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All the media billing surrounding Wilfried Zaha’s now completed transfer to the Premier League as a talented 20 year old involved Arsenal in a move that would have made perfect sense.
A player moving to a club renowned for its success in harnessing raw potential and now housing a good crop of young Englishmen went hand in hand with logic until they reached the figures. £15 million was the reported fee Manchester United eventually paid to land his belated summer services while their north London rivals slammed the briefcase closed and shuttled off to dormant austerity.
The ease with which Manchester United brushed aside Arsenal for Zaha’s signature should be of grave concern to the Gunners who still hold Andrei Arshavin as their record signing for the same £15 million fee.
It is this prudence and transfer inactivity that caused Robin Van Persie to highlight “ambition” as he moved to Old Trafford for £24 million in the summer, a move that has fired United to the top of the table with Arsenal, genuine challengers to English dominance just ten years ago, a small speck in the rear-view mirror by the margin of 19 points after 23 matches.
While Zaha was finalising his move to Manchester, Wenger was entertaining the press with an idea to limit the amount of shopping one can do in the January transfer market, evidently casting an eye to Newcastle’s scattergun de Francais as they stand on five imports and counting. It was hard not to class this two-signing idea as self-sufficing from a manager who has yet to get involved in the transfer festivities and has no intentions to unless, as in his words, “the right player becomes available”.
Wenger was doing a mighty-fine job of towing the Ivan Gazidis and Stan Kroenke party line of strict financial thrift, he was almost convincing as he said “we have the resources inside the club to do well” with limp defeats against Manchester City and Chelsea that emphasised the gulf between Arsenal’s troubles and the quality of those at the top.
Scroll back a little further and it’s the embarrassing League Cup exit to Bradford City that comes into view as an argument for a squad that urgently needs addressing before finishing outside of the top four for the first time in sixteen years becomes a starker reality.
Bayern Munich, Jupp Heynckes’s fluid runaway leaders of the Bundesliga, await with bated breath in the last 16 of the Champions League but the Emirates remains occupied with nothing but tumbleweed.
Wenger was asked about Napoli’s muscular goalscoring phenomenon Edinson Cavani last week and refused to rule out a £30 million bid for what looks more like a child’s fantasy than any realistic transfer rumour.
Increasingly burdened by the weight of austere demands from those above him, Wenger was desperately trying to placate the disillusioned fans who happen to fork out the league’s most expensive season ticket on top of having to watch a yearly fire sale of their best players.
Van Persie and Alex Song departed London for a combined total of just over 30 million euros in the summer while in came Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski for around the same expenditure. Break-even is the motto, avoid loss is the game, yet Wenger remains happy that his “accountant is just in the next house, he is ready when we need to spend money” .
That money could well be lumped on Steven Jovetic, Fiorentina’s 23 year old attacking midfielder who can also play out wide. The Montenegrin is the poster-boy of Fiorentina’s Serie A renaissance and his stock is high as a potent creative force and scorer eight goals this season, drawing obvious comparisons to Dejan Savicevic, Milan’s “magician” of the early 90’s.
£20 million is the reported asking price for Jovetic’s direct skill and trickery that causes havoc between the lines, and would add further potency to an already technically-gifted Arsenal frontline that has sometimes lacked cohesion in this campaign.
There is little doubting Jovetic, to the neutral observer, is worth it just like Zaha; he would provide Arsenal with another dimension in attack and offer a goal threat as well as the ability to provide for others, a well rounded young footballer.
Yet, consider it is £5 million in advance of the most Wenger has ever summoned from the kitty to spend on a single player and it seems mightily unlikely that the Belgrade born starlet will be swapping the art and culture of Florence for the hustle and bustle of Islington within this forthcoming week.
Or anybody else for that matter as Wenger persists to produce from within. A within that is capable of a 5-1 demolition of West Ham but lacks the steel and quality necessary to compete with Chelsea and Manchester City as the gap from the top widens into a chasm that is threatening Arsenal’s sustainability as a leading force, as possible Champions League blackout looms large on the horizon.
Once they drop out, they will find it very tough to get back in with the elite, that is unless Gazidis, Kroenke and Wenger finally cave in to the ire afforded them at every AGM and loosen the financial restrictions instead of waiting patiently until their prophesied saviour of Financial Fair Play comes into force. Until then, talk of Zaha, Cavani and Jovetic remains in the clouds.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow him on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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