It’s been 12 years now, 12 long years. In that time, we’ve seen Manchester City imbued with Emerati cash and turned into Premier League Champions. We’ve seen the Abramovic billions bear fruit for Chelsea, both domestically and in the Champions League. We’ve seen Sir Alex Ferguson add five more Premier League titles and a Champions League to his trophy cabinet, then retire.
It has been 12 years since Arsenal last won the league, but it appears that manager Arsène Wenger is finally learning his lesson.
For all the talk of the club having hundreds of millions in cash reserves, and assurances over the years that the money is there to be spent, more often than not – aside from the odd major splurge on a single player – Wenger has kept his chequebook firmly in his pocket.
Last season, Petr Cech was signed from Chelsea, addressing a long-standing need for a top quality goalkeeper. Arsenal fans began to contemplate what it might be like to genuinely contend for a title again; just a couple more players and they’d have been right up there.
But, alas, not a single outfield player was signed as the summer transfer window slammed shut. Arsenal still managed a respectable second-place finish, but with the rest of the big-hitters flailing, this should’ve been their year. Instead, as Leicester City wrote their names into the history books, Arsenal’s only consolation was leapfrogging rivals Tottenham Hotspur on the final day of the season.
Amid supporter unrest, and calls for his head from some quarters, Wenger now seems ready to act. The transfer window hasn’t even officially opened yet and moves are being made; improvements are being sought and areas of weakness are being strengthened.
Granit Xhaka has been signed from Borussia Monchengladbach for £30 million, brought in to add some much needed steel to the Gunners’ midfield.
Arsenal fans have lamented their lack of a 30-goal-a-season striker ever since Thierry Henry’s departure in 2007. That issue now appears to be well on its way to being resolved, as last night, news broke of a £22 million bid for Leicester’s top-scorer Jamie Vardy, triggering the England player’s release clause.
And today, with a Football Whispers Index rating of 4.4 out of 5, a move for Wolfsburg left-back Ricardo Rodriguez seems to be very much on the cards.
Rodriguez is believed to have a release clause of £19 million which is due to expire at the end of the month, so Wenger would be well-served to act quickly.
The 23-year-old Swiss international has been linked with moves to Real Madrid and Manchester United in the past and, despite not having his best season during the last Bundesliga campaign, still possesses a host of qualities that would improve Arsenal both defensively and offensively.
Powerful, fast, strong and athletic, Rodriguez is every bit the modern full-back; responsible defensively, the former FC Zurich player comes to life when bursting forward.
Master of the viciously whipped cross, Rodriguez will aim to provide ammunition for the likes of Olivier Gioroud and, potentially, Vardy. The technically gifted defender is also a specialist when it comes to free-kicks, whether delivering a swinging centre from wide areas, or striking for goal directly.
Nacho Monreal, Arsenal’s current first-choice left-back, is coming off the back of his most consistent season since joining the club from Malaga in 2013, so he will feel hard done by if he is to be replaced.
But this points to a new ruthlessness in Wenger, recognising that he has a perfectly serviceable option on the left side of his defence in Monreal, but still seeking improvement.
Rodriguez himself recently added fuel to the fire of the rumours about his imminent switch to North London, when questioned about whether he’d be open to joining up with his Swiss national team roommate Xhaka, he said: “That would be exciting, yes, especially because the room arrangement at Arsenal would be fixed as well.”
All of a sudden, it has become an exciting time to be an Arsenal fan again. Wenger is serious about his transfer business this summer, and he is getting the job done early.