Arsenal FC: Is Arsene Wenger Finally Changing His Ways?
Well, this is all a bit odd. It's early August and Arsene Wenger has signed three players over the age of 24; all internationals, all experienced, and most importantly, all quality.
Yes, it's been an unusual summer for Arsenal supporters. We're lucky if we see three new players arrive at the club at all, and usually when we do at least one of them is under 20 years old. Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud, and Santi Cazorla are three players of tremendous attacking quality, players that are approaching the peak of their career and can be expected to be playing their best football in the next few season.
First, let's walk through the stereotypical Arsene Wenger transfer window. It starts off bright—Arsene Wenger usually states that he'll be looking to strengthen his squad in the summer, and maybe bring in two or three quality players. To go along with that, Arsenal become linked with some of Europe's most exciting prospects, getting Gooners hopes up that the summer could be a great one.
By mid-summer, Arsenal have made little to no signings. Wenger will say something about how he's not close to signing anyone at the moment, but he'll still be looking to bolster his squad with a few more players. When the end of the summer comes along, Wenger will have made a few signings, but usually not the ones that fans wanted. Wenger will then say something about how the right players weren't available, and that he doesn't want to make transfers just for the hell of it.
Now, all of that isn't entirely true. Wenger has made big signings here and there in the past few seasons, like bringing in Samir Nasri and later on Andrei Arshavin—but transfer windows are generally quiet for Arsenal, with a few inexpensive signings sprinkled in with unknown youngsters or, stereotypically, French players from Ligue 1.
As frustrating as Arsenal's transfer activity—or lack thereof—has been in recent seasons, Gooners can't deny Wenger's touch of genius with some of his signings.
Take Laurent Koscielny. When he was signed in the summer ahead of the 2010-11 season, many fans asked "Laurent who?" Koscielny was relatively unknown upon his arrival from FC Lorient in, you guessed it, Ligue 1, and didn't change the minds of many fans—his first season was filled with ups and downs, including a costly defensive error in the Carling Cup final.
But last season, Koscielny was absolutely brilliant, silencing his doubters and becoming unquestionably Arsenal's most improved player. Certainly the Gunners' best defender of 2011-12, Koscielny averaged 2.6 tackles and 2.8 interceptions per game—to put that into perspective, Manchester City's Vincent Kompany averaged 2.1 tackles and 2.4 interceptions. I don't think many people would disagree with me when I say that Koscielny is one great season away from being considered world class.
There's no doubt that Arsene Wenger is the best manager in the world when it comes to picking up unknown talent and developing them into world class footballers. "We don't sign superstars, we make them," he once said.
Nonetheless, fans have become increasingly frustrated with Arsenal's lack of "big name signings" that competing clubs make, and often blame Arsene Wenger's tight purse strings for their now seven season trophy drought.
So it hasn't exactly gone unnoticed that Wenger has made three big name signings this summer. Usually it's news if he makes just one marquee transfer, but with Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud, and Santi Cazorla all brought in, the unusual activeness in the transfer market can't just be a coincidence.
Arsene Wenger is, in my opinion, beginning to change his usually stubborn transfer policy. My best bet is that he must be realizing that his approach to the transfer market in recent seasons isn't bringing any silverware to the club, and with foreign sources of money (cough Manchester City cough Chelsea cough Paris Saint-Germain) now a big part of football, Wenger needs to make big signings of his own to compete with the clubs that can sign just about any player they want.
Now, is the Arsenal boss about to throw 30 million pounds at a big name superstar (or any player, for that matter)? No, but transfers like the Santi Cazorla deal wouldn't have happened before this summer—as a matter of fact, it didn't. If it's Arsenal in a race with Manchester City or Chelsea to sign a player, the chances are the Gunners will lose out, unless the player simply likes Arsenal better, which has happened before.
The point, though, is that Arsenal don't have the financial resources to compete in the transfer market with your Oil Money FC or your Russian Billionaire United. They'll have to make due with signing quality players with relatively small/medium price tags, something that Wenger has shown he's good at this summer.
Despite the obvious change in Wenger's ways, he's still not going to buy players from other big clubs. Even with the three big transfers this summer, Wenger bought from smaller clubs (Cologne, Montpellier, and Malaga)—it seems like he has a knack for improving players, getting them to play their best football for Arsenal FC.
I'm also not expecting Wenger's youth policy to change. What that means is that despite his amending his transfer strategy, you can still expect to see the completely unheard of 17-year-olds or the unknown Ligue 1 youngsters to be brought in every summer.
So with Wenger now facing the fact that in order to win trophies and keep up with new European superpowers, he has to make bigger signings of his own, is it also time for Arsenal's fortunes to change, and for their seven year trophy drought to end?
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