English Football

Dear Prudence…when will you come out to play?

WENGERDark clouds are descending once more around Arsenal after their disastrous opening day defeat at the hands of Aston Villa.

Watching the post-match analysis and reaction of manager Arsene Wenger, the Frenchmen already looks like a man making too many excuses. Arsenal’s prudent approach to finance is admirable, but they spent the summer telling people that the purse strings have been opened and that they would use their wealth to make Arsenal into a force once more.

Now Wenger is asking the media who he should sign to bolster his diminished ranks. Arsenal released around 27 players in the summer, but there’s been no major signing and the Gunners’ side, which labored for much of 2012-13, has a jaded and predictable look about it.

Wenger is suggesting that demand is out-stripping supply in the transfer market, but that hasn’t stopped Manchester City in the summer, although Chelsea, United and Arsenal have all been quiet in the close-season.

The Emirates Stadium faithful are not having it, though. Arsenal were jeered off at the end of the game and there were pleas to spend to some money and the odd banner urging Wenger to “spend, spend, spend”.

Certainly, Villa’s Christian Benteke sent another telegram to the rest of the Premier that had a distinct “come and get me” message buried in it. How Benteke would improve Arsenal, indeed any of the bigger boys.

But what’s a little disconcerting is Wenger’s response to his team’s poor opener. One sure sign of a manager under pressure is when he turns on the media. “You got what you wanted, you should be happy”, plays into the hands of the red tops.

Wenger is right when he says Arsenal didn’t lose because they had not spent cash in the summer, but he’s missing the point a little – he hasn’t strengthened a team that was off the pace for much of last term. True, he was unsuccessful with the excellent Gonzalo Higuain and the audacious bid for Luis Suarez was probably going nowhere (although watch the build-up to deadline day for a possible renewed bid), but Arsenal have not gone marquee for some years, largely because of financial sensibility and a forlorn hope that a bunch of young players would flourish into something meaningful.

Was Arsenal’s boast that they have cash to splash just that? One report doing the rounds hints that Arsenal are very cash rich and that the Emirates war chest (as at he end of 2012) was around £ 150 million-plus, more than double United’s and as much as the combined total of the rest of the Premier.

So this means that Arsenal have the resources but reluctant to spend, perhaps because the club’s owners demand to much return on investment. Or is just that Wenger is too prudent for his own good?  Is the Arsenal scouting and acquisition network lacking?

Wenger needs new faces as much as he needs a trophy, but if it all goes wrong in Turkey in the Champions League, the “Wenger out” whispers will gather momentum and he won’t be in a position to move the club out of its current malaise. And for a man that has given so much to the club and to English football, that would not be a great epitaph.

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