Arsenal: Del Boy Money & Dreams, Rodders Handling The Cash...
Football fans are a fickle bunch. We love a bargain, but on the other hand we also love to see the purse strings loosened. We hate a flop, but we love a punt. However one unified agreement is that we’re scared when our team is hauntingly quiet in the close season.
If the window closed today, this summer will be more famous for petered-out proposed moves and top-flight inactivity than any of the four solid signings by City, Norwich’s intriguing recruitments or West Brom’s quiet coups and it forced me to raise the question of: Do we prefer the saga or the signing?
It’s a valid question, as colleagues and friends tell me about their favoured club’s “done deal” with smiles on their faces, wholly believing their 50word yarn in one of the red-tops. It gives hope to them that the club garners lofty ambitions that they’re going places in the next season. In principle it allows room for dreamers, before the reality of the league sets in.
However, if I was a fan of West Brom (which I’m not) I’d be rightfully dreaming, despite all of their recruits being ushered into The Hawthorns with no sound other than the gleeful rubbing of hands by Baggies Chief Exec, Mark Jenkins. Okay, Nicolas Anelka and Diego Lugano are far from their teenage years, but experience they do have, and a majority of it at the very top level. Their former clubs being Juventus and PSG respectively signals a step-up in squad quality for Steve Clarke as he tries to ensure he doesn’t suffer from second season syndrome, a la Newcastle. That valuable experience has been coupled with the precocious talent of Matej Vydra, the Udinese loanee who netted 20 times for Watford last term on the merry path of being named Player of the Championship in an ultimately failed mission for promotion under Gianfranco Zola. The academy in Udine must rank up there with the most productive in Europe and shows the basic training Vydra has been party to, this can only stand him in good stead as Clarke hopes to unearth another temporary signing to fill considerable Lukaku-shaped hole at the fulcrum of the Baggie attack.
The point of all this is to outline what you can do with a transfer budget of £0.00, and no media frenzy. Rewind a few months and picture Arsenal fans licking their lips in March upon the announcement of a £70ish million “warchest” at Wenger’s disposal, it now seems like a weighty millstone potentially strangling their close season. Having that money is all well and good, and personally is the kind of investment I think the Gunners need, but when you’re telling every eavesdropper about your financial status, suddenly things that were $1 are now $2. The powers that be at Arsenal may be talking Del Boy money, with Del Boy dreams, but it’s Rodders who’s handing over the cash and making the decisions.
Gut instincts tell me Wenger is wary of the intensified expectation that a marquee signing brings, but there comes a crossover period where the intensity of the fan and board pressure must outweigh that which spending even £20m on a player would bring. Here is one club who needs to spend, as they slip further away from what is now a Big 3 of City, United and Chelsea, they risk becoming entangled further with Spurs and an improving Liverpool, and suddenly the Bank of Champions League looks to be increasingly difficult to withdraw from.
A similarly dormant team this close season are Man United, strangely enough as well, considering Ferguson’s mantra of always seeking to improve their squad even after a trophy-winning campaign. However the close season victory that Moyes is engineering would be to keep Wayne Rooney, any major additions at this stage would be a bonus. I don’t doubt that United need to strengthen to make their retention of the title more likely, but caving to Mourinho’s advances would be effectively waving a white flag in the battle for the league before it’s even begun. Selling to a foreign club is obviously more favourable, but the opportunity to recruit like-for-like quality at this stage seems a deadend, considering Moyes has already publicly wined and dined potential replacements, but is yet to take one of them home. A midfielder in the ilk of Modric would ensure Man United will be challenging again this year, go without and that hefty gap they won the league by last year would be eaten into considerably and the bookies, rightfully so, currently place them at 3rd favourites for the league. Moyes best hope RVP’s knees hold up, what with all that pressure on his shoulders.
It’s a tricky situation for any manager in the transfer window, and you must sympathise with them considerably as player power increases and the stands that Brendan Rodgers and David Moyes have taken are becoming increasingly rare. Fans will always find a flaw in their team going into the first week of the season, however the reality is that we’re all excited, nervous, curious, tense and expectant at the same time, and without the main event of weekly fixtures to take our minds off it, your imagination goes into the extreme. Never fear football fans, be excited for the new season, there will be referee decisions to argue over soon enough!