The biggest question Arsenal fans are asking themselves this offseason – Why isn’t Arsene Wenger spending all of that £70 million (or at least some of it) in order to improve the team and put it once again at or near the top of the Premier League, while making it more competitive for the Champions League?
Fans, managers and owners see things differently. The issue with Wenger and the Arsenal directorial branch is that he’s very much in sync with building a brand and making a profit, placing those goals, along with making the Champions League each season, at the top of his list. Championship? Actually making the UCL semifinal or more? That’s a bonus he dares not chase after too obsessively.
The news of the £70 million being made available to spend, not to mention the alleged £180 million in cash reserves (more than the rest of the Premier League combined) made Arsenal fans giddy for the first time in a very long while.
Yet the names of Gonzalo Higuain, Bernard, Stevan Jovetic, Luis Suarez and others have just been mentioned, and slightly pursued. It seems that in all of these cases, Arsenal being an unwilling participant in the money-game that rules the European transfer market keeps them at a level that might be good enough to finish fourth for yet another season, but simply doesn’t advance the club anywhere, and makes it harder and harder for a squad that keeps depreciating in value and quality each season to repeat the “achievements” of the previous season.
Arsenal have a problem with the idea of overspending on a player. The winner’s curse means that the team winning the auction for a player probably overpaid for him. But in order to sign the best players, you have to be willing to take that hit, and Arsenal, in principle refuse. The problem now is that it seems the board might be willing to become a little more flexible, but Wenger keeps wanting to win and succeed in his way, which is somewhat contradictory to the way the sport is heading over the last few seasons.
The signings of last season are a perfect example for Arsenal looking too hard for perfectly valued players, which usually are players not too many teams are after. Santi Cazorla was signed for £16.7 million, which most would agree is below the market value. Olivier Giroud had a rather comfortable release clause. Lukas Podolski was just relegated with Koln, making his price take a nosedive, and really wanted to play in the Premier League.
But these aren’t players that make some huge upgrade to a team. These are pieces you put around a big star, which Arsenal don’t have at the moment. The problem seems to be that everytime they do manage to cultivate one, he decided to leave, knowing that chances of winning titles are greater elsewhere.
The transfer fee limitations (imposed by them, not by their financial situation) and refusing to offer excessive wages might be good for balancing the books, but fans want to see teams of Arsenal’s caliber competing for titles. As long as this contradiction in expectations drags on, Arsene Wenger will remain a failure (At least over the last few seasons) in the eyes of most.