Arsene Wenger: Can the Arsenal Manager Ever Change His Ways?

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistApril 22, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 13:  Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Norwich City at Emirates Stadium on April 13, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Whether or not Arsene Wenger will change his ways as manager of Arsenal is one of the major questions heading into the summer.

The Daily Telegraph reported a £70 million transfer budget. There's also been a glut of stories linking Arsenal with high-priced, marquee names. These scenarios imply Wenger is finally ready to do what he's often loathed to do, and that's spend big.

Even his former confidant David Dein seems to believe Wenger will splash the cash, according to Sky Sports. If he did it would represent a major shift in philosophy.

Wenger has always adhered to a recruitment policy that favors developing youthful promise and careful scouting. He's been reticent to simply throw money at problems the same way the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea have done.

That reticence has made Wenger admired and castigated in equal measure. Just how realistic is it to expect that Wenger will spend big this summer?

Those who claim that he will would likely point to an eighth trophyless season. Further evidence is offered by the unprecedented levels of criticism and pressure Wenger has endured this campaign.

In truth, he has been under pressure throughout Arsenal's barren run. However, the 2012-13 season might rightly be viewed as a tipping point in the Frenchman's era in charge.

Many moderates may have been swung towards the "Wenger out" brigade by some of this season's events. Cup defeats to Bradford City and Blackburn Rovers were enough to shake the faith of even the most ardent Wenger supporter.

Returning to the issue of a shift in spending, Wenger's reaction to problems in the squad will determine his attitude to transfers. This might prove to be most obvious at striker.

It's clear that despite a healthy number of goals, Arsenal still haven't found the right balance in attack. They have not been consistent goalscorers since Robin van Persie cynically took the money and ran to Manchester United.

That fact is evidenced by only one goal in their last two league matches. Many would welcome the addition of a top-quality finisher in place of the hard working, but wasteful, Olivier Giroud.

Stevan Jovetic is a player who has frequently been linked. The Fiorentina ace is certainly a marquee talent.

However, can he really tempt Wenger into spending £30 million? Parting with that fee for a single player just isn't the Wenger way.

Yet perhaps it should be. As easy and justified as it is to pour scorn on van Persie for his ruthless defection, he has won United the league title.

That endorses the handsome £24 million sum they paid for the 29-year-old. Sometimes you do get what you pay for and the likes of United, City and Chelsea certainly have capitalized.

Wenger could choose to supplement his thriftily built squad with a mega-money purchase like Jovetic. That would clearly represent a radical shift in his approach to team-building.

However, the alternative to that choice has been Wenger's most well-tread route. Instead of buying Jovetic he could persevere with Giroud, confident that he can hone his raw skills into a top-level striker.

Wenger's preference is to mold a star rather than to buy. He did it with Nicolas Anelka, Thierry Henry, Emmanuel Adebayor and van Persie.

Giroud presents a real challenge. His 17 goals beg the question "Imagine what he could do if he improves his technique?"

That tantalising dilemma is likely to appeal to the master-craftsmen part of Wenger's psyche. In a recent interview published on, Wenger spoke of his confidence in Giroud's ability:

He can absorb the body to body [challenges] because he's a strong guy. I think you will see more from him next season, and there's a lot more to come from him.

Public diplomacy or not, Wenger certainly doesn't seem willing to give up on Giroud just yet. The talk of "more to come" and "next season" hints that Wenger remains committed to his way of doing things.

He still talks in terms of potential and the lure of a prosperous future.

The question so far has been if Wenger will ever change his ways. Whether or not he can might be a matter of cold hard reality.

The £70 million many Arsenal fans seem to be pinning a worrying amount of hopes on is not the pot of gold it seems.

That figure will encompass both transfer fees and player's wages, according to The Daily Mail. In that reality, a £30 million fee, plus wages and a signing bonus would drain Wenger's resources.

Arsenal need more than one new recruit this summer, with three actually being the magic number.

There's also the issue of qualification for next season's UEFA Champions League. That is far from assured and will certainly impact Arsenal's recruitment plans.

The club are said to have a separate list of targets if they end up in the Europa League, according to The Daily Mirror. So Wenger's decision to change his ways might actually be taken away from him.

Wenger doesn't appear like he's ready to relinquish his belief in building through youth. Giving new contracts to a clutch of British youngsters certainly proves that.

Wenger is gambling big that the likes of Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere can form the core for sustained success. That's not the risk a man takes only to suddenly abandon it to try to buy one last trophy.

Potentially hiring Dennis Bergkamp to try to replicate the famed Ajax academy is proof of that, as is finalizing a player development agreement with Real Betis.

Wenger has also made it clear he will integrate a fresh batch of precocious youths into his first-team plans, according to the The Daily Mail. Teens Serge Gnabry, Hector Bellerin and Gedion Zelalem are among the most highly touted.

Wenger's famous stubborn streak infuriates some and endears him to others. In the age of mega-rich owners and free-spending giants monopolizing football's best talents, Wenger's philosophy remains refreshing.

It doesn't lessen the pain of trophy failure, but it is good to know that Arsenal stands for something. They have a clear identity.

That identity, one defined by sensible spending and cultivating rather than co-opting talent, comes from Wenger. It is his way and seems unlikely to change, no matter who it pleases or who it offends.


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