Arsene Wenger is no fool and if there’s one thing apart from football that he knows like the back of his hand, it’s economics. It’s no coincidence that the Premier league’s most shrewd transfer market manager has a masters in economics and now he must turn to his economic know how to get Arsenal out of this current crisis.
Wenger and Gordon Brown have a lot in common, both are prudent economists but now face crises. Brown, when faced with the global credit crunch sacrificed his principles of prudence for the sake of saving the British economy. Abandoning prudence and opting for an aggressive process of Keynsian Demand Management in the short term. This policy sees the government spending heavily increased in order to stimulate consumer demand within the population and as a result the economy will benefit (or so he hopes). Wenger, like Brown, has prudent principles, principles that see him forgo signing established, expensive for the sake of young players will little experience but lots of potential. Sometimes the principles work extraordinarily and other times they fall flat.
Sadly, in recent weeks, Wenger’s system has been reduced to the point of humiliation and to solve the crisis he must look to Brown and Keynesian Demand Management. Like Brown has increased government spending, Wenger must increase transfer market spending. While the Wenger purist’s amongst us may decry forgoing Wenger’s principles, it is paramount that people realise that change in the transfer policy would only be in the short term, in order to stabilise the squad and give the team a solid foundation upon which to build on.
There are three positions where I feel the team needs an extra addition. Central defence, defensive midfield and a winger. For each position there are realistic targets, that could join in January if Wenger plays his cards right.
First up, the need for a new signing in central defence. Wenger may have signed Silvestre at a bargain price in the summer but in light of recent matches he has to realise Silvestre is simply not a consistent option for the team. Kolo Toure is out of form and could benefit from a new partner to galvanise his performances. The outcome of Gallas-gate may see the need for two central defenders to be brought in and that goal can certainly be achieved.
Matthew Upson must surely be on Wenger’s radar. Upson admitted that he wasn’t up to scratch when he was playing at Arsenal and Wenger has recently come out to say that he wishes he could have kept him. The central defender has put in some very solid, tough performances for club and more recently country. The encouraging thing about Upson is that his club is currently in financial turmoil. The club’s owner is Björgólfur Guðmundsson the Icelandic billionaire. It just so happens that Iceland is just about bankrupt and with it so is Guðmundsson, who is also under investigation by the Icelandic government. With West Ham in desperate need of funds it would be incredibly hard for both West Ham and Upson to refuse an offer from Arsenal.
Other defenders that should be considered are Christoph Metzelder and Daniel Van Buyten. Both are out of favour with Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively and both are hugely experienced. Real Madrid are ready to offload Metzelder and Bayern certainly wouldn’t put up a fight for Van Buyten. Van Buyten has also stated his admiration for Arsenal. Johan Djourou is still pushing for his place at Arsenal of course, but signing a couple more centre backs will not kill off his career at the Gunners. With experienced minds like Metzelder and Van Buyten, Djourou would probably benefit from their know how. But essentially signing two experienced centre backs will provide much needed depth to a sometimes porous defence.
The area literally crying out for a new signing is midfield. In the summer, the thoughts were about which defensive midfielder we would sign, not if we would sign one at all. Now, the lack of that defensive midfielder has gone beyond a joke as Denilson and Song prove game after game that they are not yet up to scratch.
Rumours were banded around that Arsenal came within a hairs breadth of signing Udinese’s Swiss enforcer Gokhan Inler but alas it was not to be. A repeat raid for Inler would certainly bolster the midfield, but after his snub to Arsenal, Inler signed a new contract with Udinese leaving chances of signing him in January looking low.
Miguel Veloso is another obvious option to fill the void in midfielder. At 22, Veloso provides a long term option that could thrive at Arsenal in the same way that Flamini did last season.
Rumours of a Toure brothers link up have also failed to settle. Reports of Yaya Toure becoming increasingly frustrated with a lack of playing time behind Seydou Keita at Barcelona bode well for a move to Arsenal, with Yaya previously saying that he would love to play alongside Kolo. The transfer fee would not be large and Yaya is renowned for his defensive steel in midfield.
Xabi Alonso provides a more audacious target for Wenger. After making two failed bids for the Spanish midfielder, a third one might just do the trick. Liverpool, however are flying high and Alonso has been a large part of that, with Gerrad labelling Alonso “unplayable” when he is at his best.
But Alonso is still upset about Liverpool’s behaviour towards him in the summer. Liverpool were more than happy to part with him as they desperately tried to raise funds to purchase Gareth Barry. Alonso has been professional about it, but after his move to Juventus failed to materialise, he has been left feeling marginalised.
In the state that Arsenal are in at the moment there is always the chance that Alonso will snub a move, but the possibility of forming a magical partnership with compatriot Cesc Fabregas might be enough to tempt him.
Let’s not forget that Liverpool are another club heavily in the red. The most pressing issue for them comes in January, the deadline for a £31.5m loan to be repaid. That was the money that was used to purchase both Ryan Babel and Fernando Torres. Liverpool have an option on the loan to extend it by six months, however the loan was issued by the Royal Bank of Scotland, who have since been the subject of Britain’s banking bail-out and are now 60% controlled by the government.
The government, in this financial climate is preaching responsibility from the banks, especially the ones who were bailed-out by taxpayers money. This means that RBS will be severely reluctant to grant Liverpool an extension on their loan, forcing the club into a firesale to raise funds. If the loan is due in January and Arsenal make the required £16m bid for Alonso, then Liverpool may be forced to sell the midfielder.
With Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky out for long periods of time, the winger position has been left wanting. Jack Wilshere is a great player, but he is not yet reading for the week-in-week-out, rough and tumble of the Premier League.
One player that would make a savvy January signing is Ibrahim Affelay. Affelay is an archetypal Wenger signing, fast, agile and creative with a deadly first touch and an eye for goal. Affelay himself has raised speculation he could leave as soon as January saying that he cannot guarantee he will finish the season with PSV. Perhaps most importantly, he is a player that fits the system.
It’s unlikely that Wenger will sign four players in the January transfer window, but you can bet that Wenger knows better than anyone what the underlying problems are with the squad. In signing players in January it will add much needed depth to an already shallow pool of players. Signing players in January will also make the fans feel much more confident about the future. Wenger will be seen to be taking positive action in order to salvage a season already on the ropes. Wenger may not like, but both the fans and the board must convince Wenger that in order to stablise the squad, he needs to spend.