If I were to rate Arsenal on their player trading performance thus far during this summer's transfer window, on a scale of one to 10, that's how much I would give them.
Arsene Wenger and Ivan Gazidis have been vilified by press and fans alike over the past couple of seasons for not loosening the purse strings adequately enough. And while my views on the matter are different, I think it is time for the football world to man up and give credit where it is due.
To have, by August 7, acquired the considerable and combined talents of Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla, that too for an average outlay of £12 million apiece, is nothing short of incredible. Especially when the Joe Allens of this world are selling for £15 million. Did someone say "Torres"?
As for the market, it has been at its most static in years. Take a quick look at the top football clubs across Europe, and you will see that, Chelsea and Paris Saint Germain aside, player intake—and I mean top quality players—has been negligible. And I will reserve my opinion on Chelsea's buys, because at the outset, Marko Marin, Eden Hazard, Thorgan Hazard and Oscar seem to be somewhat similar positionally.
Coming back to Arsenal, though, with the purchasing largely having been taken care of, it's time for Wenger and Gazidis to clear the decks somewhat. All or most of Carlos Vela, Nicklas Bendtner, Sebastien Squillaci, Park Ju Young, Andrey Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh need to head out.
And then there's the issues of three potential want-aways.
Theo Walcott has only one year remaining on his contract, and that needs immediate sorting out. I reckon he will stay, though.
Alex Song—or his agent—appears to have developed a bit of roving eye syndrome. That needs to be nipped in the bud.
And finally, of course, the curious case of Robin Van Persie.
Having very publicly declared his dissatisfaction over a month ago with the way Wenger and Gazidis were running the club, van Persie finds himself still at Arsenal, seemingly sulking his way through the club's pre-season camp in Germany.
We have made a bid and they've been trying to negotiate with other clubs. We are trying our best but there is no progress at this moment in time. It’s difficult to say why they are operating in this way or know what their thoughts are because they are not giving anything away. We are not getting any breakthrough. I can't give you any more information. We just have to persevere. We are trying our best and hopefully it will come our way but there's no progress at this moment in time.
I'm not sure what he's on about, but I largely ignore what he says about Arsenal. With the greatest of respect, of course!
The sensible word on the street seems to suggest a few moot points. Firstly, Arsenal don't want to sell to an English club. Fair enough. Secondly, Arsenal are holding out for at least £25 million. Very wise, given what I said earlier about the Allens. And thirdly, the player still wants to leave, irrespective of the quality of those who have recently come in. I doubt if there's any way back, given his stupid comments of July 4.
Now I'm not sure what you readers feel, but something that is coming through very strongly this time around is that for once, Arsenal seem to be in control of the situation.
Quality replacements were brought in nice and early, thereby eliminating the possibility of Arsenal being held at knife-point. Either while buying or selling.
Then van Persie came out with his ill-advised, injudicious and ludicrous "Update for the Fans." It was such a dumb idea that my initial reaction was that his website had been hacked into. And eventually, nobody fell for it, except for the eminent Alisher Usmanov. That says a lot.
A price of £25 million seems to be Arsenal's minimum acceptable transfer fee, and the club doesn't appear to be willing to budge an inch. Good for them. I never thought I'd see Manchester City throwing in the towel so easily. I'm loving it.
And finally, it's the website. Arsenal.com. Quite surely the most heavily censored website in all of football. Sometimes, frustratingly so. Information is revealed only when 100 percent confirmed. And controversy is steered well clear of at all times—which is all well and good.
In years gone by, Arsenal.com would have avoided publishing photographs of a player rumored to be on his way out. But this time, they seem to be doing it with an element of cheekiness, bordering on vindictiveness.
Almost every photograph of van Persie from Arsenal's camp in Germany—here are links from Day 1 and Day 2—show him alone or brooding, or both, while everyone else seems to be having a real good time. Almost like the club is waving a red rag to the bulls in the press. Who have, of course, fallen for the bait.
What of the future, though?
Well, with the club seeming to have come to terms with van Persie's desire to leave, there is no great hurry to sell him. Ideally, Arsenal should sell him abroad. Juventus appear to be the only likely destination, though they seem to have shifted their focus towards Fernando Llorente.
Manchester United leads the race domestically. They have faced two significant reverses in their transfer dealings this summer, losing out on Eden Hazard to rivals Chelsea, and Lucas Moura to PSG.
As the transfer deadline nears, Ferguson will be desperate to land a top quality new signing. Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell will not be enough to help them mount a serious challenge for trophies. He will surely use every trick in the book to lure his man away from his one-time biggest rivals. Wenger must stand firm, and his CEO and board must back him.
AC Milan, somehow, have never been mentioned as a possible destination for RVP. I believe they may come into the picture soon enough, as they have a pot-load of money and a gaping hole in their forward line.
This situation looks like it will go down to the wire. But for once, the playing squad is largely insulated from the sparks that may fly. And that's great news.
Arsene Wenger, genius that he is, will undoubtedly balance logic and emotion when arriving at his final decision. Left to me, if RVP definitely wants to leave, I would sell him abroad for a minimum of £15 million—there will be a plethora of bidders at that price—and domestically for nothing less than £25 million.
Else, I'd keep the current player of the year for one more year, thank you very much.
Alex Ferguson, over the years, has gotten the better of most of his battles of wit and word with rival managers.
For the sake of Gooner-nation, this is one he had better lose.