Arsene Wenger is a smart man. One imagines he's smart enough to have known that a bad result for Arsenal—like a 3-1 setback against Aston Villa at home—was going to cause the general unrest at the Emirates to boil over.
The old-time Albert Einstein definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results—is clearly being lost on Wenger and the Arsenal board. Two seasons ago, the club watched as Manchester United did rather unspeakable acts to the Gunners, prompting a mass panic buy as the transfer window closed.
While not as late into the game this time, Arsenal are careening toward the same fate as they begin to launch bids left, right and center. Of course, these bids could land them the players needed for success this season, but there is a bit of a peculiarity to them this time.
Since the miss of Gonzalo Higuain earlier this summer, Wenger has been strangely bullish about making inroads into players currently at some of the Gunners' biggest Premier League rivals. Interest in Wayne Rooney and Luis Suarez has been well documented and for the most part scuppered repeatedly, as the Daily Mail's Sami Mokbel reports.
Other players of note have included Swansea’s Ashley Williams and Michu—who have been kicked around far more vociferously in the last 24 hours according to the Mirror—as well as Manchester City’s Micah Richards. According to Kristan Heneage of ESPN FC, Wenger’s bid for Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye was rejected quickly.
Perhaps all the criticism of going to the Ligue 1 well one too many times has taken hold, but Wenger’s strategy in the market has taken a decided turn. Unfortunately, it’s the kind of turn that is being met by another turn in kind.
Player power this summer has been challenged heavily in the Premier League. The Rooney and Suarez sagas, as well as the Gareth Bale epic taking place down the road, have been stories defined by the clubs’ unwillingness to part company with their meal ticket players.
Nominally, if a player last summer had done the job Suarez has done this summer, he’d have been shipped off and out with hardly a second glance, with a major rival potentially able to capitalize. The example that comes to mind doesn't really need to be said out loud.
This summer, however, Liverpool and Manchester United have stonewalled major moves from rivals. It has encouraged a club like the one down the road that Bale does not have to be sold, regardless of his rather prissy attitude of late.
(Aside: Robbie Savage’s transfer getaway guide on the BBC Sport site has done his fellow players no favors when it comes to identifying transfer-related behavior. It certainly has not helped Rooney, Suarez or Bale recently.)
Wenger has inadvertently walked right into this flipping of conventional wisdom at a rather inopportune time. Perhaps the repeated sale of players to the other big clubs in England has warped his line of thinking into believing that the other clubs would sell to him if offered enough cash. Instead, he has been rebuffed in a rather embarrassing way.
Instead of locking down major targets, Wenger has now had to go down the ladder several pegs to find players. There is not, however, a guarantee that this track will work either.
Cabaye could be a good cover for injured Arsenal midfielders, an issue that is almost a pandemic at this point. At the same time, Newcastle seem rather peeved about not having been able to count on the player against City and might be more willing to sell the player elsewhere instead.
Swansea boss Michael Laudrup has already put pressure on his organization to not sell Michu or Ashley Williams with his line in an article by Riath Al-Samarrai in the Mail about being the richest club in the Championship. In a league where 13 points separated 18th from eighth place last term, losing two rocks of the club would be an almost unforgivable act for the Welsh outfit.
Combine that with the idea that Everton are going to be hard pressed to let Fellaini and Leighton Baines go to United, and it is clear that buying from the other Premier League clubs is going to be a painful experience. The fabled war chest Wenger has at his disposal could be drained rather quickly, but without the bang for the buck that Arsenal fans would be hoping for.
Against that backdrop, a great deal of the activity available may depend on what happens when the Gunners square off against Fenerbahce in the Champions League playoff this week. A positive result against the Turkish outfit might ease some of the concerns, but another bad result might leave Wenger and the squad reeling.
The feeling of trepidation among those at the Emirates Saturday was palpable. It may have only been one match, but another one like it might leave the club in the same spot as the last two or three years as only being able to challenge for fourth place.