Comment: Arsenal and Arsene Wenger paying a high price for failure to make moves in the transfer market

Talking Football: They no longer even have the leverage of a great player to sell

The champions come May this year, Manchester United lost their first game last season. They lost at Goodison Park to the same manager who will occupy the home dugout at Old Trafford for the first time a week today, David Moyes.

All of which is meant to place Arsenal's opening day defeat to Aston Villa in perspective. Granted, you would go a long way to find someone who expects them to bounce back and win the title. In fact, you would have had to go a long way to find someone who thought they would win the title before that defeat. Even so #WENGEROUT was trending on Twitter by Saturday evening, which may be a record, even by his standards.

That first-leg Champions League qualifier against Fenerbahce in Istanbul looms. And, above all, the impression of incompetence on the club's part in the transfer market. "Spend some money" they shouted at Wenger on Saturday, the cri de coeur of the Emirates years.

Except that, unless you are talking Chelsea in the summer of 2003; or Manchester City at the tail-end of the 2008 summer window, and the next two that followed it, the complete transformation of a club's fortunes is never going to be achieved in one window alone.

Those two clubs' situations were anomalous. Their budgets were phenomenal and, in the case of Chelsea, there had never before been a club given such a huge injection of cash. A smart transfer policy is built on the long-term. Good acquisitions make the club more attractive the following window to a better class of player. Momentum is built. Successful signings are given new contracts. Others are shipped out.

Arsenal have accomplished some of that in past years. This window they have moved out around 25, either permanently or on loan deals. But in terms of signings, they are trying now to play in a different league, with what Ivan Gazidis, their chief executive, called an "escalation of financial firepower". What is becoming clear is that, to extend the analogy, they have finally brought in the tanks only to find that the war is being fought in fighter jets.

Their trading position has slipped so radically over the years that they no longer even have the leverage of a great player to sell. Even last season, with Robin van Persie to trade, they had some influence on the buying and selling of elite players which can sometimes feel like the movement of chess pieces around a board. You sacrifice one to take another. You sell to a certain club to block a rival trade elsewhere.

Napoli can sell Edinson Cavani to Paris Saint-Germain – not only to raise the money to buy Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid but also to ensure that the French club is not a rival in the process of buying the Argentine. Who knows, perhaps there was even an agreement brokered that PSG would leave Higuain to Napoli.

It takes a phenomenal amount of money, or a phenomenal player to trade, to take a seat at this poker game. Preferably both. Arsenal have neither. Assessments vary but the received wisdom is that there is around £70m to spend. That sort of money does not enable them to start forcing clubs such as Madrid or Bayern Munich into making difficult decisions.

There are caveats. They are not the only club to have found the going hard this summer. Just look at United. Wenger may yet pull off a transfer coup by 2 September. Saturday's result is just the first of 38 games. And yet, it is just one more small disincentive for any prospective player to join the club. A club who look that little bit more desperate than they did at 3pm on Saturday.

Those inside Arsenal will tell you that at the end of the 1990s, the club's board took a radical decision: to push forward with a new stadium. It was a determinedly long-term view – admirable – that would put the club on a much better footing in the years to come.

Arsenal could have stayed at Highbury, bought better, more expensive players, fought with United for the title and left the worries over updating a pre-war stadium to another generation. Instead, they looked at the numbers, considered the economies that would have to be made and took the gamble.

The plan could well have worked perfectly. Then in 2003, along came Roman Abramovich and five years later Sheikh Mansour entered the fray. The intervention of those two, in particular, bust the calculations Arsenal did around 13 years ago. In many respects, Arsenal deserve credit for having stayed competitive against clubs who have spent around £500m to create title-winning teams.

Yet as Higuain, Luis Suarez and Luiz Gustavo have slipped through the net, a sobering reality has dawned on Arsenal in the last month. The summer of 2013 was long anticipated as their year zero at the elite level of the transfer market. But this is not a game you can simply pick up overnight having abstained for so long. Not unless you have a lot more money than Arsenal do.

Well-placed sources have said that in private, when the possibility of Arsenal bidding for Robert Lewandowski has been raised this summer, Wenger tends to mention the time – unspecified – when he could have bought the Borussia Dortmund striker for £300,000. Like a man who regrets not buying an Islington townhouse in those long-distant days when you could pick one up for a song, it sounds like a pointless lament.

Morally wrong. Financially doped. The biggest bubble market in history. You can make a case for modern football being all that and more. But it is what it is. One is not obliged to participate and for years Arsenal made a virtue of avoiding the big player auctions and the record transfer fees.

This summer they decided otherwise and yet, as the days go by, their belief that they are now major players in the market on the basis of one year's budget are looking very thin indeed.

Time for Rooney to push on with career at United

The Wayne Rooney transfer to Chelsea is not going to happen. The reality that Manchester United's refusal to sell is non-negotiable has been made abundantly clear this week. So the question now for Rooney is how he pushes on with his career. Saturday's performance, despite the sad little face, was a pretty good start, all said.

Ball on a plinth... it's just another worry for the ref

This season Premier League referees are obliged to pluck the matchball from a plinth as they walk on to the pitch, an idea nicked from the last World Cup finals. It is utterly pointless and all for the sponsors – whose brands are all over the plinth, naturally. It will only be of any interest to any of us on the first glorious occasion that a referee forgets to do it and then has to double back. As if they did not have enough on their minds to worry about.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments