Sunday, December 10, 2023

On Wenger’s quotes about spending and transfers

Good morning. We can start with some interesting quotes and headlines from, and to do with, Arsene Wenger this morning. They popped up last night, and I think it’s safe to say that the sub-editors know where the fears of Arsenal fans lie.

The Mirror lead with: Arsene Wenger risks Arsenal fans’ wrath by hinting there will be NO big summer investment.

The Guardian said: Arsene Wenger says Arsenal’s summer transfer activity will be limited.

Worrying, very worrying. So I read his quotes looking for the word ‘limited’, and didn’t find that word at all. Nor did I see him say there would be ‘no big investment’. In typical Arsene Wenger style, he talked up the qualities of young players who might be better next year, which may be a frustration to some, but in reality a pretty uncontroversial point of view.

Players develop and can improve over time, not always the way you want, but allowing them to reach their potential is part of the job. However, he says quite explicitly, “We have to strengthen our squad …”

Now, that part is followed up by a bit where he says, “… 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.”

Again, you don’t need to be a seasoned Wenger watcher to know that his natural position when it comes to transfers is to suggest they’re difficult. This is nothing new, even if that difficulty is compounded by his own foibles in the market. He continues talking about some of the young players he has designs for next season:

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.

Again, not terribly controversial. Everyone likes Iwobi, right? Elneny has been a bright spark since his arrival. Coquelin is a popular player. He’s not saying, ‘Arteta and Flamini have the experience we need?’, or ‘If Wilshere can stay fit we have a perfect midfield’. There is going to be some natural attrition from the squad as we know. Players whose contracts are expiring will leave. Their places must be filled, end of story.

As I wrote the other day, there are other players who depart, and at the very core of it all there’s a need to improve a team that has failed this season. By what was expected from them, and in the context of this season, there’s no other way to dress that up. It’s been a failure and that has to be addressed. The transfer market is not the panacea for all our problems, but it can go a long way to moving us in the right direction.

He says in the piece, “The team is going the right way,” and I think that’s the thing I take issue with most. It’s not going in any direction really. We’re static. There’s potential in some areas, but fundamental stasis in others that are preventing success.

There is an inarguable need to address issues and weaknesses in the squad. I don’t believe we have those ‘internal solutions’ he’s so fond of, so the only way to do that is with the chequebook. Given the resources we have available to us, the cash in the bank, and the financial firepower at our disposal, there is absolutely no excuse not go and do what we need to do.

The only way it won’t happen if is the manager’s infamous dilly-dallying prevents it. We need him be Summer of 2014 Arsene Wenger. Invigorated from winning the FA Cup, he went to the World Cup and signed four players before mid-July, splashing out around £65m in the process on Alexis, Chambers, Debuchy and Ospina. Adding Danny Welbeck on deadline day took the outlay to around £81m and there was a further £12m spent on Gabriel in the winter.

We cannot have a situation where Summer of 2015 Arsene Wenger is allowed to amble through the off-season, unwilling to make tough decisions or take any risks. Of course the main responsibility is with him, we know he has the power and control over all football decisions, but if there isn’t some pressure from above to him to improve what we have, then those people aren’t doing their jobs either.

So, in terms of these latest quotes, I can understand a certain wariness because it’s easy to assume the worst when it comes to him spending money, but I don’t think the headlines quite tally up with what he’s actually said.

Oh, there’s another quote that I found interesting. Talking about the influx of TV, he said:

It’s going to affect the price of the players, make no mistake. Definitely the directors or the chairman of the board of the clubs in Europe, they have one phone for England and the other phone for the rest of the world and they are all going for the English one. Last year it was like that and now it’s going to be even more.

Only the ‘he’ in question this time is West Ham manager Slaven Bilic. It’s self-evident that if a club is selling to a very rich club, they ask for more money. All the Premier League clubs are like lottery winners now, not really caring what they pay for anything. ‘Mock Tudor Mansion, bargain at just £2m? Lovely, I’ve still got £20m in the bank, don’t care!’

Why wouldn’t clubs in Europe, or even other clubs in the lower divisions, seek as much as possible for their players when Premier League clubs come calling? They’d be very stupid not to. And I have to say, it causes me some worry when it comes to Arsenal.

Wenger is keen on value – not something he’s alone in, by the way – but the changes in the market in recent years have been so vast I think he’s found it hard to readjust. He didn’t sign Morgan Schneiderlin because he felt the price was too high, and maybe he’s right, maybe he’s not a £27m player, but the market dictates the price, not a perceived value you have in your head.

Adam Lallana cost just a bit under £30m. Perhaps it’s ridiculous, or perhaps that’s just what you have to pay. The £400,000 Mahrez style deal is an outlier, and also the kind of gamble people are probably not prepared to put up with when they want established talent. So, it’s a concern that when we go looking for players this summer the prices are going to be higher than ever, and we’re not always the best at negotiating. We’re also rarely prepared to pay more than we think a player is worth, but to get what we need, we might need to be a little more flexible.

Anyway, that’s all for the summer, we have it all to look forward to, and what a magical time that’s going to be. Think about the fun the headline writers are going to have then.

Right, we’ll preview the Crystal Palace game in the morning. For now a reminder about this week’s Arsecast in which I talk stats, data, expected goals, transfers, the manager, slime, Shrinkie Dinkies, breakfast cereals and lots more with @mixedknuts and @eastlower.

Download or stream from the site here, get it via Acast, or subscribe on iTunes (and if you want to leave a rating or a review that’s very welcome and it really helps).

Right, that’s that for this morning, beyond pointing you in the direction of the Arsenal Gent’s Weekly Review in which he is reunited with a lost love.

Till tomorrow.

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