Arsene tried to remake Arsenal, is it still possible?

Last summer, Arsene tried to completely rebuild Arsenal.  This January, he is up to something again.  Arsene has been up to something for quite a while now and with the squad injuries as they are, his hand is being forced.  The big problem, however, is who to get?  Unlike the Arshavin pickup last winter, I’m not sure who is out there for him to pick up this time.  This is what scares me.

Lets take one step back first.

For all the talk about Arsene not buying anyone, the fact is, he does pursue players.  And, he pursues the players we need.  He just draws the line at some point.  This past summer we know he went after Melo, Chamakh and Sakho.  If he’d signed all three, the team would be very different right now.   Throw in the Verminator and that would have been a massive overhaul to the team (we would have lost Eboue and/or Senderos as well).   Rumors are, well rumors, but assuming these numbers are roughly correct, they make sense: £5m for Melo (and swapping Eboue and Senderos) or about 18m euro plus Eboue; 13m euro for Sakho; and, about £9m for Chamakh.  Total between roughly £24-29m.  Throw in Verminator’s £10m and that takes you to £34-39m.  Most of the money received from the Toure and Ade sale would have provided the funds.  But add his transfer kitty and everything is good.  Had this strategy worked out, the team would have been radically changed, for the better, at a price that other managers would have drooled over.

But asking Arsene to go above these numbers is ridiculous for two reasons.  One, the players weren’t worth that much more.  Those were good prices for those players.  It reflected the right balance of potential, talent and their existing contracts.  Two, the Club has to spend money in other places.  For instance, we just dropped £10m in Brazil this past week.  Those plans were a long-time coming.  Some might argue that we should have redirected that money to the bigger name signings, that’s at least a critique in the realm of the discussion.  But the judgment is Arsene’s to make.  Besides, the Brazil investments go much father than just young talent.  This is Arsenal breaking into THE FOOTBALL TALENT POOL OF THE WORLD.  We had no foothold there, now we do.  So think of that £10m as a long-term investment beyond those players.

So what can we learn from this?  Basically, we know Arsene had a plan and tried to put it into place to remake the team this past summer.  He tried to bring in THREE new starters.  We might not have even gone to the 4-3-3 had Melo been brought in.  And our defense would look entirely different with the Verminator and Song on the bench (Song maybe rotating with Melo); Gallas and Sakho would start.  And Bendtner, Vela Walcott and Eduardo?  Now with Chamakh there, totally different forward setup.  Nasri and Rosicky are on the wings, with Diaby, Denilson, Ramsey and even Merida on the bench.

For whatever reason, it didn’t happen.  So Arsene took what he had and built a team around it.  Injuries, however, and a bit of a rut have tested this team and found it a bit wanting.  We have talent, but lack the right mix of gears.   So this January window, Arsene will try again.  He won’t try to remake the team in quite the same way though, because he can’t.  On the pitch, he doesn’t have enough time to integrate three players, potentially change the entire system and so forth.   And off the pitch, he can’t afford to buy overpriced mid-tier players to appease shortsighted fans that will hobble the team come summer 2010 and the insanity of the market after the world cup.

This leaves us with some constraints:  who is available, has the talent and is within the scope of economic reason?  As Arsene pointed out, who exactly can he buy?  Many of the best players are cup tied or more importantly, their current team need them because of the cup.  Chamakh is the best example of this, but other players have the same issue.  So any purchase Wenger makes must be either immediately impactful, i.e. a HUGE signing, or, must be a smaller signing that still gives him room next summer.

That’s the tricky part; Arsene doesn’t want to limit himself from getting the right players this summer because he overspends on mid-tier players this January.  That means a big purchase is likely to be, well, another youth project, Balotelli, for instance.  Young, but already playing at high level.  Steven Defour from Standard Liege is another strong prospect because he isn’t cup tied and can slot in, but is still young.  Eden Hazard is a stretch.  That’s a summer move, maybe.

What’s worse, is that those teams we can usually pick off great talent from, like Bordeaux or Fiorentina, are actually doing well this year.  As a result, we are really screwed.  Matuidi is the poor man’s Defour, so he’s possible.  But is he the long-term solution Arsene wants?  He can play Fab’s partner of sorts, in the style of Lass or Makele, not Song, but is he the right fit for the long-term?

The point is, there’s asking for what you want and recognizing reality.  Arsene made a significant effort to remake the team while staying financially viable.  He doesn’t want to be like this: Cough cough, for those that want us to spend money like mad and increase our debt.

But the question remains, who exactly CAN we buy?

– the student


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