Arsenal Transfers: Have Arsene Wenger's Transfer Habits Changed over Time?

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2013

Mounting pressure can change a lot of things. The last few years of Arsenal's prolonged trophy drought seem to have signalled a shift in Arsene Wenger's transfer dealings.

However, this change is merely a cosmetic, rather than a philosophical one.

With his record and, shamefully, even his managerial ability under scrutiny, Wenger has appeared to shun youth in favour of experience. The mould of his signings has typically become established players in the 24-30 age range.

Per Mertesacker and Mikel Arteta began this trend in the summer of 2011. One year later, when Wenger was again tasked with replacing a defecting star, he opted for experienced reinforcements. Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla, all arrived as established internationals.

However, is this really a major shift in policy? In reality the change is only surface-deep. It is a common misconception that Wenger only favours buying youth and gambling on untapped potential.

The likes of Patrick Vieira and Nicolas Anelka epitomized Wenger's belief in young talent. However, that belief was also indulged alongside signing players with experience and pedigree.

Marc Overmars was a prime example, arriving in the summer of 1997 as a UEFA Champions League winner and former Ajax star. This potent mix helped produce the powerful double-winning squad of 1998.

That mix yielded identical results in the 2001/02 campaign. Then it was Wenger fast-tracking young prodigy Ashley Cole into the first team, alongside signing experienced, international mainstay Sol Campbell.

Over a decade later, Wenger's trusted dynamic, in fact, remains intact. After securing Arteta and Mertesacker, Wenger signed 19-year-old Thomas Eisfeld in the winter window.

This pattern is being repeated this season, with the news Wenger has granted a trial for 16-year-old Brazilian Indio. What, then, has changed for Wenger and his transfer policy during the barren years?

A simple answer would be that Wenger's own success has caught up with him. When he arrived at Arsenal, his scouting policies were unique in the English Premier League.

His knowledge of the French and African markets was particularly useful. Over time, Arsenal's competitors have latched onto these same policies.

Promising youngsters don't stay secret for long, and Wenger no longer has sections of the market to himself. If there is a talented youth linked to Arsenal, it's safe to assume other EPL clubs will soon be circling.

It can sometimes feel as though some clubs base their transfer policy on players Wenger is targeting. Yet increased competition isn't the only challenge the embattled Frenchman is facing.

Fluctuating prices have increased basic transfer values. Players who would have cost a fraction of the price years ago, now command inflated fees in the region of £15-25 million. Step forward Samir Nasri and Phil Jones.

So even the mid-range potential targets Wenger always hopes to turn into stars have almost slipped out of his range. That's forced Wenger into pursuing a different kind of target.

As the markets have changed, Wenger has naturally tried to exploit new ones. He recently spoke about his belief that the talent pool in France has diminished.

That has led to more forays into the Spanish market. However, the dynamic remains the same. Established, but not quite elite-level talent like Cazorla and Nacho Monreal, have been mixed with promising youths like Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin.

Wenger's search for a new talent source has also taken a domestic twist. Cheaply purchased potential like Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Ramsey, were recruited.

This has also been balanced by more expensive acquisitions like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott.

The markets may have changed, but the formula has stayed the same in Wenger's transfer dealings. Mixing a portion of experience with a commitment to promising youth, continues to serve Arsenal well.