The signing of Gonzalo Higuain signals an end to the stagnation at Arsenal
The arrival of the Real Madrid striker is more than a statement of intent, he is the right player for the Gunners
Gonzalo Higuain to Arsenal. A Real Madrid forward moving to the Emirates. This feels significant. A statement signing, at last. It feels like time, a change in the wind at a football club that has been stagnating since its move to more plusher surrounds.
All statements from the Emirates Stadium for years now have been that of a football club in decline. The sales have been a statement of lack of intent. The mutterings of under pressure owners add only to the unease of supporters; big talk, small ambition.
Almost 3,500 Arsenal fans took part in a survey recently. Eighty four percent said the club was not being run properly. That is damning. No trophy since 2005. A forgotten player in the race for the title. A wounding label for a one-time giant of English football; a selling club. A feeder club to England's elite.
Last summer the statement of intent was overwhelming. Manchester United came calling for Arsenal's best player and Arsenal lay on their backs with their legs in the air and fluffed up their stomachs in an act of outright submission.
Robin van Persie lit up the Premier League last season. He scored 26 Premier League goals (it is worth remembering that was four less than he had scored in the previous season with Arsenal). At the first attempt at Old Trafford, he won the Premier League title. There had been eight seasons at Arsenal. He left for silverware and found it.
Those who went before found better times away from the Emirates. Cesc Fabregas has won the league in Spain. Samir Nasri and Kolo Toure have won the league in England. Winning matters and Arsenal are no longer winners.
They do, admittedly, excel in finishing in the top four of the Premier League. It did not feel hollow to their supporters when they guaranteed that position once more on the final day of the season at St James' Park, but that 84 per cent poll suggests in the cold light of day, it is miles away from being enough.
Against that backdrop of unrest, big-name departures and failure, the transfer market becomes ever more significant.
At some point there has to be a sign that the wind of decline has stopped. There has to come a notice to supporters and the very top players that Arsenal actually matter. At the minute they don't. Not on the big stage. Not set against the two giants of Manchester, never mind those flexing their muscles in Europe. They matter at the minute only in terms of local squabbles. They finished above Tottenham. Well done.
A statement signing for its own sake is always dangerous, and certainly sits at a direct contrast to anything Arsene Wenger has ever espoused.
There has to be a footballing reason for bringing a player into your football club. With Higuain there is. The Argentinian is 25. He has not failed to break double figures in La Liga for more than five seasons. He leaves the Bernabeu having won the title three times. All that suggests hunger and a winner's mentality. There were 19 starts and nine substitutes' appearances at Madrid last season. That points a forward to the exit but he still scored 16 La Liga goals. His strength and pace suggest he will adapt to English football. Higuain would be Arsenal's most expensive signing but expectation came when he moved from River Plate to Madrid for €13 million when he was 19. That should shape a strong mentality. He brings assets to Arsenal. His arrival can potentially stop the endless drain of talent out of the Emirates. It would be a start, and Arsenal need one.
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