As transfer deadline day looms like a gigantean grey cloud above, one containing an inevitable spending storm, Arsenal are yet to make the equally-as-gigantean signing that many fans and critics alike feel is necessary.
Over the last few years, Arsène Wegner has overseen the sale of many high-profile players, from club legend Robin Van Persie’s £24 million exit to bitter rivals Manchester United to the likes of Fábregas, Nasri, Clichy and Alex Song all moving onto pastures new. Wegner’s willingness to fritter away a foray of his best players is one thing, but it is the lack of replacements that has left Arsenal fans red-faced.
Wegner’s emphasis—some would say obsession—of late has been on the youth system that he founded his Arsenal legacy on when he took charge of the club in 1996. First team players such as Oxlade-Chamberlin and Kieran Gibbs are promising graduates of the academy, but the academy alone cannot supply them with the quality and quantity that they so badly need.
Over the course of the summer, however, Wegner admitted this needed to change. Despite being linked with such big-name, costly players like Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney and Yohan Cabaye as well as Real Madrid trio Angel Di María, Mesut Ozil, and Iker Casillas, they have yet to bring in a big name.
Yet while most people seem to feel a player who can instantly bring game-changing class to the team is needed, I feel Wegner should look at the past to look to the future. I would like to seem him inspired by his dealings of the past to forge another title-winning side. A large proportion of his previous title-winning squads were players that blossomed at the club, rather than being brought in as an already-flowered individual who is at the peak of their game.
This is what Arsenal need to do once more.
In his five seasons for Monaco, much of which was spent on the left wing, a young prospect by the name of Thierry Henry was unveiled as an Arsenal player in August 1999 at the cost of £11 million. Wegner would sculpt Henry into a deadly striker, who became the perfect replacement for the departing Nikolas Anelka. Henry guided Arsenal to three Premier League titles and three FA Cup triumphs before leaving for Barcelona in 2007.
In the present day, there are echoes of the Anelka situation. Although the acquisitions of Podolski and Giroud have helped address the wounds a little, there still seems to be a void where Robin Van Persie once was. Arsenal need to bring in a player that is not yet world class, but one who has a fuse which, if managed well, can explode. He needs to by a blueprint for the mansion, rather than the keys to it.
Perhaps Wegner’s first signing, 20-year-old Yaya Sanogo on a free transfer, may be just that. Scoring 18 goals in as many games for the France U16s and 11 goals for Auxerre in 21 appearances, his potential is no secret.
Making his debut as a substitute in the 81st minute against Fulham, Wegner has at least shown some commitment to giving Sanogo valuable first-team experience. And now, with Podolski, the man who he replaced in the Fulham game, out for up to 10 weeks with a hamstring injury, Sanogo has a window of opportunity to show his potential to blossom, to light his fuse at the club.
Ryo Miyaichi, who impressed while on loan at Wigan last term, featured in Arsenal’s 2-0 over Fenerbache on Tuesday evening and also looks to have a great deal of potential. Yet, as the baying critics and fans call for signings, Wegner may be forced into signing an already-established player, one whose loyalty for the club is very little.
If he does bring in a Karim Benzema or a Di Maria, that is all well-and-good. Fan morale will improve greatly and their attacking threat, on paper at least, will look more menacing. However, if Arsenal want to find themselves at the summit of the Premier League once more, they should not build their long-term future around a big-money, deadline day acquisition.