Football Expert & Columnist
Sign of the times
Arsene Wenger has to bite the bullet and make at least one marquee signing, says Jamie Redknapp.
Last Updated: 25/08/11 6:17pm
Arsenal have finally done the right thing and sold Cesc Fabgregas. Now they have to sell Samir Nasri as well.
It's not admitting defeat if they do. He wants to go and players have so much power now that they can't do much else. He's got one year left on his contract and Arsene Wenger has always made a point of telling us how well Arsenal is run as a football club, how financially sound they are; well, they can get maybe £20million for Nasri now, or let him go for nothing next year. If they did keep him for that final year it would not make good business sense and it would go against everything Arsene Wenger stands for.
It also makes good football sense. The boy wants to go and if he can go and pick up £200,000-plus a week at another top club, probably Manchester City, you can't really blame him. If he stays, will his heart be at the club? No. He doesn't want to be there, Fabregas wanted to be at Barcelona, so they have to start looking at the future.
Hopefully that means Aaron Ramsey and it definitely means Jack Wilshere and one or two others. But it is that one or two others that might well make or break Arsene Wenger. It's not fair to judge him until the transfer window is closed. But he does need to spend well - and spend big - before it does.
It has to be time for him to go out and splash big money on ready-made players, ones who are already at the top of their game. He needs to as well because looking at that squad that drew at Newcastle and beat Udinese, it will not finish in the top four. I'm not being anti-Arsenal either, I think Arsenal fans would agree with me.
Every time they lost the ball it became like a basketball match, they were a car crash waiting to happen. They were so open. It made me think - not for the first time this summer - why on earth don't they just go for Scott Parker? Surely he's ideal for them? He's a good lad to have around the place and more importantly, he would do the job they need. I look at Alex Song and I don't think he sees himself as a holding midfielder.
Collectively they look to go forward when they've got the ball, but someone like Parker would sit back and make sure they were in position, covering, just in case they lost the ball.
They clearly still need a centre-half, a dominant one at that. Wenger has tried abroad before with Lorent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci but it hasn't really worked, so you're probably looking at Christopher Samba or Gary Cahill. They've been in for Phil Jagielka but obviously didn't offer enough money to tempt either him or Everton, I know they tried hard to get Phil Jones but lost out to Manchester United, but that's life.
Let's say he has £50million to spend, which is the figure being put about: I would go out and get Eden Hazard from Lille; he is in the Nasri/Fabregas mould, a real No 10 and he speaks French, which would suit Wenger perfectly. Then I would buy Scott Parker, on loan and then it would be a decision between Samba, Jagielka and Cahill.
But I honestly wouldn't be too confident of sitting here in two weeks' time saying he has bought all three of those, or even those types of player, but for once, I think Arsene Wenger HAS to bite the bullet.
His squad's so threadbare, so lacking in real quality that unless he does something, unless he makes a stand now he is in danger of giving the likes of Wilshere and Robin van Persie, a get-out clause should they become disillusioned come January or next summer. I am not saying they will, but if Arsenal don't start bringing in some good players, it will give them an excuse if they do want out.
It's time for Wenger to make a statement, to show that Arsenal can compete in this market and make a couple of marquee signings. Even if he thinks there is no real value down the line, or if it is not bringing anything to his vision of the future for the club, he needs to show the players and supporters as much as the rest of the Premier League, that he and Arsenal Football Club mean business this season. He has to, for once, think about the present.
He might have to accept that the days of bringing in the young unknown gems are over as well. Arsenal always had the French and African markets cornered and Steve Rowley always seemed to pick out a real talent none of us had really heard of; a Patrick Vieira, Nicholas Anelka or Thierry Henry. Everyone has seen what Arsene's done and they are now doing the same - some of them with more money behind them.
There is huge competition out there right now and unfortunately for Arsenal, not a great deal of quality out there in the market. And when a good player becomes available, the top clubs all try and buy him and as we know as well as Arsene does, Arsenal cannot compete with the wages. If he does start paying £200,000-a-week then it won't be long before Arsenal Football Club goes bust.
I think he rebels against the market. I think he gets angry when he sees Chelsea and Manchester City offering ridiculous money and find's it obscene. It's a bit like he's at a party and the music's on but he doesn't want to dance - even if he wanted to - because everybody else is doing fancy moves! I think it offends him and for that reason he still thinks I've got money here, so I'll keep going and buying young players from Southampton say, because my club will still be here, when everyone else's money is gone.
But it doesn't need a massive change in the wage structure, because there are still some world-class players at the club. It just needs a couple of marquee signings to show they are willing to compete. He might not like it but if Wenger wants to continue his fabulous record, he has to make exceptions.
They cannot do anything though until they have played the second leg in Udinese -and that is by no means a cert, having watched them on Tuesday night. Liverpool in the Premier League on Saturday is another tough game, but I can tell you this right now, they would rather lose that. The Udinese game is worth something like £30million - to add on the Fabregas cash and whatever they get for Nasri - and will really define where this club is going.
I've said before, this is the first time the pressure is really on Arsene Wenger. If they lose on Saturday that's one point from two games but if they miss out on Champions League football - for the first time in 14 years - where would they be?
I can understand why the fans are so frustrated, but they need to put that on hold for the next couple of games. Trust me, someone like Paris St Germain with their new backing, would write Wenger a cheque tomorrow, so the supporters have to be careful. If they force him out, they will never see the type of football they have seen over the past few years. And whatever happens in the window, they will see it again this year, absolutely they will.
Whether that football will be enough to bring overdue success to the club you can't say. But on last season's evidence and from what we've seen already this season, you wouldn't back this current squad to match Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, never mind the Barcelonas of the world. I am reserving judgement until the transfer window is closed and we can see what Wenger does, who he buys.
It's not what you want at the start of a new season, but these next two weeks might just be the most important of Arsene Wenger's time in English football.