Ambition Needed as Arsenal Face Losing Stars

The winds of change are certainly blowing through the Emirates Stadium this summer as Arsenal face perhaps the most pivotal off-season since Arsene Wenger took over in 1996.

The rumours swirling around the futures of captain Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri are threatening to cause complete disarray within the Gunners’ camp, and derail their ambitions for next season before it has even begun.

Barcelona’s courting of Cesc Fabregas is nothing new as they have tried to lure him back ‘home’ for the past two seasons without success, as a stubborn Wenger has continually clutched onto his prize asset with an iron-like grip.

However, the Gunners are in the driving seat as far as this transfer goes and despite constant reports claiming Fabregas is ‘desperate’ to return to the Catalan giants, they are under no pressure to sell him this summer due to a contract tying him to the North London club until at least 2014.

Barcelona have already tested Arsenal’s resolve with a bid of around £27m for the Spaniard, although this falls well short of the Gunners’ valuation of approximately £40m, which the European champions are exceedingly reluctant to pay.

It remains to be seen whether Barcelona will return with an improved offer for Fabregas, but as it stands they hold relatively few cards compared to the Gunners.

However, if the professional nature of Fabregas wanes and his performances suffer because of it, Arsenal’s hand may be forced and they will have to part with their inspirational captain before it tears the team apart.

The Fabregas saga has surprisingly taken somewhat of a backseat role to the real shock story of the summer so far, concerning the Frenchman Samir Nasri and a prospective move to either of the two Manchester clubs.

Nasri’s reluctance to sign a new contract with Arsenal must have come as a complete bolt from the blue to Arsene Wenger as he prepared to enter the transfer market, in order to apply much-needed improvements to a Gunners side who faltered spectacularly at the conclusion of last season, when they were in the hunt for four trophies as late as February.

This is perhaps the most pertinent reason for Nasri’s sudden disillusion with life at the Emirates and with less than a year left on his Arsenal contract, the vultures emanating from both Old Trafford and the Etihad Stadium are circling, with the promise of trophies something that Arsenal cannot guarantee anymore.

Wenger has responded by declaring that the club will ‘fight as hard as possible’ in order to keep Nasri from turning his back on the club. Yet he will need to show real ambition in the transfer market in order to persuade his disenchanted players that a season culminating in a trophy is a genuine prospect.

On the plus side, it looks as though they have made their first dip into the market with the imminent signing of Ivory Coast wide-man Gervinho, from the French champions Lille.

However, Gunners fans will hope this is not the only major signing of the summer as they fully expect to add one or two defenders to bolster their often criticised backline.

They have already cast admiring glances the way of Christopher Samba and Gary Cahill, who would cost upwards of £10m and £15m respectively. Realistically, only one of these men will join the club during the off-season as Wenger also has plans for other positions within his squad.

Another potential target being mooted is the Aston Villa midfielder Stewart Downing, and a bid of £18m has apparently already been lodged today, a figure sure to test Villa’s resolve.

The fee may seem excessive considering Wenger’s notoriously prudent tendencies, yet the fact that he is left-footed and English will almost certainly have bumped his price up, especially in a time when transfer fees have reached ridiculous proportions due to the pressure on clubs to succeed at the top level.

There is a worrying feeling among Arsenal fans that their club’s financial plans, while being incredibly admirable, are transforming them from perennial title contenders to just being a feeder club to not only the top teams from around Europe but, more worryingly, to the teams in their own league.

Arsenal really are at a crossroads and Wenger is under intense pressure to deliver the necessary improvements in order to keep the Gunners competitive, or risk seeing his title-seeking side fall by the wayside and become ‘just another club’ within the increasingly cut-throat world of the English Premier League.

Rob Johanson



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