Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
- Premier League side show interest in a talented player who could boost their aspirations for the upcoming season.
- Talented player is aware of the side’s stature, rich history, regular Champions League football and attractive football style, declares the interest is mutual.
- Talented player’s current club, not wanting to be short changed in losing such an asset, set a stern, but true-to-current-climate transfer fee for such a deal.
- Premier League side’s interest plummets like a cartoon lemming, before disappearing completely after a meek attempt at haggling.
- Another team swoop in and meet that valuation, leaving Premier League side looking stupid. Again.
Yes, ‘Premier League side’ is Arsenal. And yes, ‘talented player’ could be one of a whole host of footballers.
All that talk at the start of the summer of the Gunners having a ‘war chest’ of funds to recruit fresh talent seemed a trifle risky at the time.
With a shade over a fortnight left of the transfer window and only low-cost prospect Yaya Sanogo making his way into Arsenal, it’s looking downright ridiculous.
There’s a strong chance that, had the club kept their traps shut about available funds, supporters would have quietly accepted a lack of major acquisitions, just as long as no more big names bolted for the exit.
Heck, some may have even considered it a productive summer, based purely on the departure of so much dead wood – Gervinho, Arshavin, Chamakh, Squillaci and Andre Santos are all gone.
Unfortunately, even getting rid of rubbish players is still getting rid of players, when they’re not being replaced.
Thanks to Arsenal’s failure to land players such as Gonzalo Higuain, Bernard and Luis Suarez, their ranks now look rather slim – three days before they welcome Aston Villa to the Emirates to kick off the new Premier League season.
The funny thing is that the latest reported target of the Gooners’ ‘war chest’ – Bayern Munich’s Luiz Gustavo – could well be the answer to all of their problems.
The 26-year-old Brazilian is not a goal-grabbing or even talismanic forward, unlike Wenger’s other apparent big-money targets, but rather a cultured and intelligent midfield enforcer.
You know, the sort of player everyone associated with the club has been desperate to see arrive since Patrick Vieira departed and took the secret to winning silverware with him.
Local newspaper Bild, however, has today reported an all-too-familiar bump in the road for the switch: Bayern want between 17 and 20 million euros (£15-17m) for his services. Arsenal are refusing to go any higher than a couple million less than that.
Every ‘big Arsenal signing’ so far this summer seems to have evaporated into thin air over a few extra quid in the grand scheme of things. And it’s getting a little bit daft.
If it’s a shrewd, value-for-money bargain Wenger and the board are chasing, why were they nowhere to be found when the likes of Marco van Ginkel, Jores Okore, Arouna Kone, Iago Aspas and Emanuele Giaccherini became available? Even Victor Wanyama arrived in England for less than what they are apparently prepared to give to Bayern.
Of course, none of those are on the same level as the likes of Higuain, Suarez and Gustavo. But the Gunners should not be trying to pass themselves off as big spenders if they are not prepared to play the big spenders’ game.
Instead, Wenger now resembles that granny pottering around the market stalls, gazing almost eternally at the various items available but not willing to part with those copper coins in her purse.
Perhaps, like said stall-dwellers, the man who once dived headfirst into the stormy transfer waters and emerged with Vieira, Thierry Henry and other club legends-in-the-making now just likes the company of the traders, and their endearing daily natter.
Though the board no doubt played their long-serving and highly-successful manager a ghastly hospital pass in making such ill-advised claims about the Arsenal summer kitty, fears that Wenger is but a shell of his supreme old self have been snowballing for years, now.
It’s enough to make us non-Arsenal fans hope that Bild have got it wrong, or that Arsenal do up their Gustavo bid.
Here’s hoping they get their man – and with it, that final piece of a jigsaw that has looked unsightly in its lack of completion for far too long.
Two weeks and change to go, Arsene – time is running out.
Liam Happe | Follow on Twitter