Blog by: Abhishek
The sight of the white cannon emblazoned across the stand at Emirates on any other day would enthrall the fans of the club and fill them with a sense of belonging and loyalty but not on the opening day of the season. The cannon was visible, out in the open for the fans to have a look at it.
Only this time it did not exhibit the power it is supposed to wield. Luna had just slid the ball in the Arsenal net, and Villa went 3-1 with only five minutes left on the clock. The stands emptied out in a time lesser than the time taken by the Villains to celebrate their goal. The unexpected defeat helped adding oil to already roaring flames of anger against the club for its incompetency in the transfer market until now.
Years of excuses and sighting Emirates Stadium as the excuse for not having enough financial power to dive in the market for marquee signings seemed to have been canned in a box and thrown in river Thames for good when Wenger and Gazidis declared that Arsenal have a 70 million war chest at their disposal. For the first time in years, the prospect of no big stars leaving the club and the promise to break the bank lifted the Arsenal fans to cloud nine, and thus began the anticipation of what could be the most sensational summer for Arsenal ever.
Wenger had 90 days from the finish of last season to the beginning of this one to go out, buy early and buy big. Summer kicked off interestingly with host of star names being linked to the Gunners. By the time the transfer window officially opened, Higuain had already undergone some 2,376 medicals at Arsenal according to the ‘Twitter Officials’. Official bids were made for Suarez amounting to 40,000,000 and 40,000,001 pounds each. Never in the history of football would a pound have created such an uproar as this one.
90 days, tonnes of speculations and one EPL defeat later, the Arsenal squad still doesn’t have any new faces. The only signing has been that of Yaya Sanogo, a young French striker, who was a free agent in July and had recently spent eighteen months on sidelines due to injury, while the players Arsenal chased all throughout the summer landed elsewhere. Wenger seems to be stuck on Suarez who has been changing his stance over Liverpool every week while sitting on sidelines due to his ban. Wenger seems to be willing to spend upto 50m on him but not buy anyone else.
It’s not just about being a frustrating summer for Arsenal fans, it’s also about the club’s credibility that is getting hurt when it comes to transfer activities. Over the years, Arsenal have become a great scouting club, identifying amazing talents only to see them chose rival clubs over Arsenal either due to lack of financial power or the lack of challenge provided for the title races.
A player linked to Arsenal ends up anywhere but Arsenal. The last player Wenger publically pursued and got successfully was probably Chamakh – that too a year later – for free. Perhaps, this is how Wenger likes to do his business, under the wraps, finding great players while diverting the attention away from them by throwing up different names in public for rival teams to chase. But right now what the fans and the club need are a few good and really solid signings irrespective of whether it comes from under the wraps or from a public pursuit.
In a bid to sign big players, Arsenal has released or ‘chopped’ away the deadwood from the team, only to deplete the squad of any sort of backup. No one would argue that the players released were just picking up salaries week in and week out without adding much to the team, but at least they contributed to the numbers. The lack of depth in the squad was totally exposed in the opening game against Villa, with players like Walcott and Cazorla having to take the field and Podolski coming in as a replacement for injured Sagna.
These players were away and involved in international duties just three days prior to the match and should have been rested with able replacements available. Injuries to Arteta, Gibbs, Sagna, Chamberlain, Koscielny’s suspension have all compounded the worries of Wenger. With Squillaci released, Djourou and Miquel sent out on loan and Vermaelen injured, it’s shocking to see Arsenal start the campaign with only two fit defenders given a very hectic schedule to follow. Koscielny’s unavailability in the next game will force Wenger to come up with a makeshift defender and jeopardise Arsenal’s chances in the game. And there’s mid-week Champions League qualification to deal with roo.
The only silver lining, however, is that there is still about two weeks left for the transfer window to shut and there is a heap of cash locked away safely in some iron vault of which Wenger and Gazidis hold the key. A marquee signing is needed to uplift the morale of the fans, uplift the morale of the team.
And at this point of time, even if a big signing is not possible, an addition in numbers is hugely important as it is very much out in the open now that there is no depth in the squad. The next two weeks are the make or break time for Arsenal. With the core team intact, big signings will propel Arsenal into the race for the title effortlessly. Failing to do so will once again condemn Arsenal to compete for the last Champions League spot which would be even difficult this year, given that the teams around Arsenal have strengthened significantly over the summer.
Questions need to be asked, acquisitions need to be made, and quickly. Where’s that 70m, Arsenal? If there was ever a best time to spend that money, it would be now!