When a club the size of Arsenal feels in a state of perpetual rebuilding, it is only natural for fans to want to see a proper statement of intent. From the relative austerity of the post-Emirates Arsene Wenger era to the comparative free-spending of the Unai Emery and Mikel Arteta eras, though, things have arguably gotten worse. A club that was once derided for ‘only’ finishing in the top four in England now dreams of a UEFA Champions League return.
Throw in the fact that star players seem to become perpetually disgruntled at the club, and there is a whiff of worry about Arsenal being able to properly, truly compete at the top-end of the sport. However, Gunners coach Mikel Arteta has made clear that the club is still in a position to make big moves in the transfer market.
When quizzed about a potential big January move – the club is heavily liked with Dusan Vlahovic of Fiorentina, seen as the best young striker in the world by some – Arteta was bullish on his belief. The Spaniard noted: every window in many different ways and we are alert.
“Edu and his team are working very hard as we know exactly what we need to do. Whether we can accomplish that in January or in the summer is a different question as it is related to other stuff.
“Again if it is the right player and we can afford it and we can do what we want to do we will discuss it and make the best possible decision. We are open.”
Those quotes should provide at least some encouragement for Arsenal fans. For the last few years, most of the big signings in fees have been relative punts on the likes of Ben White and Nicolas Pepe.
Can Arsenal land the next big stars – or current stars?
While Arteta appears to believe that Arsenal are still a big enough name to land stars, the reality says otherwise. For one, the stars who Arsenal seem to spend big on appear to sour quickly on the club. Ever since Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was given a bumper new contract and the club captaincy, his discipline and his contribution has waned drastically.
Right now, the former captain is banned from the club and is very likely to be available for transfer. His presence at the African Cup of Nations with Gabon, though, further complicates an exit. It is another sign, though, that the Gunners appear to have a hard time keeping their biggest names happy. This has been a problem for many years, arguably stretching back to the days of the post-Thierry Henry era.
Although Arsenal are undoubtedly still a massive club, they have struggled to get much change out of the stars they have signed. Other big names are linked, but inevitably go to clubs in the Champions League. While the Vlahovic links must feel nice for fans, the reality is that the striker is far more likely to end up at a club in a better position than the rebuilding North London giants.
Can Arsenal fix this? Until they can land a ‘statement’ signing who sticks around and performs, it might be harder than some would expect.