If rumours are to be believed, the 'miser' in Arsene Wenger is ready to splash some big money this January transfer window. Certainly wiser – not to be confused with his vast experience – with the crumbling fortunes, and following a relentless barge of criticism from the fans all and sundry, the Arsenal manager admitted that now is the time to start spending.
There are reasons to be happy for Arsenal fans. Despite the lack of trophies, which dignifies or rather quantifies the stature of a manager, Wenger has been “a real statesman of the game,” as endorsed by one his rival managers Liverpool's Brendan Rodgers. Everybody knows that with a stable squad, the Frenchman can do wonders. But unluckily, that was a luxury he couldn't afford for some time.
He has been busy building a stable squad, year after year, with a long list of relatively unknown players, and in the process helping them become stars. Few clubs have the wherewithal and power to retain stars and keep them happy at the same time. Unluckily, for a club constrained by cost of building a new world-class stadium with limited funding, it was a distant dream.
That's how stars like Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Robin Van Persie were allowed to leave for other clubs. The financial prudence in selling these stars certainly helped in the long run. At times, existence is more important than the glory.
This fact was recently highlighted by Newcastle manager Alan Pardew, when he said that without Wenger's astute transfer policies, for which the Frenchman has been constantly receiving a lot of flak, Arsenal would have failed to exist as a top club long time ago, struggling to cope with a huge debt incurred from moving to the Emirates from Highbury in 2006. Pardew even went on to say that, the new stadium should be named after the manager.
Now that the initial investment has started giving returns, Arsenal have finally start acquiring their own stars and stopped being the feeder club to the ones owned by oligarchs. In the previous two transfer windows, Wenger brought in two world-class players in Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, and both have given enough charm and fire-power to the line-up.
Yes, one nagging issue for the Gunners is injury problems, which is taking a toll on the over-all health of the club and its credentials as a title winner. As the English league breaks into the year-end mode, the club has had to do with the limited services of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil, Laurent Koscielny, Mikel Arteta, Nacho Monreal, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tomas Rosicky, David Ospina and Serge Gnabry. Majority of these players are all starters, in any competition, against any opposition.
But thanks to Wenger's sheer determination and frugality, the north London club continues to be a top club, well-run and always living by their philosophy. Credit should also be given to those unknown men who are living in a dilemma, including the vociferous fans for allowing the Frenchman to manage the club as it is being run, despite the lack of titles.
Wenger himself elaborated the fraught that goes with managing a top club and said, “When you want to make a long career, you cannot only win, unfortunately." And rightly, he has been guiding the club for 18-years, always in contention for titles. It's not a mean feat to play in hugely rewarding UEFA Champions League non-stop, when some of the biggest clubs in the continent fail to keep themselves in that top-rung.
Keeping his fortitude intact, an optimistic Wenger continued, “When you get over the hill to January, you look towards the end.” The 2014-15 league season is well and truly over for Arsenal before the arrival of January, but the fight has just started. The final stretch will decide the fortunes of many clubs, including that of Arsenal.
That's where Wenger is focussing. In a bid to replenish his squad, mainly in defence, Le Professeur is ready to take the plunge and spend some money, where it is required. After the departure of Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona in August, and the injury to Laurent Koscielny, Gunners back-line has been left exposed. These two centre-backs were the backbone of thirteen-time league champions for some time.
And according to the manager, they are on the look out for a suitable defender who can fill in the void and give some stability at the back. Wenger, who in recent times has assumed a rather stubborn character, also defended his alacrity to signings.
“What I don’t like is to spend money that I don’t have,” he said. “Now I have money so no problem spending it at all. What I fought against was spending money that would have put the future of the club in danger,” he said.
Showing the lighter side of an otherwise serious persona, the 65-year-old claimed that people need to go out with him to know that he is not all a miser.
“There is a huge difference between the perception that people have of me... I’m not scared to spend money... If you go out with me one night, you will understand that,” he asserted.
With the return of some of his injured players and signing of an experienced defender, good times should come Arsenal's way.