I don’t know how many of you watched late afternoon Comedy Central in the late 90s / early 2000s, but if, like me, you did, I imagine you also fondly remember Win Ben Stein’s Money. I’m not quite sure what it was about that show, maybe it was the mano-a-mano “Best of Ten Test of Knowledge” showdown, maybe it was a young Jimmy Kimmel as the host, or maybe it was just Mr. Stein’s dulcet tones, but that show was undeniably magic.
Among the things today that hold my attention as much as Win Ben Stein’s Money did in my younger years, is transfer talk. I know, I know: it’s all a bunch of speculative hooey, but it’s damn interesting speculative hooey, and I love it despite its lack of objective merit (much like The Real Housewives series – Lisa Vanderpump & Kandi Burruss are my homegirls!). That being the case, let’s lay down some ground rules and get to it.
Now that it looks like Stan Kroenke is out of the bidding for the Los Angeles Dodgers, what is he going to do with all that cash he was about to splash on a baseball team? I bet I can think of one of two little things coughMarioGoetzecough! Oh excuse me; I don’t know what came over me, coughEdenHazardcough! Oh dear, it’s happened again, I’m quite sorry. Now that I’m over that little coughing fit, let’s move forward.
For the purposes of this exercise we have to assume Arsenal will be in the Champions League in 2012/13, because without the Champions League to attract players to the club, and without the extra revenue, all of this is wishful thinking. So, if our baseline is somewhere around £50m that Arsenal has to spend, assuming Champions League revenues, let’s go ahead and figure out how best to spend it.
Again, for the purposes of this exercise, I’m going to assume that the Podolski transfer is happening, and that the reported £11m transfer fee is his actual price. I honestly do believe this will get done, and while I can’t be sure on the money, it does sound about right to me, given that he is (I believe) going into the last year of his current deal. So, we’ve spent £11m of Stan Kroenke’s money, that still leaves us with about £39m. It’s a good start, but there’s much work to be done.
There have also been quite a few stories circulating recently that Ajax’s Jan Vertonghen, who will almost assuredly leave for the Premier League this summer, would prefer Arsenal over City or Sp*rs (and who could blame him?). I’m on record as being 100% for this move, and what’s more, it would set up my dream conspiracy theory scenario, but more on that later. The real reason to spend Kroenke’s money on Vertonghen is that while our central defense may seem crowded with Vermaelen, Mertesacker, and Koscielny already established, YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MUCH DEPTH. That’s my mantra, folks. What separates clubs who challenge for trophies from clubs who only challenge to make the Champions League? The answer is depth. Injuries in football are a given, and the clubs who have players ready to step in and keep the team rolling are the clubs who win silverware. Also, depth is necessary for realistically competing and going far in multiple competitions, and you have to be in the competitions to win them. So, if you’re bringing in Vertonghen, what is his price? I haven’t heard anything solid on that front yet, but I’m going to assume his price will be about £10m. It could be £9m or it could be £11m, but 10 is a nice round number, so let’s go with that.
With £11m for Podolski and £10m for Vertonghen, that still leaves £29m of Kroenke’s money to spend, and we wouldn’t want it to go to waste, so who else could Arsenal buy? Here’s where my conspiracy theory comes in… If Vertonghen really does sign for Arsenal, you had better believe Jan’s former Ajax and current Belgium teammate Thomas Vermaelen will have had a lot to do with bringing him to Arsenal. Do you see where I’m going yet? You will. So now Arsenal have two Belgium Internationals who are excited to be together, and want nothing more than to create a Belgian pipeline to The Arsenal. You know who else is a Belgium International? That’s right, Lille’s Eden Hazard. He’s young, he’s creative, he’s from the French League, and he’s a perfect candidate to play either on the wing or as a creative midfielder in Wenger’s system, and with two of his buddies from Belgium already at Arsenal, it would be a natural choice. Plus, Hazard’s former Lille teammate Gervinho is also at Arsenal, so between Vermaelen, Vertonghen, and Gervinho, Arsenal should feel like home for Hazard. Sure, City are going to offer him stupid money, but money isn’t everything, and since Hazard would feel more comfortable joining his fellow Belgians & former Ligue 1 teammate to play for The Professor at Arsenal, he just might pick Arsenal over ridiculous piles of cash (let’s call this move the “Anti-Nasri Maneuver”). Hazard won’t come cheap, so let’s just assume it takes most if not all of the remaining £29m to get him from Lille. It’s a lot, but hey, it’s not my money.
Since we’re already dreaming, let’s add in one last piece to the puzzle, and in the process, make Arsenal younger and more dangerous on the wings. Tim from 7am Kickoff (@7amkickoff) wrote a fascinating article yesterday about Chu-Young Park’s value going up since his mandatory military service has been deferred until 2022, and how Arsenal could send him to Anderlecht in a swap for Mathias Suarez. If this is even a possibility, I say go for it. Park was only purchased as a backup to van Persie, and with the addition of Podolski, he becomes (if it’s possible) even more obsolete than he is currently. The young Argentinian would fit into Wenger’s system much better than Park does, because of his ability to play the wing or through the middle, so he could see time in the squad where Park has not. Again, YOU CAN’T HAVE TOO MUCH DEPTH. Who knows if it’s a realistic move, but if it is, it would be a major coup to get a young talent like Mathias Suarez out of our £4.5m investment in Park last Summer.
Lastly, I think it’s safe to assume that there will be some exits over the summer as well. I’ve got the likes of Bendtner, Arshavin, Denilson, Almunia, Carlos Vela, Squillaci, and Chamakh all tabbed as possible sales. I know Wenger won’t be able to unload all of these guys, but even if he only sells 4 or 5 of the 7 I listed, and even if he sells them at bargain basement prices (as that’s all they’re worth at this point), surely those sales will make the club another £10m or so, which Arsene can put together with whatever is left after the Hazard deal (if there is anything left) and go buy some 18 year-old kid we’ve never heard of, like he does every summer, and everyone’s happy. Arsene gets his youth investment, the fans get the Summer spending spree that they’ve always dreamed of, Stan and the Board get the fans off their backs for never spending, and Arsenal is picked pre-season as a serious contender for silverware. Win-win-win.
I know this won’t all happen, but I do think it is at least fiscally possible. I know Arsenal never spends this way, but just imagine if they did. I don’t expect the purse strings to finally loosen up this Summer, but let this article serve as an argument for what could happen if they did. Seriously, just look at the team Arsenal could put on the pitch in 2012/13 just by playing Spend Stan Kroenke’s Money:
GK: Szczesny, Fabianski
DEF: Sagna, Jenkinson, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vertonghen, Gibbs, Santos, Djourou, Miquel
MIDS: Wilshere, Song, Hazard, Rosicky, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Diaby, Ramsey, Frimpong, Coquelin
WINGS: Walcott, Gervinho, Hazard, Podolski, M. Suarez, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ryo
ST: van Persie, Podolski
That team is deep and scary at every position, and a legitimate title contender. In theory, it could happen. It won’t, but it could.
Continue to Pray For Muamba, that man is a fighter and an inspiration.