22 June 2013

Odds: Higuain at 71%, Cesar 54%, Fellaini 43%

As if we all weren't already in a bit of a tizzy over the chances of signing Gonzalo Higuain, the rumor-mill, apparently sated on a steady diet of such stories, seems to be treating that one as a done-deal or at least "no longer news." In its place, then, steps a story that claims that Everton's Marouane Fellaini has said that he hopes to join Arsenal. Fine. He'd be a wonderful addition, in my opinion. Even if it turns out (as it already has) that the "I hope so" quote is, at best, second-hand information and not direct from the Afro-Belgian's mouth, it's again a promising sign of our ambitions.

Before we go too much further, I want to make sure you know what you're about to read. I'm not going to assess how much closer we've gotten to signing anyone or what the latest, breaking news in the transfer-market is. I've posted the odds from transfermrkt, but we'll leave it at that. I'm not going to go into a detailed analysis of how each player might make his mark, mesh with, or compete against current squad-members for playing time, or the like. Instead, I'd like to take a step back to encompass the broader view, setting aside the trees in order to view the forest.

Over the course of Arsene Wenger's tenure, we've come to expect (dread?) a certain predictable approach to the transfer market, characterized by dithering, thumb-twiddling, heel-dragging, lolly-gagging, and a certain indifference to the kinds of club-transforming signatures of which we so often seem on the short end of the stick. All too often, we've had to convince ourselves that the latest obscure Francophone (not always...) starlet  would magically morph under Arsene's tutelage into a superstar or something close to it. After all, it has happened often enough to be believable: Koscielny. Nasri. Fabregas. Van Persie. Wilshere. Walcott. Vieira. Cole. Ljungberg. Toure. Each of these players joined Arsenal at a tender age and turned (or is just steps away from turning) into a world-beater.

Instead of worrying too much about how many more steps are left in the Higuain ordeal or whether we'll go on to bring in the likes of Cesar or Fellaini, it's worth taking stock. It seems we have left behind the January transfer-window, when the most-frequently cited rumors had us signing a 31-year David Villa, who is far from washed up but certainly past his prime. As superficially ambitious as it was to see us linked to signing a player, any player, from Barcelona, signing him would have been at best a stop-gap, not a signaling of intent.

By contrast, the current rumor-mongers have shifted from linking us to a starry-eyed Montengrin from Serie A's 4th place team to instead linking us to the 3rd-most prolific scorer in La Liga over the last seven years, a dramatic surge in our own stature and momentum. For what it's worth, the Euroclub Index ranks Arsenal, 4th in the Prem, several clicks above Juventus, Serie A's champion. Fiorentina is nowhere to be found on this list. In other words, we've moved from snagging a minnow from a small pond to potentially landing a big fish from a much, much larger pond. The idea that we might then also poach Marouane Fellaini is further confirmation of our ambitions.

We're not shopping the bargain-bin, rummaging for players who might be, could be, or once were. I don't think this means we're turning our backs on the idea of making superstars--Yaya Sanogo might be the next superstar two or three years down the road. It's more that we're coming to terms with the reality of the situation: one, we're emerging from a period of remarkable financial restraint; two, we're coming to terms with the power of money in the market; and three; we're flexing a little bit of muscle in that market.  Not enough to look gauche or nouveau-riche, but enough to declare our intentions. As far as weather-vanes go, then, things seem to be pointing in the right direction.

Of course, until all of the i's are dotted and the t's crossed, this could all be spit in the wind. Let's cross our fingers and say a little prayer that Arsene can seal the deal with Higuain and perhaps Cesar and/or Fellaini. I've called for two signings but certainly wouldn't turn my nose up at three.