Don’t blame Le Prof; Negotiation limitations shouldn’t detract Arsene Wenger’s legacy as manager of Arsenal

At the time of
writing Arsenal have had a somewhat hit and miss few months. Much of the
deadwood that hamstringed the clubs less than stellar wage
structure has since departed and many of the younger players are showing hunger
and potential, albeit during preseason.

Aaron Ramsey is continuing to blossom in a deeper role that
became instrumental to the clubs form at the back end of the season. Other
youngsters such as Chuba Akpom, Serge Gnabry and Gedion Zelalem have also shown
that they are ready for at least some first-team action this season. All in all
the foundations are set to improve on last season.

Here in lies the main dilemma for Arsenal fans. Whilst the
foundations are there to be built upon, the clubs well documented ‘war-chest’
as of now has remained untouched. With Ivan Gazidis and Arsene Wenger publicly
stating that they can afford world class players, the fans have been left
frustrated with a lack of movement. Top targets (according to the media at
least) have all moved on, Stevan Jovetic, Gonzalo Higuain and Bernard were all
at one stage, apparently, done deals. This is by no means a strike against Wenger;
it seems the formula for selling newspapers is link clubs with money with as
many big names as they can think of. This certainly goes against Wenger’s
transfer policy and the growing power of Twitter only intensifies any transfer
dealings. All of these factors turn this as far absent ‘war-chest’ into
Pandora’s box for Wenger. Any potential transfer target that the Frenchman
wishes to bring in immediately makes the back pages as well as trending on
twitter. Not only does this alert other clubs monitoring these players, but
with Arsenal having money to use, that prices drastically rises. All in all
there is little wonder that the clubs current transfer record is dwarfed by the
price tags being thrown around; and therein lies the clubs hesitance to these
rumoured dealings.

Wenger has always been a big advocate of youth. The arrival
of French youth international Yaya Sanogo typifies this policy, and with the
manger baulking at the renegotiated prices of both Higuain and Luis Suarez it
seems that Wenger isn’t yet ready to jump in the deep end of a market very much
alien to him.  In previous years, whilst
the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain spent hundreds of
millions, Wenger has had to keep the side competitive despite the temporarily
crippling effect that the Emirates stadium had on the clubs finances. Speaking
to different fans will provide a variety of responses in regards to how well
Wenger has done during this period.

The departures of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Robin van
Persie have diminished his reputation in the eyes of some, but Wenger’s
constant faith in the team and multiple top four finishes are commendable.
During this time Wenger turned to signings such as Chu-Young Park, Marouane Chamakh
and Andre Santos to improve the team, all of which were unsuccessful. Now with
money to spend Wenger can’t seem to wade through this inflated market. The fact
that there is talk amongst the terraces of ‘Wenger out’ if he doesn’t sign a
temperamental and ill-disciplined £55 million striker shows the flux that the
club are stuck in.

Take Real Madrid’s pursuit of Gareth Bale. This signing is
by no means a necessity. They already have a plethora of attacking players and
removing a player who is willing to track back and defend in Angel Di Maria for
Bale disrupts the balance of a team that is going to walk over 75% of the teams
they face this season.  Bale is an option
for them because he’s high profile and it keeps up with Madrid’s image.
Obviously Arsenal’s pursuit of Suarez is down to a lack of strikers, but
over-paying on a name to appease the fans fits the Real Madrid role perfectly.

There is no doubt that Wenger’s stubbornness to pay over
inflated prices has seen potential targets slip (Juan Mata being a perfect
example) but these are market prices and the club needs someone who is willing
to disregard his own strategies and beliefs to help the advancement of the
club. My rose-tinted glasses may be a factor in this but I don’t believe
Arsenal would have finished in the top four these last few years with any other
realistic potential manager. Therefore I still believe that Wenger is the right
man for this club. However this club is in a desperate need of a David Dein
type figure, someone who is going to be ruthless in negotiation and bring in
the players this club needs.  

Wenger is undoubtedly a great manager but I don’t think he
is used to playing in this type of market. At this moment in time Arsenal is in
a Goldilocks situation. The above average players, for lack of a better term,
won’t appease the fans and the world class players are out of Wenger’s idea of
a realistic price range. It seems as if we are putting all our eggs in the
unstable basket of Luis Suarez, yet if this fails what next? The fans have
waited somewhat patiently as the club rediscovers its firepower in the market,
now that it’s here it isn’t being spent; can Wenger’s and Gazidis’ public image
survive this? Or can they be trusted to pull through before the panic buys set
in? Or is it time for an external party to enter the picture and tackle the
negotiations that Wenger’s philosophy seemingly isn’t ready for?

Wenger, much like the team, has the foundations set to
compete in this modern era. He promotes a playing style and youth policy that
aids the clubs image (with the emergence of a British core adding a sense of
pride to those who associate themselves with the club). He is also one of the
greatest managers to grace the premier league. On the pitch, he has the ideas
and ability to manage a successful team. Yet off of it he isn’t the ruthless
negotiator that David Dein was. Dein was instrumental in the signings of
players such as Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Fabregas. The partnership of Dein and
Wenger was deadlier than any strike force that Arsenal fans would like to see.
Dein competed and got the right players, whilst Wenger transformed them into
the superstars that they became on the pitch. Obviously there are some fans that
are still soured by Dein’s departure and his support of mega rich Alisher
Usmanov and Fahrad Moshiri, whereby Dein sold his 14.78% of shares to their
group Red&White Holdings. But the day that David Dein left that board was
the arguably the day that the emphasis shifted from football to book balancing.
The club sits on a wealth of revenue with billionaire shareholders, who use
Gazidis as a mouth piece, letting him be the sacrificial scapegoat to their
otherwise silent inactivity.

Wenger still possesses the undoubted class and talent to
drive this team forward, what he doesn’t have is the bite to match Gazidis’
bark. Arsenal fans have a right to be frustrated with the past few seasons, but
is there a manager that could replace Wenger, apply his ideologies, playing
style and ability whilst also being competent in the transfer market? A striker
is important but a respected negotiator is just as important for Arsenal going
into the future.

Matt Mace

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