Monday, January 17, 2022

Arsenal react but do we have problems behind the scenes?

Arsenal have had all summer to buy players. Why they haven’t done so until now is very much an area of conjecture. Have we been unwilling to do so or simply unable to get our business done?

For all our frustrations, it’s hard to imagine that we’ve remained as static as we have through choice. If the manager and the club accept we need new players just 3 days before the window closes I think it would be reasonable to assume they were aware of this throughout the summer. The defeat to Manchester United so close to the deadline may have sparked a bit of urgency, but I very much doubt it was a case of ‘Oh, I thought our squad was better than that, better buy some players so!’

So what has been the problem? The money has been available since the get-go. Our transfer fund, pre-Nasri and Cesc, was around £35m which was to be boosted by sales of ‘fringe’ players. How many of these players have we actually sold? Vela, on loan. Denilson, on loan (despite the fact I’m pretty sure there were concrete bids from Spain). Almunia, gone nowhere. Clichy, we got some money for. What of Nicklas Bendtner, for example? Back in July Arsene confirmed he was being left out of things because he was in talks with other clubs, and the player’s father and agent confirmed there had been lots of bids.

So what’s holding things up? Are we to take it that not one of the clubs who have been given permission to talk to him have managed to find a financial package attractive enough for him to accept? He made it very clear he wanted to leave the club. He might well be on higher wages here than he’d get elsewhere but that doesn’t mean a new club has to give him exactly the same. You have to ask have Arsenal carried out their side of things properly? I can’t believe that there wasn’t one offer acceptable to Bendtner, especially given his desire to leave.

On Sunday, Amy Lawrence wrote in the Observer about summer and the business that’s been done/hasn’t been done. It’s worth another read in the light of Arsene’s comments after the United defeat. Speaking about transfers, he said:

I am not the only one to work on the case, we have 20 people who are working on that. If we do not do it, it is because we don’t find them.

Quite telling. I’ve struggled with Arsene’s inaction over the course of the summer. I’ve found it frustrating, maddening at times, but the idea that a manager as experienced as he is and as intelligent as he is has cast an eye over this squad and deemed it acceptable is difficult to make sense of. Yes, we know he likes young players, he enjoys giving them a chance, but in your heart of hearts do you really think he went to Old Trafford with that group of players thinking they were good enough?

Now, I’m not excusing Arsene by any means, and last night he got the full backing of the owner and the board who let it be known that:

The club is very much behind Arsène Wenger from Stan Kroenke to the board, downwards and sideways. There is absolutely no suggestion of any conversations about his future. We are right behind the manager who has led us to such great success for 15 years.

However, is something amiss with our scouting department? Arsene more or less said so above – if we’re not buying players it’s because we’re not finding them. And who is supposed to find them? The scouting department. Also, and more pertinently, are the people tasked with doing the deals when we have them on the table up to the job? From everything we’ve seen so far this summer it appears they’re not.

Ignoring the disasters that were Nasri and Fabregas, we have to question again why Dick Law spent so long in Costa Rica trying to sign a player who won’t play for us until next season. And remember, this deal was on, then very much off, before being on again. Joel Campbell, a 20 year old with absolutely no reputation or standing in the game, simply failed to turn up to a meeting with Law. Poor form from Campbell, no doubt about it, but what does that tell you about the man we have in charge of doing massively important deals and the regard that others hold him in? If a ‘nobody’ like Campbell acts like that …

Another example, last Monday, Dick Law traveled to Bolton to negotiate the purchase of Gary Cahill. Obviously there had been some contact between the clubs beforehand, they were open to selling the player, yet Law returned to London, tail between his legs, with no deal done. A few days later, Bolton, unwisely and rather unclassily, I’ll admit, went public with the details of our bid. Scoffing at our attempts to sign him, using Twitter to mock Arsenal Football Club.

It doesn’t reflect well on Bolton, by any means, but nor does it reflect well on us. The fee on offer was a guaranteed £6m which would rise to £10m based on appearances etc. Although the Nasri deal was a bit special you can see how Bolton might be aggrieved that a club, about to receive £25m for a player in the final year of his contract, would try and lowball another club for a player in the same position. Cahill was one of Bolton’s best players, no wonder they felt cheesed off.

However, you also have to wonder if there’s more to it than that. Clubs receive and reject bids for players all the time. Very rarely do they go public like Bolton did. Was it something about the way that Dick Law operated that annoyed them and caused them to lose their reason days later when, in reality, they really ought to have calmed down? Maybe the problems go beyond the overly-simplistic, but widespread, belief that Arsene simply doesn’t want to buy players.

I think it’s obvious that Arsene has the support of the board but it looks to me as if some of the people behind the scenes are have made this summer more difficult than it should have been. Maybe that’s an area the club need to look at once the dust settles.

All the same, it does look as if we’ve got our arses in gear a bit. We know the South Korean Park Chu-Young is a done deal, Arsene admitted as much after the United defeat, and last night reports emerged from Turkey that we’d had a £6.2m offer accepted for Fenerbache’s Brazilian international left back Andre Santos. I don’t know a great deal about him but I do know we need a left back, especially with Traore (thankfully) on his way to QPR, and at 28 he’s got plenty of experience.

I’m told that a centre-half deal is close to completion, and someone at Chelsea has been busy as we’ve been linked with Alex, Yossi Benayoun and Florent Malouda in the last 24 hours. How much truth there is in those stories I just don’t know, but with just today and tomorrow to get our business done, I suspect we’ll be hearing plenty more names before the transfer window closes.

It might well be late, but it definitely is better late than never. The next 24-48 hours are going to be fun.

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