It had to happen eventually, it was only a matter of time before the real reasons for the failure to significantly strengthen the Arsenal squad emerged and this morning’s Daily Mirror nailed it:
Dick Law has sat for ages waiting for the ‘z’ which will enable him to finally beat Florentino Perez at Scrabble and sign Karim Benzema. Working his digital brain to maximum capacity, he has concluded that his Spanish host has the errant letter on his block; little does he know that it is a fiendish ploy on Perez’ part, El Presidente is going to lay the ‘aka’ off as soon as Law puts down the ‘k’ to reveal the name of the Real Madrid star Arsenal will actually land.
Well, why should I take anything seriously when Arsène publicly states that Nicklas Bendtner is a good enough striker for Arsenal? Wenger’s comments on the Dane encapsulate the problem the manager faces, the predicament he has landed himself in by his inaction this summer. Having gone from Jovetic to Rooney to Higuain to Suarez, we are now left with Bendtner. Stories linking the manager once more with a move for SalomonKalou seem almost attractive with that perspective. The Dane seemed likely to exit this summer but the fallacy of Wenger’s adherence to a socialist pay structure in an environment that is the perfect example of capitalism at work, is shown when his most ardent admirer, Steve Bruce, admits that the player’s wage demands are prohibitive. Bendtner is our own Bogarde.
Speaking ahead of the North London Derby on Sunday, Wenger defended himself by casting doubt on the impact of Tottenham’s spending,
It has a negative impact when you lose your best players, always. Because you are perceived as well by your fans [for] a lack of ambition, by the rest of the squad, they look for strength in their team. We have gone through that process consistently and it demands of course always a mental adjustment, again, to keep your ambition alive.
They try very hard of course. That’s normal. In our job, there is a technical risk when you buy more than three players always because you unbalance a little bit the stability of your squad.
We will see how well they integrate and how well they will do. It is very difficult to predict that.
Arguably Tottenham have addressed any taunts about a lack of ambition with the volume of purchases, addressing not just the departure of Bale but other weaknesses in their squad. In short, they have looked at why they consistently fall short of overhauling Arsenal and sought to rectify perceived problems. Whether the signings work will only be known next May but the manner in which Levy has dealt with Real certainly offers perspective in selling players when there is a market of one buyer.
The media are keen to link Arsenal’s business with that of Spurs in their pursuit of players from the Spanish capital. Benzema is being linked less with the club and it is not hard to see why Real would want to keep the French international as their striking options look a little thin. For Ozil and di Maria, the words reportedly spoken about their desire to stay in the capital may well be true but the pair seem to have less say over their future than others. Certainly Ozil seems the least likely option if Arsenal are genuinely interested in Julian Draxler.
Wenger is adamant that he will not panic in his purchases but the club has lost control of the narrative of the summer. Ever since Ivan Gazidis publicly stated his view that the squad would be stronger by the start of the season, Wenger has been under enormous pressure to spend and has failed to do so. Recent attempts to push the view that he believes waiting until the end of the transfer window is a virtue have failed. Whatever those in charge at the club may have wished for, the perception of this summer is one where the transfer ‘arm’ of the business is in disarray, incapable of sealing deals beyond free transfers; a big club where the key summer activity is staffed by people who lack the knowledge of how to deal in this end of the market or a manager who has too much control of the process and has yet to wrest control in his own mind of his abhorrence in spending vast sums of money.
Arsène is not panicking, arguably so laid back about the process that he is horizontal. One strength he has is that, in his own words, he will not “do anything stupid just for the sake of saying that we have done something“, he will “do what makes sense or not, that is simple.”
That strength of belief is admirable until it becomes inactivity. To the outsider, this summer does not make sense; logic is conspicuous by its absence, as a squad that is acknowledged as thin remains so. Players of super, super quality have not arrived and the manager is prepared to make do. Judgement cannot be cast entirely until the window has closed but I do hope none of those charged with working on deals, beyond the manager, are attending Sunday’s game. They have work to do.