So with less than 48 hours to go Arsenal have signed exactly zero players in the window (I am not counting Walcott). Their rivals for Champions League places, Liverpool and Chelsea, have both significantly strengthened their squads by adding new players and in the case of The Reds it has already given them some very real momentum. Arsenal will find out exactly how much momentum later today.
Yet there remains the very strong chance that at the end of tomorrow night the Arsenal squad will be pretty much as it was a month ago.
Arsenal fans seem unsure of what to make of this. I read the always interesting Ashburton Grove this morning who talks of how he was not expecting any signings, but if one does land it would be nice surprise.
I’m at peace with myself that we won’t make any signings. If we do, it will be a nice surprise. So that means putting my full support behind the players pulling on the Arsenal shirt until the end of the season, continuing against Liverpool tonight.
Other fans take a more aggressive view. They think that the club is going to struggle to reach fourth place and is in dire need of reinforcements. Wenger, Gazidis and their team have had a month to get new blood in, what has happened? The money is there, there are financially struggling clubs all over Europe and there are some great potential deals to be done. So why no new players?
No one knows exactly what has gone on at Arsenal this month part from Arsene and Ivan, but here are my pet theories as to why it is possible that Arsenal haven’t signed anyone.
1 Arsene is happy with the squad he has – The club’s recent results haven’t been bad, Walcott has signed a new contract and, although it is not a done deal, fourth place is still a very real possibility. Arsenal have the players, they just need to gel together.
This all depends on expectation levels. If the limit of Arsenal’s ambition is fourth place then Wenger may have a point. Ultimately Arsenal fans are expecting a lot more. They want to be challenging United and City for the title. If that is the case the team desperately needs new players. Even Wojciech Szczesny admitted to this yesterday when in The Guardian he said.
“Over a long time I’ve honestly had enough of people saying Arsenal’s defence is not good enough. People judge defence on the back of goals conceded but you have to have a look at the defending in general. If my back four are completely exposed against Chelsea – most of the time in the first half there it was four of my defenders against six Chelsea players – they were disadvantaged all the time. You have to look at the defending of the whole team, the shape of the whole team. People blame the Arsenal defenders way too much over the past couple of seasons.
That sounds like to me a cry for a reliable committed defensive midfielder.
Also look at Arsenal’s rivals. United might be many points clear but even they looked to the future in the window in signing Wilfried Zaha – a player who realistically could have been an Arsenal signing.
2 Arsene can’t make his mind up - The Frenchman knows that he needs to add players, but he can’t decide which ones. So Yann M’Vila is coming, and then he isn’t. Mohamed Diame is on his way but then Wenger goes cold on him.
I do think that indecision is playing a role. Arsene has consistently stated he only wants to sign exceptional players, but I am not sure in his head who he thinks is exceptional as it seems to change all the time.
3 Arsene can’t bear to spend the money – There are lots of players who Arsene would consider signing, but he isn’t going to splash the cash to get them. He has constantly alluded to the fact that you don’t apparently get good value in the winter window and this means that he is not bidding enough money for the players he wants.
Who knows if Arsenal made bids for Zaha, Villa etc. But I know Arsenal clearly bid for Gary Cahill and that piss takey sum incensed Bolton so much that it was inevitable that Cahill was on is way to Chelsea. I can also see Arsenal getting gazumped by City on a David Villa deal. I wonder if Wegner was so traumatised by criticism of his recent transfer policy (coughs, Park) and the way he seems to be paying mediocre players large wages that this means he deems it essential to be financially very, very prudent, and Arsenal end up with players who are 30% less talented than the ones they are replacing.
4 Wenger and Gazidis are just rubbish at transfers – This one gets trotted out a lot by Wenger’s critics. In the old days David Dein spoke to Arsene, got a shopping list and off he went. Since Dein’s exit Arsenal’s transfer strategy seems to have been a lot more haphazard and there are those who think that Wenger doesn’t know what he is doing. They point to the fact that other clubs tied up players early while Wenger has left it until last minute in search of a bargain.
For me this has a ring of truth. Arsenal’s transfer strategy seems flawed in that the longer you leave it to execute on your targets the more complex things become. Sure you pay more money earlier in the window, but then you get the pick of the players you want. I sometimes wonder if Wenger likes a deal more than he likes making great signings.
5 The money isn’t there – Maybe this £100 million war chest doesn’t exist. It is all a sham and Arsenal were never going to sign any players at all.
So what do you think? Any other reasons?