Saturday’s shock FA Cup defeat at the hands of Championship side Blackburn Rovers has, not for the first time this season, led to a serious re-examination of the state of affairs at Arsenal. The reaction at the final whistle at the Emirates spoke volumes for the discontent felt by a large proportion of Arsenal fans toward their club.
Once again, it is the club’s activity, or lack of it, in the transfer market that is being widely cited as a reason for the club’s struggles.
Having made a profit from their summer dealings, following the sales of Alex Song and Robin van Persie, Wenger only moved into the transfer market on the final day of the January window, after an injury to Kieran Gibbs, with the signing of Nacho Monreal.
While for a long time there were doubts about whether the money was present for Wenger, that is no longer the case.
Arsenal recently announced a new bumper sponsorship deal with Emirates, while a kit deal is expected to be concluded imminently. According to the Daily Telegraph, Arsenal has a cash balance of £150 million, with £70 million to be available for purchases this summer.
Two names at the forefront of Wenger’s thinking, report the Telegraph, is Etienne Capoue and Stevan Jovetic.
It has been widely reported that an attempt was made to sign Toulouse midfielder Capoue in January. The 24-year-old fits the bill for the strong midfield presence it is believed that Wenger is looking for to replace Song. While Abou Diaby is a favorite of Wenger, the France international has been beset by injuries in recent seasons.
Capoue has been a regular in Ligue 1 for Toulouse since 2008 and has also established himself in the France setup this season.
Fiorentina forward Jovetic is thought to be one of the targets Wenger is looking at as a world-class front man to fill the boots of Van Persie. While Olivier Giroud has been improving as the season has gone on, Arsenal are undoubtedly light in terms of options in that department.
Jovetic would complement Giroud’s more traditional center-forward skills and the Montenegrin can also operate just off a main striker.
The 23-year-old is thought to be one of Europe’s most in-demand forwards having blossomed since returning from a cruciate ligament injury last season. Fiorentina are understandably reluctant to part with their prized asset, however, and recently asserted that he would not be leaving any time soon, despite the recent arrival of Giuseppe Rossi.
Much, though, could depend on whether the Viola qualify for the Champions League this season. Fiorentina is now sixth in Serie A.
According to the Telegraph, also in Wenger’s thinking for the summer is an experienced goalkeeper to provide an alternative to Wojciech Szczesny. Among the names mentioned are Spain internationals Victor Valdes and Pepe Reina.
Valdes, 31, has told Barcelona that he will not renew his current contract, which is set to expire in the summer of 2014. Barcelona have said that they have no plans to hasten Valdes’ departure with a transfer this summer, although the Sun claims that the Blaugrana have agreed to let him leave for £10 million.
Valdes has said that he wants to experience playing in another country and a move to the Gunners may well appeal to him. According to the Sun, Valdes earns £120,000 a week at the Camp Nou, which could prove a stumbling block.
Reina, 30, could well be less expensive. Wenger is a known admirer of the Liverpool stopper and already failed to bring him to the Emirates with a bid of £20 million back in 2010. The Daily Mail has reported that Arsenal is poised to step up their interest in the player.
Whether Wenger is still as keen to sign Reina must be in doubt, however. The former Villareal man has become increasingly error-prone in recent months and there have even been reports that Liverpool would look to offload him this summer.