The next couple of months could shape the future of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal
A solid if not exactly spectacular early signing followed by intensive speculation over the future of the club captain? Arsenal fans have been here before, a year ago it was Gervinho who gave the fans cause for optimism while Cesc Fabregas was rumoured to be Barcelona bound.
This time the signature of another goalscoring forward who can play on the flanks, Lucas Podolski, has already been secured but with Robin Van Persie apparently no closer to extending a contract which expires in 12 month’s time, Arsenal fans could be in for a similarly traumatic summer.
Arsene Wenger will also be facing a number of dilemmas, his response to which will shape the future of the football club that has been under his custody for the last 16 years. He will be well aware of the devastating effect the last minute departures of Fabregas and Samir Nasri had on his planning last pre-season and will not want the Van Persie situation to drag on any longer than is strictly speaking necessary.
The Dutchman weighed in with 37 goals and 15 assists this campaign but would be available on a free transfer in 12 months time. This means his value on the open market is more like £25m than the £50m Arsenal could have conceivably asked for had they managed to lock him down to a long term deal.
The best case scenario for the club would be for Van Persie to accept the contract offer which is already on the table but the early signs indicate that is not going to happen. This leaves Wenger with two options, either cash in on his club captain now and stick £25m in the transfer kitty or keep him for an additional season knowing he could walk away at the end of it without Arsenal being compensated for his departure.
Arsenal had hoped that their policy of promoting youth and accepting big money bids for their established stars would pay dividends once the Financial Fair Play regulations came into effect. The day that domestic rivals like Chelsea and Manchester City cut down on their spending does not seem to be arriving as quickly as Wenger, an economics graduate, might have hoped which puts him under more pressure to spend the funds which are allegedly available to him.
Last season Arsenal periodically played like title contenders but also went through patches of form more readily associated with candidates for relegation. It is not enough for the club to stand still, with Chelsea, Manchester City and, perhaps, Manchester United likely to recruit aggressively between now and the start of the next season the squad needs to be replenished if the fourth league title of Wenger’s reign is to remain a realistic target.
Arsenal need to look at their ideology and decide if, as a club, they are content to repeatedly qualify for the Champions League or whether they are willing to invest in order to potentially finish at the very top of the table. Even assuming the money is available to allow Wenger to be more competitive in the transfer market there is still the question of whether a spending spree would be compatible with his footballing philosophy.
Wenger’s policy of promoting young players has been rewarded with season after season of top four finishes but, to the frustration of even his most fervent supporters, no silverware since 2005. Breaking the habit of a lifetime and investing in the likes of Yann M’Vila and Jan Vertonghen might give the team some much needed solidity but it would also limit the opportunities for the current crop of youngsters which includes Emmanuel Frimpong, Francis Coquelin and Jack Wilshere.
As well as the Van Persie issue there is also a lot of dead wood which will need to be trimmed from the squad to make room for new recruits. Getting returning loanees Denilson, Andrei Arshavin and Nicolas Bendtner off the payroll will not necessarily be straightforward while new homes will also have to be found for strikers Park Chu Young and Marouane Chamakh who managed just a single league goal between them this season.
Will Wenger stick to his tried and tested formula and give more prominent roles to unproven players like Frimpong, Coquelin and Ryo Myaichi? Or will he bring in the type of experience which comes at a premium but could potentially prove some solidarity and prevent the sort of collapses which have blighted the club in recent seasons.
Arsenal will be anxious to avoid a repeat of last summer, when Wenger stated explicitly that Fabregas and Nasri would not be sold only to relent towards the very end of the transfer window with disastrous consequences for the start of the Premier League campaign. Whatever the policy will be it needs formulating now and whether the team lines up next season with Van Persie alongside a couple of solid new signings or with a new batch of youngsters will go a long way towards dictating the future of the football club.Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, football, Robin Van Persie, transfer
Recent Posts on Football
- Newcastle don't need a football director - they need a new medical team after finishing bottom of the injury league
- Bayer Leverkusen are the real winners from Andre Schurrle's transfer to Chelsea
- End of the beginning: Confederations Cup an important World Cup yardstick for Brazil
- From Manchester United to Merlot: Sir Alex Ferguson could make a fortune investing in wine claims expert
- New day (slowly) rising - As Brasileirão gets underway, Brazilian football stumbles, rather than leaps into the future
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter