Arsenal have paid a reported fee of 6.5 million pounds on a 30-year-old centre-back, French international Sebastien Squillaci, who is due to finalize his transfer after a medical on Monday.
The signing is effectively an admission by Arsene Wenger that he has gotten it wrong when recruiting to central defence in recent seasons.
Wenger won his first league titles at the North London club after inheriting a solid defence that boasted the likes of England’s Tony Adams and David Seaman.
Wenger deserves credit for the shrewd acquisition of Sol Campbell on a free from arch-rivals Tottenham as well as the emergence of Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy from the youth team.
Bacary Sagna and Thomas Vermaelen have been an excellent signings, but following the departure of Campbell and Martin Keown, Arsenal have been consistently compromised by a soft centre.
William Gallas arrived in part-exchange for Cole but proved a disruptive influence, forcing Kolo Toure out the door before departing this summer after turning down 80,000 pounds a week.
Mikael Silvestre was signed from Manchester United at 31, Sol Campbell returned for six months pushing 36. Both have left in the close season, along with Philipe Senderos, who failed to make the grade.
Vermaelen has been impressive, but until Squillaci signs, he has only injured new recruit Laurent Koscielny and questionable youth team product Johan Djourou for company.
There have been two golden rules of Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal to date. One is not to offer long term contracts to players over 30; the other has been not to spend money on players unless they are technically gifted, quick, and also under 30.
Squillaci on a three-year deal ticks none of the above boxes and at 6.5 million, looks costly in comparison to Nemanja Vidic (7 million at 24), Alex (6 million at 22,) Gerard Pique (approximately 6 to 8 million at 21). Even 5 million for a 29-year-old Richard Dunne looks cheap up against Squillaci.
Wenger will not have enjoyed making such an outlay on a player who he will be lucky to get three years from and who is unproven in the Premier League.
But after failing to produce a quality central defender from his much vaunted youth team and missing out in the transfer market, desperate times called for desperate measures.
With Arsenal reportedly increasing their offer for 37-year-old Mark Schwarzer to 4 million pounds, it looks as if the same is true in goal.