31 January 2014

A familiar, sinking feeling...

No offense to Kim Kallstrom, who appears to be on his way to join Arsenal, but it's hard to resist a certain, sinking feeling as the transfer-news trickles in. Apparently, even Osvaldo's apparent move from Southampton to Juventus is not enough to prompt Mirko Juvinic to consider leaving for Arsenal, despite the fact that Osvaldo's move means there are now five strikers contending for two spots in a lineup that Juvinic was struggling to break into before Osvaldo arrived. In other dispiriting news, it looks as if a deal for Draxler is all but dead in the water with Arsene himself reportedly refusing to agree to the £37m transfer fee in the player's contract, believing this to be too much for an (admittedly) unproven player who is vast in talent but short in experience.

Be that as it may, most of the opprobrium heaped on Arsene has focused on his spendthrift ways, which in many ways is penny-wise and pound-foolish. If we aren't all in for Draxler and hesitate to spend £37m on him now, yes, this reflects a certain amount of economic wisdom. Simply put, we can't lavish that kind of cash on a player with the same kind of abandon that Chelsea, City, and even Man U can. However, refusing to pay what he's worth now is only likely to backfire as other clubs, circling like sharks in the water, will sense the blood that's left from wounds we've inflicted on ourselves through our apparent failure to secure Draxler's services now. Come summer, his stock will almost certainly rise, and what was once £37m will seem like a pittance compared to what he might command in a more-open market.

However, rather than nickel and dime ourselves to here, worrying about the finances, I'm worried about the larger issue—an apparent lack of faith in one's own philosophy. Here we have just the kind of player Arsene loves to sign—young, crafty, gifted on the ball and capable of playing almost anywhere in the midfield, ready and eager to expand his game under the manager's guidance—and, Arsene, renowned or reviled for his ability to find young talent and make them into superstars, is balking at the finish line rather than sealing the deal. Of course, it comes down to the economics again, but this time around, Arsene seems simply unwilling to put his money where his mouth is, and this suggests a lack of confidence in his own ability. Gone, by and large, are the days when he could pluck some undiscovered talent from some backwater, third-tier league and convert the starlet into the world's next superstar. Every other team in Europe has legions of scouts; each up-and-coming player has his highlights all over youtube. Ten years ago, before Abramovich and others got involved, a player like Draxler could be signed for—£8? £10?—but the spiraling salaries and the inflated demand created by Abramovich and others means that the price has risen many times over.

Being philosophically opposed to competing in that market is all well and good—but why, then, announce the Puma deal five days before the transfer-window is to shut? What message does Schalke or any other club read into that other than "Arsenal now have £150m more than they had last week"? Why should they negotiate themselves down with a club whose entire market value is only slightly larger than that sponsorship? Nope. We've made that bed, and now we have to lie in it.

Just as worrisome is that we're now casting about without apparent aim or direction. As much as I hope that we're seeing Wenger's Law of Inverse Relationships at work, we're all of a sudden making inquiries and bids left and right. Kallstrom came from out of nowhere, we're now apparently after Salomon Kalou, back in for Berbatov, continue to chase Tello, and...and...I don't know.

Of course, there are several hours left to go—two as I write. I just hope they bring me ample reason to apologize and eat my words.