Friday, April 03, 2020
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For years the idea of Arsenal without Arsene Wenger seemed unimaginable.


Appointed in 1996 he completely changed the club’s regime, went on to create a team capable of playing arguably the best football the Premiership has ever seen, and then achieved the magnificent feat of going the whole of the 2003-04 season undefeated. Furthermore he also shared, and incredibly still shares, the first four letters of his name with the club, something which for many served as confirmation of just how much the two were meant for one another.


Yet Arsenal in their current state not only show little of the flair that Wenger has so thrillingly instilled in his previous sides, but frankly seem to lack an Arse of any description. This is a side stuck between a rock and a hard place, playing neither its trademark attractive football, nor effective route-one football.


Wenger’s transfer policy arguably has a part to play in this demise of a once great team. While he has often been heralded for his ability to bring in quality on the cheap, his magic touch now seems to have deserted him.


In the past he was criticised for selling the likes of Overmars and Petit, despite turning a huge profit on them (£19.5 and £3.5m respectively). But it was sales like this that highlighted his astuteness in the transfer market and helped make him a permanent fixture at Arsenal.


Not only did he sell Overmars and Petit after they had passed their peaks, with both going on to be huge flops at Barcelona, yet he was able to replace them with younger and better players for a fraction of the price – in this case Pires and Edu for £6m each.


But recent sales have not gone so well, with Vieira moving for only £13.5m before he’d passed his sell-by-date, and youngsters like Flamini worming their ways out of the Emirates. Furthermore, he made a mistake in holding on to Henry for one season too many, and as a result probably lost between five and 10 million in transfer fees.


With Arsenal currently needing to bring in two or three players if they are to even attempt to salvage a season where a finish outside the top four looks distinctly possibly, Wenger’s transfer record must make Arsenal fans distinctly nervous about the future.


However loath Gooners may be to admit it, Wenger’s biggest blunders have almost invariably come when he has thrown the big money around. He got only 16 goals and 69 games for the £10.5 he spent on José Antonio Reyes, while the £8m he spent on Francis Jeffers reaped only four goals in 22 games. Meanwhile his failed attempts to sign Júlio Baptista saved him from another big money blunder, as the beast’s loan spell resulted in only three goals in 24 games.


So what should we make of the rumours that Wenger is preparing to spunk £20m on Zenit Saint Petersburg’s Andrei Arshavin? It seems an odd move for Wenger to make, with his perennial interest in somewhat unproven youth players.


Arshavin is already 27 and thus the club would probably be unable to recoup much on him in future transfer fees. Furthermore the transition from the Russian league to the Premiership is hardly guaranteed to be smooth, as Roman Pavlyuchenko has shown, failing to reproduce the form that saw him score 77 in 147 games for Spartak Moscow.


While Arshavin could provide the Ars, if not the Arse, that may tickle the fancy of Arsenal fans and headline writers everywhere, he could also prove to be the man who either saves or stifles Wenger’s stint at the Arsenal helm.


If he hits the form that saw him light up Euro 2008 and parts of Zenit’s run to UEFA cup glory, he and Wenger will undoubtedly be hailed as geniuses. Yet if he stutters and proves inconsistent, as he has been for Zenit since Euro 2008, he could force open the door for Wenger’s departure.

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