No club tears itself apart over transfer rumours like Arsenal. The gossip column is always lengthy at this time of year with the summer transfer window now open, but speculation seems to have more of an impact at the Emirates Stadium than anywhere else.
The Transfers are sought after just as much as trophies—quite a feat given Arsenal’s 12-year Premier League title drought.
It all comes down to ambition. Arsenal fans often criticise their own club for not showing enough, allowing their rivals to bypass them seemingly at will. The Gunners, once a predominant force in English football, are now little more than top-four fodder. And their transfer activity (or lack of) illustrates that even better than their league position.
This summer was meant to be different, though. With Arsene Wenger in the final year of his contract as manager, it was predicted that the Frenchman would go all out in the transfer market, eager to deliver one last title before he eventually calls it a day. The signs were positive early on.
Granit Xhaka was signed before Euro 2016 had even kicked off, with the highly rated Switzerland midfielder making the move from Borussia Monchengladbach for £35 million. Then came the pursuit of Jamie Vardy, arguably the shining star of Leicester City’s astonishing run to the Premier League title last term.
At this point Arsenal were going against the grain of their own derisive reputation. They were finally making big moves, getting their business done early. However, since Vardy’s decision not to swap the east Midlands for north London, signing a new four-year contract with the Foxes, things have ground to a halt for the Gunners.
Speculation has dried up, as have the signings (with the exception of Japanese forward Takuma Asano). While Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United are all revamping their squads, tailoring things to their new managers’ liking with big-name, big-money signings, the tumbleweed is blowing through Arsenal.
Instead, Wenger has been in France working as a television pundit for the European Championship. Maybe he has been plundering his contacts looking for new signings while over there, but the Gunners boss has come under fire for going quiet this summer.
Arsenal fans are so desperate for a top-tier signing that social media was sparked into a frenzy upon the sight of Wenger shaking Antoine Griezmann’s hand ahead of the Euro 2016 final. They long for another Mesut Ozil-style capture, indicating an ambition to keep up with the likes of Chelsea, City and United.
The arrival of the German playmaker from Real Madrid for a then-Premier League record fee of £42.4 million three years ago was supposed to mark Arsenal’s renewed transfer-market purpose. The addition of Alexis Sanchez the summer after was a shrewd one, but those two signings have been exceptions, not the rule, for the Gunners ever since.
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Speaking in April, Wenger prepared fans for another quiet transfer window, underlining the importance of stability in building an effective team unit.
Per Dominic Fifield of the Guardian, he explained:
If you look at the top three teams, you will see they have not changed their team a lot. We have to strengthen our squad but it’s not obvious to find the players despite the money the English clubs will have. We are already working but we have to find the players and that is not easy.
You cannot dismiss that the players are young: Alex Iwobi is 19, Mohamed Elneny is 23, Francis Coquelin 24, and they will be stronger next year but you need to keep a core of players and strengthen where we can. The team is going the right way.
Such remarks won’t fill Arsenal fans with much confidence. The fear is that with the signing of Xhaka, Wenger might have done his business for the summer. The Frenchman is a stubborn operator, and that could be underlined if the transfer window closes without another new face arriving at the Emirates Stadium.
Of course, Arsenal don’t need to overhaul their entire squad. Wenger has the makings of a title-winning team, with the Gunners finishing in second place last season. But Arsenal need the kind of quality to see them over the line. This is why Wenger must dip his hand into the transfer market.
The Telegraph’s Jason Burt reported Alexandre Lacazette has been linked with a switch to north London, with the Lyon striker among the few exceptional centre-forwards currently on the market. Arsenal should make a move for the Frenchman, either to replace Olivier Giroud as their first-choice No. 9 or to provide back-up.
Arsenal should have challenged Manchester United for the signature of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, although with Mourinho now at Old Trafford they might have been fighting something of a losing battle.
Ilkay Gundogan would have been the perfect addition to Arsenal’s lightweight midfield, but he went to Manchester City. These are the kind of players Arsenal should be targeting.
But they’re not. They never do, with the exception of Ozil. Arsenal are so weak in the transfer market they can’t even pip the likes of AS Monaco to signings, with the Ligue 1 club beating the Gunners to the capture of Djibril Sidibe earlier this month, according to L’Equipe (via ESPN FC). Leicester were able to keep hold of Vardy despite Arsenal’s interest.
Contrast that to how United and Mourinho were able to prise Henrikh Mkhitaryan out of Borussia Dortmund against the German club’s will, or their continued pursuit of Paul Pogba for a world-record fee despite Juventus’ desire to keep him, according to Sky Sports. Arsenal simply aren’t hard-nosed enough when it comes to pushing through top-tier transfers.
In short, the signing of Xhaka this summer would not be enough to see Arsenal keep pace with all those around them making bigger and better moves. Wenger needs more than just the one signing, even if it’s solely meant as a statement of ambition.
The Gunners need more than just Xhaka.
Article originally written by By Graham Ruthven,