It should be the most optimistic time of the year for Arsenal but after their summer’s recruitment so far – adding only Yaya Sanogo to last season’s squad – it might not be at The Emirates today. A perception has set in among fans that Arsène Wenger is too cautious in signing the players they need.
Wenger was understandably keen yesterday to make clear that this is not right and that no one wants to improve Arsenal more than he does. But, and this is the point, he is not so keen to spend money on just anyone.
“Of course it is unfair,” he said of the view that he was less keen to spend than his board. “Why should I resist? If you absolutely want to describe me as a greedy person and you would live with me, you would see that I am not. I am rather generous.”
True enough, and Arsenal have bid more for Luis Suarez this summer than they have ever bid for any player before. But any Arsenal supporter hoping for a hectic finish to the window – a grand climax – may be disappointed. Because Wenger was adamant again that the pursuit is quality, not quantity and if they cannot sign Suarez – and Wenger did not sound confident – there will not be a desperate rush for other targets.
“The club sometimes does not want to sell at any price,” said Wenger, doubting how worthwhile it would be to make a third bigger bid. “If you are Liverpool, you have to calculate if you want to get into the Champions League, who are our rivals and do we want to sell to them? Unless they need the money or they have a clause or things like that, things are not always working just because you put the money up.”
Suarez would certainly improve Arsenal, which is why Wenger wants him, but there are not many players in that bracket and there will be no buying for its own sake.
“If you bring me tomorrow players who are better than those we have, I promise you we will look at them. It’s as simple as that. You cannot say that Wilshere is a super player and then ask why you do not buy a better player than him.”
This narrow focus means that there will be no mass recruitment. With two weeks left in this transfer window, there is hardly time. “It is very difficult for me to give you a number [of players]. We look more for quality than for numbers. The first request is to have the quality to play for Arsenal Football Club. After that the number comes in. Yes, we would like two or three players, if possible more, but we will not compromise on the quality of the players.”
Wenger was keen to expand that it was not mere reluctance, but a broader view of football. Spending is not the only solution. “What I want to convince you of is that we are ready to spend the money if we feel that the players makes us a better team tomorrow morning,” he said.
“Maybe it’s difficult to balance that in a newspaper but football is not only about that. It’s about the team, the quality of the play, the spirit and togetherness and the quality of the players. Therefore we have to focus on all the rest as well.
“The expectation level is high that we bring in big names. It is always strange because, for example, people praise Dortmund for going to the Champions League final. But the most expensive transfer of Dortmund is not very impressive. We have to be successful on the football pitch, that’s what counts.
“I understand every frustration, you have so many frustrated people. But what is important is the quality of what you do on the pitch, so let’s not create a crisis from nothing.”
Amid all the attention on the transfer market, it is easy to forget that the football begins today, with Arsenal hosting Aston Villa, having to make do without the injured Mikel Arteta. Per Mertesacker will be captain.
Wenger added that his team, for those who noticed, beat Manchester City 3-1 in a friendly in Helsinki last Saturday: “We just played a good game last week so let’s transfer that to the next game.”