It's a new day into the transfer window and Arsenal have been linked with yet another striker. This time it's Luis Suarez. After a flurry of bets alerted the world that Arsene Wenger had attempted to 'do a Redknapp", and nip in under the radar for the talented but troubled Uruguayan, Liverpool have apparently rejected a £30million offer. But wait, the only other stone-cold information we have on Arsenal in their pursuit of new recruits is, another rejection, this time from Bayer Leverkusen's Lars Bender. Everything else is just speculation. There is in fact, no concrete information if a bid for Higuain has been made, nor Fellaini, Rooney, Jovetic, or any other of the Tom, Dick and Harry's Arsenal are supposedly interested in.
Talk of Cesc returning, maybe even Flamini on a free, has been tossed about like an orca playing with a seal, and yet, 2 rejections and a free french under 20 international later, there is a sour taste in the morning in the mouths of fans awaiting the news of a signing which, they pray, will start the awaited revolution of the club from also ran's, to prize winners once again.
But will it happen? Realistically, can Arsenal now be seen as prospective league contenders and also be considered a place to go for those who have aspirations of trophies? Exasperation has been the standard fare for the last 8 seasons, and because of such, players with ambitions have seen that they simply cannot realise them within the existing Arsenal team set up. Players have fled the nest they were nurtured in, and staggeringly, since Arsenal last won a trophy 23 ex players have gone on to win 56 major trophies between them. In terms of honours for these players, you have to acknowledge that the move away has been an excellent choice for their careers.
"But wait!", I hear you cry. "Things are different now! Now we have money! Now we have the ability to pay players exorbitant wages, and clubs extravagant amounts of transfer fee monies! We have. the fiscal power!". As I shake off the image of Arsene Wenger holding aloft his magic sword in emulation of the classic cartoon "He-Man", I'm struck with the same problem I had with the cartoons of yesteryear. Believably. Not from the fiscal point of view, the economics speak for themselves, but from the point of view of players, do they really, seriously, in all honesty, buy into the idea that joining the current Arsenal squad, can win them trophies?
Herein lies the problem. In truth, Arsenal require maybe 4 or 5 top players in order to make them realistic championship material. And while that stands, why would anyone of substance join? Which in turn, generates a viscous circle. Unless Arsenal can announce at least 2 major signings to show their intent, at roughly the same time, (probably using assurances of the capture of the one, to the other in order to ensure commitment from both), there is no viable reason for anyone to join. That's an image Arsenal cannot afford to have, any more than the perception of being the perennial runners up which they're battling today.
Gone are the days where players would love to play for Arsenal because they knew a 3 year contract would practically guarantee them trophies. Now they need convincing to come, and hold out for bigger and better clubs, because careers are short, and prospects important. For this to be rectified, either the perception of what Arsenal has become has to change, or the club itself needs to be able to state unequivocally to players it approaches that, they will be a force to be reckoned with. But without those two big signings to start that ball rolling, and with no real way to convince those signings to put pen to paper, what hope is there that things will change?
Manchester United look strong, Chelsea even stronger, Manchester City have a team of stars who if they gel again could rival anyone. I doubt any one individual has the arrogance to believe that his presence alone is good enough to elevate Arsenal to those levels. And so, before anyone signs, they will require the knowledge that they'll not be alone. So the question is, how to you convince two players already filled with skepticism, to take a chance on a club with no recent history? Wenger may have metaphorically helped build a stadium, but his greatest challenge in the weeks to come is to redefine the foundations of his team to outsiders, and have them wanting to buy in. I'm just not sure it's one he can win.