At this pre-match press conference, Arsène Wenger was asked about transfers, and specifically, whether Arsenal were closer to signing anyone. In typical Wenger fashion, he refused to discuss any players’ names, not being drawn on strong links with Shkodran Mustafi and Alexandre Lacazette. Wenger confirmed that the defeat to Liverpool will not change the transfer strategy, saying “It was important before the game already. You do not sign players because you think it is important or not”.
This is obviously the right strategy. Reacting to one game would be silly and speak to a lack of a greater plan. On the other hand, the Liverpool game should also reinforce why it is important to sign a central defender, because a more experienced player may not make the mistakes that compound systematic errors that already exist.
Yet Wenger also spoke of the difficulty he’s encountered this summer—difficulty that has also affected other clubs, like Chelsea, who also need defensive reinforcements:
I believe it is very difficult to identify people and find them. We have many examples in England of teams that spend a huge amount of money looking for central defenders. That is why everyone is in the market for the same players and very few players as well.
Wenger is referring to some obvious bad buys—most notably Eliquam Mangala, who is on the outs at Manchester City, having cost £40m plus wages. Arsenal do not have the capacity to get a transfer like that wrong; anyone who costs big money has to be a success. And with the money that is available to Premier League clubs, the financial advantage the Premier League held is now disappearing. As Wenger said, “When the buyer is English, it is true that it multiplies the transfer by two or three or sometimes by 10 because if for the same player an English club does not come in, he is worth five million. But if an English club comes he is worth 35 or 40 or 50.”
Again, Wenger is not wrong. He is working within the parameters of what Arsenal have to spend. But ultimately, he will be judged on whether he makes the necessary additions, or not, because the money is there, and it is his job to use what he has to improve the squad.