Arsene Wenger’s frugality in the transfer market may not be such a bad thing for Arsenal and he should be applauded for his sheer stubbornness.
There is a saying that life is all about give and take – a willingness to accept suggestions from those around you and surrender some of your own ideals. That is of course unless you are Arsène Wenger.
The Frenchman is certainly famed for his bull-headed approach. However, in defence of Wenger is this stubbornness such a bad thing? Are his critics too severe in their assessment of his tenure?
Pushing the success with the ‘Invincibles’ to one side, within the last decade or so his unshakable attitude has masterminded three FA Cup victories, a Champions League final and sustained attendance alongside Europe’s elite.
Given two triumphs were as recent as 2014 and 2015 there is even an argument for suggesting Wenger is building upon that success. A second place finish during the last Premier League campaign further strengthens this argument. In fact, had it not been for Leicester City’s remarkable and unforeseen supremacy, Arsenal would have been title holders once again.
From whichever angle you view things, under the Frenchman the Arsenal trophy room is hardly a baron wasteland.
Despite these achievements Arsenal supporters will not need reminding that the last time the Gunners were crowned champions of the Premier League, MySpace was still ‘a thing’.
For some in football the lucrative English top flight is where real success is now judged. As a result, the growing discontent amongst Arsenal supporters at the recent lack of league titles seems at boiling point, with social media and Fan TV awash with anger.
The accusation often aimed in Wenger’s direction is of course that he simply does not like to spend big. It is a charge that resurfaces during every transfer window. Yet Arsenal have previously captured the likes of Mesut Ozil for the huge figure of £42.5million and now Wenger is reportedly also keen to secure the £52million double swoop of Deportivo La Coruna striker Lucas Perez and centre-back Shkodran Mustafi from Valencia.
Perhaps Wenger’s reluctance is not in the act of writing out the cheques. Instead his fastidious recruitment policy is arguably the real culprit. Speaking in early August he said:
“The price of a player is down to four ingredients; one is the talent, two is his age, three is how much you expect him to improve your team, and four is his resale value. If he ticks all four boxes then the price is not that important. You have to find the player.”
The key words are ‘you have to find the player’. Wenger’s ability to identify the right player to help underpin his unique blueprint is the skill he struggles with most. Therefore, if there is a frailty in his abilities this is surely it.
The crux of the matter is that as Wenger’s 20-year anniversary with the Gunners looms, his ego seems unwilling to let him change a philosophy that has not provided the success the growing majority of supporters truly crave.
However, by whatever yardstick you judge Arsenal’s success in recent times, should matters not change soon there is a sense the club is approaching a tipping point, and the Board could shortly be on the look for a new hand on the tiller. Arsenal fans should be careful what they wish for.
By Graeme Atkinson (@_GraemeAtkinson)