Or should I have added “4” to the title of the post? Yes, four months before we are regaled with tales of Danny Welbeck‘s derring-do and if our recent history is anything to go by, five months until he breaks down. Which will be just as the January transfer window closes or be too late to do anything about it.
I know what you’re thinking: such cynicism in one so young.
Arsène had to deliver some good news on the injury front, although whether a player returning in December is good news is a debatable point. He had, of course, given the news we all knew that Aaron Ramsey was out until after the international break and Alex Iwobi for a similar period.
The situation has left him contemplating ‘gambles’ for tomorrow’s trip to Premier League champions Leicester City. Still without an experienced centre back, his comments identify that Laurent Koscielny is likely to start at the King Power. Wenger observed that it was too risky to bring Özil and Giroud back to the XI straight away “but basically with Laurent Koscielny I have no choice!” Not having learned the lessons of last weekend, he continued, “If I have to take a gamble on one, it’s certainly on him.”
The medical team is no doubt prepping the extra bed for the French defender as we speak. It’s a ludicrous situation to be in, not just from the player perspective but also the clubs. Quite why the English season had to start this early with no international tournaments of note, only the Premier League can explain.
It is however, what it is and Arsenal have known the date for the first match for months. Failing to be prepared for it falls squarely onto their shoulders. Wenger admitted, not for the first time, that he is struggling in the transfer market.
There’s more than a hint of Canute about Arsène in every sense when it comes to signing players:
“What I fight against is to think that the only way in football to deal with is to buy.”
In one sentence, the problem is identified. Arsenal don’t have internal solutions so have to sign new players; it’s that simple. It’s also been clear for a number of seasons but continually, the manager has refused to address the problems and now is paying the price, literally and figuratively.
The ‘official’ transcript refers to “paying over the odds” which is at the heart of the matter. A decision is taken on whether a player is over-valued and on that basis an offer is made or not. So far, so good. The problem comes when that initial valuation is out of kilter with what the market is setting as a price.
Arsenal are fighting a tide of rising prices and wages, a point Wenger freely admits. The club, we are told at every opportunity, is “not scared to spend money” but when you refuse to pay the price set in the marketplace, you are scared; Arsenal as a club, are paralysed by the fear of making a mistake with an expensive signing which doesn’t work out.
It makes you wonder why? Is it a natural conservatism in the manager and the directors or more sinisterly, a directive from KSE that they need to keep a certain value to the business to underpin borrowings elsewhere in the group? The longer Arsenal fight a losing battle against a tide of rising prices, the notion that KSE’s ventures in other fields are as much a problem as a lack of dynamism in the manager.
Arsène chose to point to his experience in the transfer market, underlining his willingness to trade. He has “made 400 transfers in my life” – including sales – with the inference being that we should trust his judgement. Sorry, it doesn’t wash when a squad isn’t strengthened.
This isn’t new for Arsenal. George Graham was culpable in 1991 when he failed to develop the title-winning squad, instead descending into a morass of mediocrity which became the hallmark of his reign in some quarters. It wasn’t; in the first half of his reign, the sides were as vibrant as Wenger’s but like Arsène, a misguided distrust of big fees undermined him.
Reports still suggest a deal is there to be done for Mustafi although his father claimed they were negotiating with “two or three” other clubs – it must be hard to keep track of – whilst the price for Gimenez leapt £16m in 24 hours, a rate of inflation which would make even an Argentinean politician blush.
Prices are rising Arsène; time to stop fighting the tide before the waters overwhelm you.