Arsène Wenger spoke to the Belgian press today regarding Lille dynamo Eden Hazard, and Arseblog News was on the case. As one would expect, the manager had only glowing things to say about the Lille man:
I like him a lot, and for several reasons. His creativity, his ability to unbalance the opposition, his vision and his consummate art of giving the final ball make him a player coveted by many.
Hazard has the right profile to play at a top level club, and Arsenal is a top level club.
Hazard is obviously one of the best young creative midfield players in the world right now, and he has spoken of his desire to play in England next season. One would have to be a fool, though, to imagine that Manchester United and Arsenal are the only possible destinations, especially given the wages that Hazard is likely to command.
There's one other thing, though, too, that Wenger said, as Arseblog notes:
You have to know that at every season’s start, Arsenal must imperatively make a profit of between £15m and £20m. I’d add to that that one of the missions of a coach is to always buy at a price he judges to be right.
There's no disagreement there. All of us here generally love the way Wenger manages a sustainable transfer policy and long-term vision for the club, and as Arseblog notes, that quote is missing a lot of context: 'Yet, it’s one line in an interview which really needed the reporter to follow [it up]", and Arseblogger rightly wonders where exactly the profits result from in the end. Still, Wenger said it, and the fact that he said it in the same interview where he praised Eden Hazard may suggest that he's trying to tamp down runaway excitement.
I'm not a fan of huge transfer fees in general, and luckily for me, Arsenal avoid that particular gamble. However, besides fees and matters of profit (which may be outside the transfer budget anyway, as noted), the main concern that Arsenal have in terms of attracting fresh talent to the squad is wages. Simply put, Arsenal are not going to pony up the kind of wages that three of the five clubs above them will. Coupled with the weirdness in the wage structure overall--players who haven't proven themselves making far too much, and thus being harder to transfer to other clubs--and the fact that long-serving talent like Robin van Persie comes first in negotiations for better wages this summer, it's unlikely that a player like Hazard would choose Arsenal over say, Manchester City or Chelsea.
And frankly, if I had my druthers, I'd prefer that Arsenal kept it that way. The club's wage bill is very high, without a concurrent reflection of that position on the league table so far this season. A bit of a clear-out may be needed when possible. One only has to look at Newcastle for an example of a club who are making a great deal out of not a lot of money lately to be reminded that it is indeed still possible. So while Hazard may not end up joining the Gunners in the summer, and while it seems that profit in some shape is necessary, and while NOBODY ON EARTH would be happier than I would be were Hazard to join up, Arsenal will probably bring in a Montenegrin player nobody's ever seen actually kick a ball before.
As long as Wenger has sufficient time to do things carefully, though, I have faith that he will make good moves. Recent history is on his side: Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, hell, even Samir Nasri (BOOOOOOO HISSSSS) came with plenty of time and thought put into the deals. It was only last summer when things got weird, and the reasons for that have been beaten to death. Wages that are too high for some squad members, coupled with Arsenal's reluctance to pay on the scale of the "big three" in England, mean that Hazard probably won't be in red and white come July, but there's perhaps a less pricey alternative currently plying their trade in Germany or France or Portugal or somewhere than can join up.