The 2016/17 was a crazy one for everybody involved with Arsenal football club. The person at the centre of the confusion? Arsene Wenger. Wenger in and Wenger out both trended on twitter. Banners flying over grounds were the team were playing were calling for Wenger to leave. The Frenchman has been a constant at the London club. Since 1996 the legendary coach has seen over everything at the club. However, he has failed to win the league since 2004 when his side went unbeaten in their league campaign to claim the Premier League trophy. FA cup wins and top four finishes have saved his neck in the 13 years since winning the league. This year saw them drop out of Champions League football and this meant that the ice Wenger is standing on is thinner than ever. Big names are being linked with the club. Since 2004 what major signings has Wenger made to improve his squad?
After the invincible season Arsenal did not go out and grab a marquee signing. They brought in Manuel Almunia, Robin van Persie, Emmanuel Eboue and Mathieu Flamini. Van Persie would go on to be the biggest name there in terms of creating a legacy at Arsenal. However, at the time he was only 20 years of age. They spent in total just over £10 million, Wenger clearly thought the squad was strong enough already. Logically there is no problem with that thought process. The team had just gone unbeaten in the league all season, why would they need to strengthen the squad? On the other side of the argument you have the fact that players were allowed to leave. Ray Parlour left for Middlesbrough, Sylvain Wiltord moved to Lyon, Martin Keown went to Leicester and Giovanni van Bronckhorst switched to Barcelona. All of these were free transfers and the Arsenal side lost a lot of experience. The Gunners won the Community shield and FA cup that season.
The next summer transfer market was a disastrous one for the London club. They lost a vital member of their team in Patrick Vieira who moved to Italian giants Juventus. The player they signed to replace their outgoing captain was Alex Song. Song was still young and not prepared to fill such a vast void. Arsenal also signed Aleksandr Hleb, Theo Walcott, Emmanuel Adebayor and Abou Diaby. More exits followed the next season with Ashely Cole leaving for rivals Chelsea in a deal which included William Gallas arriving at Arsenal. Sol Campbell also left in the summer of 2006 along with Robert Pires. Julio Baptista arrived on loan from Real Madrid and Arsenal also invested in Denilson and Tomas Rosicky.
Things did not improve in terms of outgoing stars for Wenger’s Arsenal. Star man Thierry Henry left to Barcelona, Jose Antonio Reyes also left. Freddie Ljungberg and Lassana Diarra also left during this campaign. Incoming players were underwhelming again; Eduardo, Bacary Sagna and Lukasz Fabianski came in. All good footballers, it just feels as though Arsenal were unwilling or unable to replace the quality that was leaving the club with real world class stars. The team that had gone unbeaten only a few years before had been ruined. The best players from that side had decided to leave and what had come in had not been able to do the same job. Of course players like Van Persie developed and it must be looked back at as a wonderful signing, but Arsenal did not buy anyone for the now. They planned for the future, but the feeling was they neglected the present.
A big player left almost every season and 2011/2012 was a particularity distressing one for Arsenal. Cesc Fabregas decided to go back to Barcelona and Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy both went to Manchester City. The next season saw Van Persie go to Manchester United and Song to Barcelona. Again a mass exit from the Gunners. With this policy it easy to understand why Arsenal fans have grown frustrated with their manager.
Finally in 2013/14 Wenger decided to change his strategy when bringing in players. He signed German superstar play maker Mesut Ozil. It signalled a new age for Arsenal, one in which they would go out and try and sign top talent. Wenger must have got the taste for big money signings as he followed Ozil up with another mega signing. He brought in Alexis Sanchez to London from Barcelona. The Chilean attacker is a brilliant player and has dug Arsenal out of bad patches single handedly on numerous occasions. They also bought Danny Welbeck from Manchester United. Another solid bit of business followed as Wenger got Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech. The problem with this is that all the players leaving were allowed to by the clubs. Ozil and Sanchez were sold to make room in their clubs squad for new arrivals, Louis van Gaal did not intend to use Welbeck at United and transfer listed him and Cech had been replaced as Chelsea’s number one. Great news for Arsenal but they had not gone out and competed to bring players to the Emirates.
Last summer they brought in two £30 million plus players. Shkodran Mustafi came in to bolster the defence. As well as the German defender Wenger finally spent big money on a quality midfielder in Granit Xhaka, although he has found it difficult to settle in in England. Both of these signing are ones in which Arsenal fans should feel excited by. They both are highly rated and have good futures ahead of them as well as a decent amount of experience already in the bag.
Rumours are rife around Arsenal this summer. Sanchez is being linked with Manchester City and Wenger will have his work cut out to keep him. This must be the most vital item on his agenda at the moment. Sanchez is crucial to any consistency and potential success for Arsenal this year. Although if he leave Arsenal are heavily linked with Riyad Mahrez who inspired Leicester City to their shock league win. Monaco’s Thomas Lemar has been linked but it looks as if that may be off the table for the Gunners.
Another key point for Wenger is to keep Hector Bellerin. He is a wonderful player with amazing potential. After a decent under 21 Euro Championships and with Barcelona’s interest in bringing back former players Wenger must persuade the young Spanish full back that Arsenal will improve and compete for trophies.
With news that Olivier Giroud may be wanted by Everton coming out this may play into Arsenal’s hands. Giroud is a brilliant footballer and scores goals. However, he does not really fit at Arsenal for whatever reason. Sanchez played as a centre forward in patches last season showing that Giroud is not the best option in Wenger’s eyes. It looks as if Alexandre Lacazette will sign for Arsenal soon. This would take any issues with goalscoring out of the question. He is quick and a great finisher and would nail down his place in Arsenal’s eleven. Gunner’s fans should be hugely excited by this arrival.
Whatever happens over the summer is not even half of the issue. Wenger needs to address several issues to save himself. Even if they sign top quality players and lose some of their current stars he needs to mould them into winners quickly. If he fails to do so the mob of angry, frustrated and disappointed Wenger outers will be calling for blood. And this could be the time they get their wish.