So, Arsene Wenger held his first press conference yesterday, and he was asked about many of the things I wrote about yesterday.
Alexis Sanchez was high on the agenda, and while there was nothing too fresh about his future, the news that he’s going to miss one or two weeks with an abdominal strain made many people suspicious. They thought it was either Alexis acting up so as not to jeopardise a move or the club making sure he wasn’t properly injured so they could sell him.
For me, I take it at face value, as prosaic as some might find that, and that’s backed up by speaking to some people about it since the press conference. First up the possibility of a player who goes to training then goes home to do extra training before taking a shower in which he probably lifts weights picking up an injury is not that surprising. He’s barely back a week, and it’s hardly a stretch to think he’s picked up a minor strain along the way.
Secondly, Arsene Wenger knows how important Sanchez is. Even if Friday night was too soon for him to start, if he could have him on the bench he would, and he’d unquestionably take him to play Stoke next weekend. He cannot have been any more clear about his intention to keep him, while I understand people’s ability to see this as something more than it is, it’s a genuine injury problem.
While most of the anger was directed at the manager, I also noted some people getting angry at Sanchez himself, and while his story this summer has been a bit of a saga, I don’t really see why he should get that kind of stick. Throughout he’s been respectful of Arsenal, talking about how it’s up to the club to decide (which they have), and that’s that. He hasn’t acted up, he hasn’t agitated, he hasn’t released any risible statements, he hasn’t – at least in a way that’s been made public – met with other clubs, threatened to go on strike or any of the other behaviours we’ve seen from want-away players in the past.
Ok, there was the late arrival back from Chile, but in the grand scheme of things that’s not a big issue, so I don’t really get why people are so angry with him. The situation overall? Sure, but as footballers go he has been pretty much on the level this summer. I guess some people just have to be angry about something.
The other stand-out issue from the press conference for me was about how difficult we’re finding it to move players on. We all know the names, we all know the squad is too big, and that it’s heavy with players who are surplus to requirements, and who we need to shift and get off the wage bill. It doesn’t seem like we’re having that much success though, and when asked if anyone was close to leaving, Arsene Wenger said:
No. Even yesterday I had a manager’s meeting talking with the other managers in the other clubs. It looks like there’s many, many players, and at the moment it looks like there’s congestion everywhere.
Obviously we are/were a top four club paying Champions League wages to these players, and that complicates things. What I would say, however, is that many of the guys we’re willing to let go are on deals that were signed years ago. Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson, for example, signed their contracts in 2012, as did Jack Wilshere, while Mathieu Debuchy was a 2014 signing.
Since then clubs have become richer through TV money, and have the ability to pay more for players, so I’m not convinced that the wage gap between the top clubs and those below is as great as it was, and far from the main reason these players aren’t moving. Premier League squads are bigger and deeper than ever, and we’re hardly the only club with players we don’t want, so it will require many to move some of them on before they can bring others in.
I think the issue that doesn’t get mentioned much is how the money in the Premier League has created a kind of mini-bubble, which makes it more difficult for clubs to sell anywhere else but the Premier League without taking huge financial hits. The players are now paid so well in England that unless they’re willing to take a significant pay cut to play elsewhere, they’re content to stick around and pick up their salaries. As we keep saying – it’s a job – and for many maximising their earning potential is as important as playing football.
I can’t say if there are any of the Arsenal men on the way out who are of that mindset, but there’s a distinct lack of movement in general. I think that this is a window which will see a lot happen in the final few weeks. First up, clubs have to make decisions about what they want to do, and as things come to a head will settle for things they might not have earlier in the window.
As well as that, certain players who might have fancied a move here or there but didn’t see it materialise will also cut their cloth accordingly in order to play. But those moves will be driven by the market itself, much more than the clubs or the agents who I’m sure would be ready and willing to do business if they could.
That’s without even mentioning the transfer fees themselves which, as we can see, are not in line with what happens throughout the rest of Europe. Yes, at the very, very top level we see big players going for big money to big clubs, but when you’re trying to sell players of a lesser standard it becomes very difficult to recoup much value.
See Lucas Perez, for example. We paid £17m, Deportivo want him badly but can’t come anywhere near that, and we have a kind of stalemate. That said, I do think we’ll be able to shift a good few of these players, but it’s likely to happen a bit later in the window.
For some extra reading, our new tactics columnist takes a look at the season, and I’ll be back a bit later today with the traditional Arseblog season preview. As well as that, Tim Stillman will be here with his column, so plenty of #content for you to get your teeth into today.
That’s that for this morning, I’m back tomorrow, with the first Arsecast of the new season ahead of the first game tomorrow night.