These are strange times we live in, particularly from a footballing perspective. Appearances can, of course, be deceptive but it seems everyone else is spending money but Arsenal are laggardly. Once again.
A slew of rumours abound with almost instantaneous contradictory ill-informed comment surfacing but very little of it surrounds Arsenal. We’re not, it seems, in the market for anybody.
That’s if the market was a public domain. It isn’t and whilst my natural instinct is nothing is happening, I want to believe the quietness is simply the club getting on with their business in the background. I want to believe it but the last few years have offered contradictory evidence of it.
Not a new complaint but interestingly, it seems we’re not alone in wanting new signings. David Seaman is about to see his popularity nosedive in some quarters but he thinks we’ve got to bring in fresh blood to boost morale:
“We still need a dominant centre-half.
“We’ll see what Granit Xhaka’s like in midfield, but ideally we need someone like Patrick Vieira. And a striker as well.
“He needs to buy someone to give the club a lift and give the fans a lift. Ideally a striker would be great, but either a centre-half or midfielder would do for me.”
Two more players and I think very few would disagree with that assessment.
It’s interesting that Seaman acknowledges fans need a “lift”. The only ones who don’t recognise that or seem to care, are the club themselves. The perception of Arsenal as a club – in a business and transfer sense – is one of plodding. We get there in the end but never quickly. Decisive action when it is taken, is unusual to the extent that we remember those times readily.
It strikes me this summer has seen the club and Arsène in particular, taken aback by the jump in fees. That this is the case is of concern; the Premier League’s boasting about record-breaking revenues was only ever going to have one impact. Transfer fees and wages are going up.
Laurent Koscielny’s contract negotiations have stalled apparently. At £90k per week, you wouldn’t be surprised if the club were taken aback by the demands or if Koscielny’s Mr20% had worked out that his client was worth more than that. Even by it’s own measures, football has gone money mad.
I’m not going to issue predictions of doom and despair over the game’s revenues. Football has long defied rational explanation when it comes to economics and talk of the bubble bursting has been around for years: there’s very little new in modern football.
But the transfer market is an immediate problem. Alan Smith – not that one – in this morning’s Guardian charts a brief history of the last fifteen years; the level of average fees is rising and as the headline points out, £30m is now the norm.
To think that our record fee is less than 50% higher; we were agog when Mesut Özil joined for £42.5m but that won’t be around for long as the market pushes north of that on a steady basis.
It’s something Arsenal have to adapt to; a new reality. It’s no good looking for value for money when your base level is wrong. The club’s might not be and we could be in the position where attempts to sign players have failed. However, for that to continually happen means one of two things:
- Our targets are unrealistic, and/or,
- We don’t know the true value of the market
To habitually fail to sign players is not a good trait for a manager to have. It’s worse, if we’re honest than having bad luck in finals.
That a previously wholly-supportive former player like Seaman tells the club that fan morale needs lifting is telling. The outward signals, missed or ignored from within, are not good. A bad start to the season may see a toxic atmosphere rise but a good one won’t guarantee a ‘feelgood factor’ emerging and that would worry me more than any bad mood, if I was in charge of the club.
Talking of which, Stan is fitting right into the weird old world. This is new Stan, replacing the old one.
Old Stan didn’t buy Arsenal to “win championships”; Old Stan wanted his investment to make money. New Stan still wants that but admits:
“I’ve always loved sports and you have to make it make sense financially.
“But you learn over the years that it’s no fun if you don’t win.”
Perhaps the club has realised morale is quite low after all.