Who Is to Blame for the Lack of Arsenal Signings?
At the start of June, Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis proudly announced he was finally prepared to abandon the club’s renowned prudence and begin to compete with Europe's leading clubs in the transfer market.
When asked if Arsenal could afford to break their transfer record and spend up to £20 million on a single player and offer them a salary of around £200,000 a week he told the BBC: “Of course we could do that. We could do more than that.”
It seemed an unusual piece of bravado from an Arsenal official, but it was welcomed by their famously exasperated fans.
As Gazidis explained to the BBC: "We have a certain amount of money which we have held in reserve.”
But two months later, that money is still being held in reserve—not a single penny has been spent.
So far this summer, Arsenal have waved around their cash, but no one wants it.
Who is to blame?
It feels harsh to be apportioning blame, as Arsenal’s lack of signings does not appear to be down to a lack of effort.
Twelve months after Robin van Persie fled North London, a striker remains a priority for Arsenal.
Olivier Giroud and Lukas Poldolski are good, but they're not good enough for a club of Arsenal’s standing and renewed ambition.
Firstly this summer Arsenal began flirting with the unsettled Wayne Rooney, and as reported by James Dickenson in the Express, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said: “We would not have a problem with the wages of Rooney.”
The future of Wayne Rooney remains unresolved, but if he does leave United it is more likely to be for Chelsea, and Arsenal, however much they may have tried, might have to accept that.
The attraction of Chelsea for Rooney is playing for a seasoned winner like Jose Mourinho, and for a team who will be ready to immediately challenge for trophies with an attacker like Rooney leading the line.
Arsenal's pursuit of Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain appeared to be about to end successfully.
The Argentine international, scorer of 107 goals in six seasons for Real Madrid, would have been an astute signing. John Cross of the Mirror reported he had agreed personal terms, and the Spanish side were pondering whether to accept an Arsenal bid of £24 million.
But then Arsenal suffered the misfortune of Napoli, cash rich from the sale of Edinson Cavani to Paris Saint-Germain, coming onto the scene and distorting the market.
The price for Higuain suddenly jumped to £32 million, which the Italians agreed to pay, and Arsenal decided to walk away.
There should be no blame here, as Arsenal simply weren’t prepared to pay that much for Higuain. They didn’t want him enough.
However, a player they do want and are prepared to pay even more for is Liverpool’s Luis Suarez.
According to a report by John Cross and David Maddock in the Mirror last week, Arsenal bid £40 million for Suarez, which was rejected by Liverpool.
Arsenal fans cannot be too disgruntled, their club is desperately trying to dip in to those deep reserves.
This bid for Suarez would have been the second biggest transfer between English clubs in history, and incredibly, it would have trebled their current transfer record signing of Sylvain Wiltord for £13 million
The problem here is Liverpool couldn’t possibly accept it.
Liverpool selling their most important player to the club they wish to supplant in the Top Four would be too painful a surrender for the club.
Arsenal have to be admired for asking the question, but Liverpool gave them a firm answer, and for now, Suarez is not leaving.
There is an urge to blame the Arsenal hierarchy and Arsene Wenger for not already providing a succession of new signings this summer.
The problem is not Arsenal’s negotiating skills or how much they can bid, but ultimately what they can offer players.
Yes, Arsenal can offer Champions League football and playing in front of 60,000 at the Emirates every other week, but the very best players want more than that: They want to win trophies.
Arsenal haven’t won a trophy for eight years now.
As Robin van Persie proved last season, Arsenal is a club you leave rather than join if you want to win medals. Players can see this.
This might now be changing, but the perception of Arsenal as a stagnant and selling club has been building for the last eight years, and it might not be so easy to shift this summer.
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