. Only the season will speak for itself but Spurs’ transfer movements should not fool anyone to think they have a better squad the Arsenal, this weekend will prove who has the upper hand, do not despair Gunners, have faith in the man, have faith in Wenger.