Is Arsene Wenger about to do the unthinkable? No not admit to actually seeing an offence by one of his own players but is he going to sign an Englishman? And will he reshape his rigid transfer policy to do it?
In the past Wenger has pretty much steered clear of signing English talent (using the term loosely), having his fingers burnt signing the likes of Francis Jeffers or allowing young prospects to leave the Gunners, such as David Bentley, Matthew Upson and Stephen Hughes.
Admittedly some of these players are simply not good enough for a club of Arsenal’s calibre and for a team with Premiership and Champions League ambitions it doesn’t serve to keep players who don’t make the grade. And, young foreign players cost a lot less than domestic potential, and with Wenger’s own extensive European scouting network he is more often than not right to look abroad. But has Wenger missed a trick with previous transfer dilemmas? And more importantly, has he now realised the error of his ways and changed tack?
Rumours suggest that either Everton’s Phil Jagielka or Bolton’s Gary Cahill will join Arsenal in January or possibly both in the summer transfer window. Jagielka, who came close to joining Arsenal last summer, has been identified as their number one transfer target, and with Everton possibly reluctantly willing to sell, could they let him go for a £15 million price tag?
It looks increasingly more likely that the now-capped England international is hot property and whilst being highly regarded and much loved at Everton could be prised away to The Emirates. In a similar set of circumstances, Gary Cahill could be offloaded in an attempt to make up their rumoured debts of £100 million. Either way, they are both un-Wenger like signings, so what changed?
As both tough tackling, ‘traditional’ centre halves (by that I mean better in the air than on the ground), they are not obvious choices for Arsenal. Since the original Arsenal back four – the archetypal English back four of Dixon, Adams, Bould/Keown and Winterburn – which Wenger inherited and came to love, the Frenchman has steered clear of the classic lumbering English central defender.
Now with Jagielka and Cahill – both, far from this description as dynamic and pacy defenders who can read a game and marshal a defence – has Wenger finally admitted that he needs to strengthen the spine of his team? That he needs to have the odd hatchet-man or too in his team? And that he needs to do what every good restaurant does and buy British if the product is more than good enough?
And what’s more would he need to massively rethink his transfer policy on two levels, and break his pricing structure and pay more than £10 million for a player, and buy one who is over 25?
Over to you Arsene.
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