Thoughts From The Transfer Window

I’ll be honest, going into the final week of the window, even the final day, I still thought we’d make one or two signings. Wenger had said he wanted a defender and a midfielder and personally, I thought we could have done with a forward too, maybe a keeper if I was being greedy. It hardly needs me to reiterate the fact that, by 11pm on Friday, we added no one.

I don’t pretend to know why we didn’t sign anyone so I, like more or less everyone else, will just have to offer an opinion.

Wenger has often stated that he only wants to sign players who are better than what he has. This statement often looks like a convenient cover up for a lack of activity in the market but, this time, I think there is a truth to it.

Take the midfield as an example, we have a wealth of players in there who all offer something to the team. As a result, there is no need to add another player to that area unless he is a demonstrable upgrade or adds something we don’t have.

Of course, there seems to be a need for a holding midfielder/defensive midfielder, whichever term you prefer, but it would be distinctly un-Wenger like to just add someone with the rough characteristics required if he wasn’t significantly better than the understudies he already has at various stages of rehabilitation and development.   

This leads me to believe that we were looking to do deals but weren’t looking just at those that were available on the day but for real quality long term targets. Wenger stated in his Thursday press conference that if we aren’t able to buy in the summer we could do in January. Maybe one or two targets that were hard to dislodge last week will become available in a few months time, who knows? One thing we do know of Wenger is that he is prepared to track a player for as long as is required if he thinks that player is the right one. I seem to remember Wenger wanting Hleb, Rosicky, Podolski and Cazorla long before he eventually enticed them to The Emirates.

I can see the frustration among some fans who feel we were too passive on Friday. At present ours is a squad that looks good, the theory is that another couple of big buys would make that squad very good, maybe even title contenders. There was talk of a £60m transfer kitty left untouched. If that figure is true it’s tempting to say that if it was invested we’d be that much better. As seductive as that idea is, it’s also a problematic one. Spending £60m is great but the trick is to spend it well.  What happens if the real quality that is worth spending big on just isn’t available?

We have a good squad, what we really need is a couple of players with that next level of ability, not just £60m worth of supposed ambition. Liverpool made a statement of ambition 12 months ago and are still recovering from it now.

Another point I picked up from the deadline day was the idea that, when you’re club are inactive, almost any player transferred to another club, or even linked to them, becomes better than they actually are in the collective imagination of fevered Football fans. We discuss who might be going to a competitor or who we think we could attract if only we flashed the cash but generally over look any of their short comings. 

As fans we have the freedom to make definitive statements about who we should buy and who we’ve missed out on. For those in positions of power at the club they have to make those decisions for real whilst also keeping an eye on the clubs future. Sure, we could have spent that money now but as a result there wouldn’t be as much available next time.  As I’ve said, we seemingly have a healthy budget but once that’s spent, it will take time to replenish. Unlike the oil rich clubs, we can’t spend big and then do it again a year later if it fails. Our big buys have to be right first time otherwise there is a genuine consequence.

This sort of sober talk doesn’t really fit in with the spirit of transfer deadline day. In those frantic last hours there is an apparent need to sign someone, anyone, almost as if the worst thing imaginable is to actually be relatively happy with what you had already. Being stood on the sidelines, carefully picking over the options and deciding that actually, you’re ok to sit this one out seems about as welcome as an Anthropology lecture on an 18-30’s holiday.

In all honesty, I have to admit that I get caught up in the hoopla of deadline day. The constantly changing narrative, the twists and turns are strangely addictive but, like a heavy night on the drink, it’s always better to wake up next morning and realise you didn’t make a mistake you’ll regret long after the night is over.