• Premier League

Problems mounting for Wenger and Arsenal

Gabriele Marcotti
August 20, 2013
'Arsenal must spend'

Okay, let's take Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger at face value. Let's presume he's serious and he means it when he says: "We are there to spend money. People say: 'Buy players, buy players, buy players.' But who? We analyse every single player in the world and work 24 hours a day for that."

Note that by presuming Wenger is serious here, I don't mean the part about working "24 hours a day" and analysing "every single player in the world." I'm assuming he misspoke or was trying to be funny.

But what's terrifying - or ought to be - is the "But who?" part. Because the implication is that the only players out there who could make Arsenal a better team are those who are not for sale or otherwise unobtainable. And we know that's not the case. That's why Arsenal employ dozens of scouts and a gaggle of executives whose very job is to identify players and get things done. If, as of today, they have just one player to show for the efforts of the past three months - Yaya Sanogo, a 20-year-old with just three top-flight starts to his name - there can be only three reasons why.

We can discount the first: Arsenal don't have any money for signings. We know this isn't true because they keep telling us how large their mountain of cash is - nearly a quarter of a billion dollars, according to their 2011-12 accounts. And we know they made a profit of $57.8 million in 2011-12, the last year for which published accounts are available.

So that leaves two possibilities. Either they can't identify anybody worth signing (which may explain why the three players they were strongly linked with this summer - Gonzalo Higuain, Luiz Gustavo and Luis Suarez - play for tiny, obscure clubs liked Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Liverpool). Or they lack the chutzpah and nous to actually close a deal.

In either case, heads should roll. Because, frankly, we've been here before. The memory of the summer of 2011, when 12 weeks of sitting on their hands coupled with a horrid start to the season yielded a frantic five signings in the final 48 hours of the transfer window, ought to be fresh in everyone's mind.

(For those who don't recall, Arsenal's desperation quintet that season were Per Mertesacker, Mikel Arteta, Andre Santos, Park Chu Young and, on loan, Yossi Benayoun. The latter three contributed close to nothing while the first two could and should have been secured earlier.)

Saturday's home defeat to Aston Villa brought out the boobirds and desperate pleas to spend some money. That message should have been there even if Arsenal had won (and, to be fair, with somewhat different refereeing, they might have). None other than Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith, the club's honorary vice president and one of the shareholders who paved the way for Stan Kroenke to take over the club, took to Twitter to voice her anger, writing "How deeply I regret selling to Kroenke."

This club has done so much right during the Arsene Wenger era. But it has also displayed a staggeringly glaring inability to get things done properly in the transfer department, particularly since the departure of David Dein.

It can't be a coincidence. Nor can it all be Kroenke's fault. The grim realisation here is that Wenger is a far better coach and manager than he is a transfer guru. The sooner he - or the club - realise this and the sooner they deal with those responsible for the summer fiascoes, the sooner Arsenal can move forward.

Gabriele Marcotti is a London-based journalist and broadcaster who covers world soccer. He is the author of three books, the world soccer columnist for The Times and a correspondent for the Italian daily Corriere dello Sport. You can also watch him on ESPN Press Pass. Follow him on Twitter: @Marcotti

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