Does Arsène Wenger need to spend big this summer?


I‘m very certain that the Arsenal doesn’t really have world class players in their ranks, at least not now. You know, the ones who could change the outlook of the team in a flash. The one like Bacary Sagna did against Chelshite. Or can anyone else score such a goal like the one Nicklas Bendtner did against Tottenham? The unexpected nature of the goal delighted me no end; but I know that 1-0 up against the Chelscunts are never enough, especially when playing in their own hood.

I’m just thinking aloud – which players would the Arsenal need to make a Championship-winning team? The Arsenal has been itching for the Premiership title since 2004, and to be honest and with due respect to the current team, I can’t see it happening even for the next 2 years. I’m sure that the likes of this season’s revelations like Mathieu Flamini and Cesc Fabregas could complement and strengthen any team in the world but again, they aren’t yet world-class simply because they haven’t won anything with the teams they have represented for. You don’t call flashes of brilliance or some nice touches leading to a handful of goals as world-class. Fabregas scoring against AC Milan was great but his domestic form has stuttered. There are many other players who could have done a little bit more for the team, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

I’m the traditionalist to say that we need to spend in order to win something. Likewise, as students, we can’t just rely on home-brewed revision notes to boost our chances of examination success (I was a straight-As student before, albeit during the lower echelons of education) and we need to spend some money investing in good tuition materials or even that authoritative text book or whatever you can think of in order to fashion some form of achievement. There is the inherent need to spend wisely but we don’t always give up our hard-earned cash for paltry scraps, don’t we.

I’m somewhat surprised that Arsene Wenger spent rather generously during his earlier days, what with him not spending the massive transfer kitty supposedly at his disposal for the purchases of new players: –

1996

1. Patrick Vieira – £3.5/
4 million from AC Milan (alongside Remi Garde who arrived on a free(?) transfer)

1997

1. Nicolas Anelka – £500,000 from Paris Saint-Germain
2. Marc Overmars – £7 million from AFC Ajax
3. Emmanuel Petit – £2.5 million from AS Monaco
4. Luis Boa Morte – £1.75 million from Sporting Club Portugal
5. Gilles Grimandi – £1.5 million from AS Monaco
6. Matthew Upson – £1.2 million from Luton Town FC
7. Alex Manninger – £500,000 from Casino Graz
8. Alberto Mendez-Rodriguez – £200,000 from 1._SC Feucht

Total = £15.15 million

1998

1. Nelson Vivas – £ (
undisclosed) from Boca Juniors (loan from Associazione Calcio Lugano)
2. David Grondin – £500,000 from AS Saint-É
tienne
3. Fredrik Ljungberg – £3 million from Halmstads Bollklub
4. Kaba Diawara – £3 million from Girondins Bordeaux
5. Nwankwo Kanu – £4.5 million from Internazionale Milan

Total = £11 million + est. £2 million for Vivas = £13 million

1999

1. Thierry Henry – £10.5 million from Juventus
2. Oleg Luzhniy – £1.8 million from Dinamo Kyiv
3. Sylvinho – £4 million from SC Corinthians Paulista
4. Davor Suker – £1.3 million from Real Madrid
5. Stefan Malz – £650,000 from TSV 1860 München

Total = £18.25 million

2000

1. Robert Pirès – £6 million from Olympique Marseille
2. Lauren Bisan – £7.2 million from RCD Mallorca
3.
Guy Demel – free from Nîmes Olympique (but transferred to HSV in mysterious circumstances)
4. Sylvain Wiltord –
£13 million from Girondins Bordeaux
5. Edu – £6 million from SC Corinthians Paulista
6. Igors Stepanovs – £1 million from Skonto Riga
7. Tomas Denilevicius – (undisclosed) from Lausanne Sport

Total = £29.2 million with est. £500,000 for Denilevicius = £30+ million

*Research for years 1996 to 2000 with due credit to ArseWeb.

2001

1. Giovanni van Bronckhorst – £8.5 million from Rangers FC (Glasgow)
2. Sol Campbell –
£free!
3. Francis Jeffers –
£8 million from Everton
4. Richard Wright –
£6 million from Ipswich Town FC
5. Junichi Inamoto –
£3.5 million from Gamba Osaka

Total =  £26 million

2002

1. Gilberto Silva –
£4.5 million from Atletico Mineiro

2. Pascal Cygan – £2.1 million from Lille OSC
3. Kolo Toure –
£150,000 from ASEC Mimosas

Total = £6.75 million.
Notes* Arsenal
revealed losses in the 2002/2003 season. Robert Pires also expresses frustration at the lack of high-profile signings at the Arsenal. This is one of the first of many grouses surrounding Wenger’s cautious transfer policy. World Class players can even complain about throwing the title away – do we need to say that youngsters would get disheartened about the current Arsenal team literally ruining 5 point leads at the top of the table to end up 3rd at the moment?!

2003/2004 season

1. Jose Antonio Reyes – (initial £10.5 million) up to £17.5 million from Sevilla FC
2. Cesc Fabregas –
£
free! from FC Barcelona
3. Phillipe Senderos –
£2.5 million from Servette FC
4. Ga
ë
l Clichy –
£250,000 from AS Cannes
5. Jens Lehmann –
£1.5 million from Borussia Dortmund


Total =
£21.75 million if Reyes’ additional clauses invoked; £14.75 million w/o

Big-name signings in the current squad:

2004/2005

1. Robin van Persie – £3.5 million from Feyenoord Rotterdam
2. Mathieu Flamini – free from Olympique Marseille
3. Manuel Almunia – 
£undisclosed (est. £250,000 to
£500,000) from Celta Vigo
4. Emmanuel Ebou
é
£1.5 million from KSK Beveren

est: £5.5 million

2005/2006

1. Aliaksandr Hleb – €15,000,000 (about £11.75 million) from VfB Stuttgart
2. Emmanuel Adebayor –
£3 million from AS Monaco
3. Theo Walcott –
£5 million up to
£12 million based on appearances from Southampton FC
4. Abou Diaby –
£2 million from AJ Auxerre

est: £21.75 million

2006/2007

1. Denilson Pereira Neves – £3.4 million from São Paulo Futebol Clube
2. Tomáš Rosický – undisclosed but could be £6.8 million from Borussia Dortmund
3. William Gallas – part-exchange for Cashley Cole +
£5 million (!) from Chelscunts
4. Alexandre Song –
£1 million from SC Bastia

est: £11.2 million

2007/2008

1. Bacary Sagna – £6.1 million from AJ Auxerre
2. Eduardo da Silva –
£8.5 million from Dinamo Zagreb
3.
Łukasz Fabiański – undisclosed from Legia Warszawa
4. Lassana Diarra – undisclsed fee from Chelscunts

est: £14.6 million

All told, I’ll stop here as the list has enough material for me to formulate what I’ve wanted to say.

I think that there are several reasons as to why our fans’ frantic cry to Arsene Wenger to sign big-name players have mostly gone unheeded in recent years. The first concerns big-name sales as well.

In 1999, Nicolas Anelka was sold to Real Madrid for a whopping £22 million as compared to the acceptable £500,000 in transfer fees Arsenal paid back in the late 1990s. In 2000, the transfer of Marc Overmars to FC Barcelona bagged the Arsenal another £25 million.

Of course, the transfer fees received was also put to good use by the purchase of Thierry Henry and more but my point is that you need to sell in order to buy as what Wenger has been showing us. There are other factors such as the departing player’s age, long-term plans and injury concerns but these may all add up when Wenger chooses to sell.

There was this 2000/2001 season where the Arsenal spent close to £30 million following the sale of Overmars. This would mean that Arsene was financing the bulk of purchases primarily from the sale if the figures are leading us to believe. The trend, however, is quite clear now.

Even the 2005/2006 cash splash to the tune of £21 million was partly offset by the sale of influential Patrick Vieira to Juventus for £13.7 million. The sale of the mercurial Thierry Henry to FC Barcelona netted £16 million of which a portion of it sanctioned the move for Eduardo da Silva. We have to remember that Bacary Sagna didn’t come to the Arsenal for a cheap price either. Ultimately, for Arsene Wenger, there would be no purchases unless he sells.

Flops of the Arsenal under Arsene


If there was any further proof that Wenger refuses to spend big money on any player, it’d have to be the lesson learnt from the Jose Antonio Reyes saga. Reyes was one promising young player back in 2004 and when the Arsenal chose to sign him, I was really in 7th heaven as I thought that with the seal of approval from Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal’s push for titles would be a lot easier.

I can’t say that Reyes was a flop. He wasn’t a player to blank the daylight out of the Premiership either or set its pitches on fire but his hefty price tag slapped on him by Sevilla FC may have infuriated Wenger. It was to be one of his less-inspired transfer moves. Some you win, some you lose.

Reyes was eventually sold off to Atletico Madrid for a watered down deal worth
£8.1 million. That, in essence, was a rather sound deal considering the fact that Reyes’ mentality was often suspect and his persistent homesickness even with daddy, mummy and sweetheart staying with him in England was very disheartening to everyone who loves the Arsenal. We do know that Wenger has invested a lot of material sacrifices to land the fading Spanish starlet but Reyes didn’t know that.

What about the other flops so uncharacteristic of Wenger?

Francis Jeffers costed a massive £8 million whereas overrated goalkeeper Richard Wright was a nightmare £6 million. It doesn’t need reminding that the ‘fox in the box’ tag touted by Wenger didn’t quite live up to the billing. Giovanni van Bronckhorst, billed to partner Patrick Vieira in midfield after Emmanuel Petit left the club was also quite a letdown. Whether he wasn’t given enough time is quite subjective but I’ve never liked the donkey anyway. He thinks (including those of the Oranje bosses who chose him) that he plays well at leftback but I still rate Arthur Numan as the best leftback the Oranje has had in years.

The much-vaunted Lassana Diarra was also a flop primarily because of his disrespect to teammates and to the manager by wanting to leave even before the year is out. This is a season of discontent for the Arsenal, but I didn’t see the first team complaining much as they are still 3rd in the league anyway.

 So, would Wenger sign big-name players?

If you’d have another closer look at the transfer tables, you can see that established stars (Pires, Wiltord, etc.) are usually only good (at least in Wenger’s eyes) for 4 years tops. The best part is – age does have a major part to play in this so that Wenger’s choice of purchases could be narrowed down to the early 20s to the mid 20s band. The only exception to this was the signing of ace striker Davor Šuker who at 31 years of age when he joined wasn’t, predictably, at his best. Davor is also Wenger’s first Croatian signing before Eduardo da Silva who is Brazilian in origin. The infamous Wenger policy of offering senior players (30+) a yearly deal also put many veterans off the Arsenal radar.

Might we say that there aren’t really that many big-name players these days either. Every country used to have their own trademark star player – Belgium had Luc Nilis; Holland had Dennis Bergkamp or Patrick Kluivert for picking; Germany had some ageing, defensive-minded veterans who could easily put in 2 years of centreback slots; Denmark had Jon Dahl Tomasson and the Laudrup brothers; Austria had Toni Polster and Ivica Vastic; Romania had Gheorghe Hagi and Adrian Ilie; Croatia had Suker, Prosinecki, Robert Jarni, Goran Vlaovic; Italy used to have Roberto Baggio and Co; Spain had Fernando Hierro and Raul Gonzalez; Brazil had Ronaldo and Co; Argentina had Gabriel Batistuta, Claudio Lopez and Ariel Ortega; Mexico had Luis Hernandez and more. You’ll get the impression that the transfer market back then wasn’t that predictable as it is now. Yes, I’m suggesting that the level of football has sunken low now, with each passing generation.

I realize that this may be disputed but I do think that the largest talents in the world these days may well be the Croatian Luka Modric; Germany’s Lukas Podolski; France’s Franck Ribery, Hatem Ben Arfa and Karim Benzema; Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo; England’s Man Ure troll who got sent off by his backstabbing Portuguese teammate at the World Cup 2006; Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and the ugly Carlos Tevez as well as Brazil’s Pato and Kaka.

Wenger also looks at the possibility of signing cheap – Fredrik Ljungberg; Gilberto Silva and Robin van Persie signed for the Arsenal with transfer fees of less than 5 million. Ljungberg quickly became a hit with the Gooners and Gilberto Silva, while much known to football neutrals for being invisible for the good reasons and very glaring for the bad ones are accepted as established squad players. Robin had it harder, with Wenger opting to groom Reyes for the 2005/2006 season ahead of the talented Dutchman and the former had voiced his displeasure of being sidelined.

Until the 2002/2003 season when the Arsenal revealed financial woes, Arsene has been happily joining the transfer window fray. I believe that any transfer activity after that news would have signalled Arsene’s insistence on prudent spending.

We need to realise that Sol Campbell didn’t come cheap. There may be that irksome reaction by Tottenham that their formerly prized defender opted to leave on the free transfer but his commanding wages rose as quickly as his stock and eventually peaked at 100,000 pounds a week.There’s also that formality concerning the signing-on fees which would be somewhere near the lower millions but there you have it. You can bet that Wenger was suitably displeased that Campbell left the Arsenal under acrimonious circumstances with reports of the once-feared centreback suggesting poor mentality.

Of all Wenger’s expensive signings, I’m most surprised at Sylvain Wiltord’s transfer fee of 13 million.

The former Girondins Bordeaux striker did prove his price tag not long after but surely that was a crazy price to ask, even if it was coming from a French club. Wiltord was influential in the ‘Invincibles’ season, though and it was quite appropriate that Wenger sold him off to Olympique Lyonnais to capitalise on his dipping value in the transfer market.

It’s quite sound to reason out that therefore, if a good player comes along, Wenger would sign him. We fans could clamour for new talent and big-name signings to change the fortunes of the club, but is that a viable option?

No one single player impresses me these days either. Cristiano Ronaldo comes close but he’s a Man Ure whore. Kaka of AC Milan is also another good player but he doesn’t look likely to leave Milan. You can talk all about Luka Modric and his talents persuading the likes of Chelscunts and Ajax Amsterdam parting with their millions but I’d still think of him as fairly above average.

Like Aliaksandr Hleb for instance , he came with lots of promise but I still wonder about his true strengths and what he could offer to the team. In that, I still think that he’s just above average at the most.

Tomas Rosicky, in comparison is a better player than Hleb. His flair and creativity in creating chances was apparent and when he plays, the team has a good left midfield attacking option if Eboue wasn’t good on the right. The plus point is that the Czech international is also never shy about scoring goals unlike Hleb who gets all jittery and unsure in front of goal. I do think that Rosicky is one of the more astute Wenger purchases of late. Rosicky had bloody damn get well soon.

I know, Wenger has toned down his bonanza buys of late, with promising talent quickly ending up at other clubs than the Arsenal. The main thing is – I think that if Wenger can sell, then he’d buy. The sale would usually be that of an established player and would command a substantial transfer fee enough to cover most of the future purchase.

It doesn’t need recalling that the current Arsenal team is threadbare with not enough players to cover every position like Liverpool or Chelscunts. The main thing is – who’s Wenger going to sell in order to get the money to ‘soften’ the financial blow and the wage packet of an incoming player? Flamini doesn’t look anywhere close to signing that deal offered to him, reputedly £50,000 a week which Cashley Cunt would let out a large wet fart at. This means a very real possibility that Flamini may leave. Would Aliaksandr Hleb be sold too? The ice cream incident may have gotten Wenger all worked up but is he really that stubborn that Hleb should be here for next year’s campaign?

If we’re lucky to see a major shakeup of the squad, then you can bet that the Arsenal would be filled with big-name talent again. If not, you can expect to see the likes of Carlos Vela or Johan Djourou making their presence felt next season whilst waiting for the underperforming first team players to leave. Notice I didn’t use the word ‘star players’ because I think that the current team doesn’t have any. That’s a problem Wenger has to solve, following the wage bill issue in 2003.

We hear stories about Wenger now pursuing Olympique Lyonnais’ Hatem Ben Arfa alongside Alex Arsehole Ferguson who wanted to pay £40 million for both Ben Arfa and Karim Benzema from the same club. I’d say that he’s pretty good talent but I do hope that Emmanuel Eboue and Aliaksandr Hleb goes to make way for him.


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