Four years ago this month, Arsene Wenger made the dumbest move of his managerial career. In July 2013, Arsenal placed the infamous £40,000 + £1 transfer bid with Liverpool for Luis Suarez. The move was perplexing and prompted John Henry to wonder what the Board were smoking over there at the Emirates. Earlier this year, Wenger revealed the team had come to terms with Suarez and misunderstood his contract, thinking the “plus one” bid would meet the minimum transfer bid requirements. This sophomoric attempt at trying to cheat the system seemingly typified Arsenal’s transfer policies: cheap and falling short. Even though Arsenal did pay a record sum for Mesut Ozil that summer, the story haunts discussions of the club’s transfers to this day.
However, this transfer window, the club seems to have turned another leaf. In its successes and even more importantly in its failures, those in charge of the money and the talent acquisition are acting reasonable and, dare I say, smart. Take the chase for Thomas Lemar. Arsenal targeted a top-flight talent but their first bid was £30m and rejected. Rather than be stubborn they’ve steadily increased their bid but not made obscenely large bids more than other clubs for the sake of it. For his teammate Kylian Mbappe, Arsenal have not been afraid to throw out obscene figures which is of course a different tactic.
The other difference is Arsenal’s smart plays so far to keep key players like Alexis Sanchez and Hector Bellerin. Sanchez publicly has hinted at an exit but the club so far has played its cards right. In the past when a player has wanted out, they tainted everything like a bad fish in a fridge until they were allowed to leave. Instead, Arsenal have set a hard line and waited to see the market develop. Once Bayern announced they were changing their transfer focus to younger players, Sanchez’s market dried up to Premier League clubs. Now there are one or two clubs bidding against themselves while the idea that he could stay begins to not seem crazy. For Bellerin, the club drew an even harder line and waited for Barcelona to bend. This week, they did by reaching a deal for Benfica’s Nelson Semedo.
Every season Arsenal seemingly creeps towards a competent transfer policy. They will reach a deal for a world class talent like Sanchez or Ozil, but lose another star player or leave a gaping hole somewhere else on the pitch. This summer, if they continue to make smart decisions and offload those players who are now a bad fit, our club could actually have a good transfer window.