The Transfer Window – Walking the Finest of Lines

Originally posted on Goonersphere

Amidst the plethora of reporters lurking in car parks, impromptu interviews with players and managers via a car window like a montage of Drive-Thru orders, and the garish sea of yellow on your TV screens, there was plenty of departures and shock purchases during the transfer window.

Transfer Deadline Day – the title which now seems to bring with it a whole smorgasbord of promotion and shameless worship of big-money buys – saw Sideshow Bob lookalike David Luiz surprisingly rejoin Chelsea from PSG and give Antonio Conte’s defence an instant weakness, and Moussa Sissokho hilariously lure foolish clubs to bid £30m – spurs won the right to his signature……

Clubs scrambling desperately to improve their ranks, whilst maligned and forgotten squad members slinked toward the exit door. The same players who once were heralded as much as their replacements.

Managers walk the finest of lines.  Implored to spend by the baying masses who fill the stands each week, they search for the marquee signing who will suddenly unlock the potential in the team and ensure a rush to the club shop to buy a jersey with the new boy’s name on the back. 

Bolstering the amount of players inevitably means cutting the squad somewhere – unless you’re Mike Phelan at Hull City and have three players and some free-kick barriers from training in your lineup – and unpopular decisions must be made.

The voices calling for Arsene Wenger to spend money go from fans to pundits, journalists to TV personalities. Memes flew around cyberspace poking fun at Wenger’s apparent reluctance to splash the cash. It is now a reputation that has stuck. Our French manager is now synonymous with counting beans rather than recruiting talent, it seems.

This summer, most could see the glaring weaknesses in our squad. Our defence needed a player who could partner Koscielny, with Mertesacker reduced to capable understudy. We needed a midfielder who could be the dynamic force between defence and attack. We had Coquelin, Elneny and Santi, but another wouldn’t go amiss. Then there was the issue with our dearth of strikers….

So, Wenger defied expectation, and reacted early. Granit Xhaka was brought in, and his class is undeniable, and his potential is frightening. The money involved may be high, but Wenger has always maintained he will spend for the right player – and Xhaka fits into our team like a glove.

Then, we went for our second target – Jamie Vardy. The xenophobic, cast-wearing sriker was the revelation of a strange 2015/16 season, and Wenger identified that the England man’s strengths would be a perfect match for his side.

A bid was made, and Vardy had a choice to make. He chose to stay, and now looks like he has competition for his place at Leicester, but regardless, Arsenal had made another early move, but they were rebuffed.

A move for a player takes time. To ensure the cohesion of the team and squad, the research must be done, so it was back to square one for Wenger and his team.

It was also revealed that Wenger made another early move, this time for Manolas – the Greek defender at Roma – but the Italian club played hardball in negotiations and it meant that Jack Wilshere ended up at Bournemouth instead of Rome. 

So, Wenger did exactly what was required, but only one of the three targets he had, ended up at London Colney.

By the end of the window though, the positions he sought to strengthen had indeed been reinforced. Lucas Perez came in from Deportivo, and adds an alternative in the strikers berth with his pace and movement. 

Shkodran Mustafi eventually joined from cash-strapped Valencia, and the 24yr old German is tailor-made to be Koscielny’s partner.

Both players came in for a combined 52.1m. Money has been spent, and our squad looked healthy. Another problem arose though – we now had too many players.

A player who isn’t playing regularly cannot hope to be at his best, and Jack Wilshere was down the pecking order thanks to repeated injuries. Purchases meant that his prospects for this season were not healthy, and he needs first team football. Bournemouth is perhaps a surprise destination, but he will play for a forward-thinking coach, and will play enough games at the level he needs. 

It is a good move, although it is being derided in some quarters. Why couldn’t he stay and fight for his place? Why didn’t he go to Italy? Well, no-one can answer for Jack, but there are a host of mitigating factors for his decision, not merely the squad he will play with. At the root of his choice though, would have been gametime.

At Arsenal, he was behind Santi Cazorla, Elneny, Xhaka, and Ramsey. His talent is such that he needs to play, and he would not get into the side. The drawback of buying players is that the competition for places is so fierce that it will make some of the men in the ranks disgruntled and look for the exit door. 

Jack simply wanted to play – and if he can stay fit and have a good season, then a place in our team is assured.

So, Wenger buys players – he is criticised. Wenger lets players leave who are merely squad filler, such as Joel Campbell and Serge Gnabry – he is criticised. 

It seemed Gnabry forced his way out of the club to move to Werder Bremen, and Wenger has always had faith in the young German, but the lure of home and regular minutes on the pitch was too strong. 

We have a healthy squad, and adequate cover in all departments. Wenger has acted to strengthen, cut the wheat from the chaff, and give players he believes in room to play elsewhere. He should not face vilification for his transfer window actions if they are adequately improving the squad.

Where our Manager should be judged, is how his chosen men perform during the season. He has decided that this team is good enough, and every change was his to make. So, if we fail to make the grade, the blame should fall at his feet alone. 

Spend some money Wenger!  

He has, and our team looks good. 

It is a fine line all managers have to walk, but it isn’t merely transfers that ensure their longevity in a position. Victory is the ultimate ambition.

Let’s see how this season unfolds now that Wenger finally has a squad equipped for every eventuality. 

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