In the End, Money Prevailed Over Football
Following what was one of the most disastrous campaigns last season that ended with a silver lining in winning the FA Cup, one most have thought that Arsene Wenger, Ivan Gazidis and Stan Kroenke would have braced themselves for a busy summer, getting the quality required to improve and sorting the niggling issues that required attention, like the contract situation of some of the squad’s key personnel.
The transfer window saw a whopping £1.3 billion spent among the 20 Premier League teams and with three games gone already, the table has started taking shape with the Gunners struggling in a lowly 16th place. As early as June 6, 2017, the Gunners announced the signing of Sead Kolasinac on a free transfer from Schalke 04, with the Bosnian defender winning a place in the Bundesliga XI for being the best leftback in the competition.
With Roberto Di Matteo playing a three-man defense, Kolasinac flourished in the left wing back role, scoring three goals and creating five assists for his teammates. With Nacho Monreal aging and Kieran Gibbs badly regressing, he ticked all the boxes for a long term move, and the fans lauded the boss for a smart summer move.
But it wasn’t enough. There were other positions on the team that needed to be beefed up and the club still had to sort out the futures of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson, Yaya Sanogo and a host of others.
Three days after Kolasinac arrived, the club waved its goodbyes to one Reserve forward, the great Yaya Sanogo (Toulouse) and three Reserve defenders, Stefan O’ Connor (Newcastle), Kostas Pileas (Anorthosi Famagusta) and Kris da Graca (Goteborg). Yeah, there will always be a couple of youngsters that wouldn’t make the grade at the club, so it’s always nice to let go of them, especially when you’re sure you don’t have long-term plans for them but I was sure surprised when Chris Willock packed his bags and went to SL Benfica on a Bosman at the end of June.
That didn’t matter because five days later, Arsenal broke their transfer record for Alexandre Lacazette and there were positive vibes in the Goonersphere. We knew about Lacazette for quite some time and we were very happy to land a forward with such a profilic goal record from France.
We had needed a new forward for quite sometime and in Lacazatte, we had a forward that could incite fear in opposition defenses, or so we thought, till the manager decided to do his thing and bench him for you know, Danny Welbeck. Ok, I digress.
Following Lacazette’s capture, youngster Kaylen Hinds joined our former Academy boss, Dries Jonker, at Wolfsburg, then more youngsters, Glen Kamara (Dundee) and Dan Crowley (Willem II) were shipped out. The speculation surrounding Wojciech Szczesny’s future was confirmed as he joined Juventus to understudy the legendary Buffon and take over when he retires at the end of this season. The rest of July went past and there was no more activity. Just the usual rumors and speculations here and there.
August stepped in and this time, we had the distraction of the Premier League in addition to the usual transfer shenanigans and meanwhile, we were still at crossroads concerning those players that needed their futures sorted out. The performance against Leicester wasn’t utterly convincing but we got three points and moved on. Just before we visited the Bet365 Stadium to play Stoke, we surprisingly sold Gabriel Paulista to Valencia. Yeah, he didn’t convince many but he was a good squad player at best, and many believed that his sale was going to pave way for a better center half. Virgil van Dijk perhaps.
The loss at Stoke was hard to take, but we still imagined it was a lesson to the manager, letting him know that a central midfielder would be needed as Granit Xhaka had a shocker of a performance. Three more youngsters, Ismael Bennacer (Empoli), Savvas Mourgos (Norwich) and Jon Toral (Hull) were shipped out before the Gunners visited Anfield to take a thrashing from Liverpool.
A day before the transfer deadline day, Arsenal stalwart, Kieran Gibbs, joined West Brom after failing to agree terms with Watford and on transfer deadline day, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain joined Liverpool while Donyell Malen completed his move to PSV Eindhoven.
In summary, the Gunners spent £46.5m on Lacazette and Kolasinac (free) and made up to £74m from the sales of five first team players and 12 Reserves, which clearly signifies that there is more money in the club’s coffers for
Uncle Scrooge Stan Kroenke and his folks to sleep on. One would have expected Arsene Wenger of all people to know that the team still needed improvement on certain areas but as usual, the team has fall short and we are heading into the campaign with the same lads that bottled things up in the Premier League to the extent they couldn’t even meet the barest minimum last season, which was Champions League qualification.
There is no Arsenal fan that would look at this transfer window and not feel some sort of disappointment. There were targets there for the taking but it just seemed difficult for the club to sign some players sometimes. Even the Lacazette deal seemed like it wasn’t going to work out at some point with Lyon president, Jean-Michel Aulas making it clear that Lacazette was already on his way to Atletico Madrid before they were hit with that transfer ban that made the deal fall through.
Then there was the pathetic failed pursuit of Thomas Lemar as Arsenal seemed like the only team that couldn’t reach a sort of agreement with AS Monaco. In the same transfer window the club lost Bernardo Silva, Valere Germain, Corentin Jean, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Benjamin Mendy and even football’s most coveted prized asset, Kylian Mbappe, it was evident that Lemar would have been an Arsenal man if the right price was offered. Not those paltry bids from the club.
I guess we have to make do with the squad but when you think of how some of the players in the team have under-performed under Wenger, you can only feel gloomy about the campaign ahead of us. Three games in, the Gunners are already on crisis mode, but in the end, it was money that prevailed over football.
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