If only they could turn back time.
It’s football’s worst kept secret that Arsene Wenger’s eye for a bargain somewhat clouded over towards the end of his tenure with Arsenal.
Conscious of not walking all over the managerial grave of the much loved Frenchman, I must stress he is not the only culprit of the Gunners’ transfer faux pas in recent years.
Unai Emery is now paying the price for years of mismanagement that can be traced back to the 2015/16 summer transfer window.
What is now known among Arsenal fans as the ‘Petr Cech window’, the summer of 2015 was the perfect opportunity for the Gunners to build on what was a promising looking squad.
If you can imagine Mesut Ozil at the peak of his powers (hard, I know) linking up with an in-form Alexis Sanchez, that’s the kind of firepower we’re talking about here.
Generally, there was peace in the red half of north London, for once.
Fans were buoyed after back-to-back FA Cup successes and the anticipated addition of a ‘big name’ striker, widely tipped to be Karim Benzema, had fans optimistic that a serious title charge could be mounted.
What transpired however was nothing short of a shambles.
The window slammed shut with Arsenal the only team across Europe’s top five leagues not to sign an outfield player and the addition of Petr Cech was all they had to show for their business.
The Gunners parted with 18 players through a combination of sales, loans and contract terminations in an upheaval that saw Lukas Podolski sold to Galatasaray and Wojciech Szczesney join Roma for the season.
So, where were the reinforcements?
The sole addition of Cech for an entire summer of negotiations was an embarrassment and the penny pinching tactics of Wenger, Ivan Gazidis and Stan Kroenke would ironically prove very costly.
Leicester were crowned Premier League champions and Arsenal fans were left ruing their club’s transfer policy that had destroyed their title challenge.
Not only did Arsenal miss out on the title but their lack of pragmatism presented their rivals with the perfect chance to make up ground. A chance they emphatically took the following summer.
Man United bolstered their ranks with the signing of Paul Pogba, Liverpool snapped up Sadio Mane and Leroy Sane was Man City’s standout purchase of the 2016/17 window.
Having seen their competition strengthen and under pressure to appease fans, Arsenal’s Brains Trust opted for a stark contrast to the transfer strategy that was implemented 12 months prior.
Arsenal’s long-held connections based scouting policy was scraped in favour of a modern approach centred solely on statistics and detailed player data.
The club even purchased the then revolutionary data company StatDNA for £2million to help return suggestions for potential new recruits. The results were nothing short of a disaster.
Granit Xhaka was the marquee signing, a cool £35million enough to convince Borussia Mönchengladbach to part with the midfielder in a deal that the German club surely still can’t believe they managed to pull off.
The Gunners spent the summer pining after Roma’s Kostas Manolas only for the Serie A club to pull the deal and leave Arsenal hunting for a centre-back with just days until the window closed.
Option B on Arsene’s supercomputer was Valencia’s Shkodran Mustafi who, after a £35million deal, linked up with the Gunners for a toe curling amount of money for a player of his ability.
The German made a promising start to his Arsenal career but his reputation has since been tarnished by inconsistency and poor decision making.
Arsenal have literally been open to offers for the defender for over a year yet he’s one of the first names on the team sheet when fit. What a time to be alive.
Deportivo’s Lucas Perez arrived for over £17million in what is still one of the most bizarre transfers of the Emirates era.
Wenger clearly wasn’t a fan of the stats based signing and so limited the Spaniard to just a handful of Premier League outings.
24 months later the Gunners took a £13million loss to get him off the books and he’s well and truly West Ham’s problem now.
The £87million outlay would prove futile as Arsenal ended the 2016/17 season outside the top four, ending a run of 20 consecutive seasons among Europe’s elite.
The mess left over from the previous regime is still being cleaned up today and it’s impact will likely paralyse Arsenal for some time yet.
A bloated wage bill has left Emery with his hands tied in the transfer market and the Spaniard revealed the gut-wrenching news that the Gunners have no money to spend this window.
To make matters even worse, Chief Scout Sven Mislintat, heralded by many Gooners as a beacon of hope among the chaos, is rumoured to be leaving after a dispute with the club’s top brass.
The German is widely regarded as one of the top scouts in European football but there’s little the man can do with £0 to play with.
Personally, I don’t blame him for turning his back on this shambles.
Arsenal fans need to make peace with the fact that a lengthy transition is inevitable because of the mistakes of the past regime.
If Emery does make the top four with this frankly sub-par squad then he should be spoken of as a miracle maker.
Do you believe in miracles?
READ MORE FROM THE WORLD OF DREAM TEAM:
- Arsenal legends Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira will come face-to-face in Ligue 1
- Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil-shaped problem is becoming a very expensive burden
- Sokratis received the perfect education alongside two of football’s greatest defenders
WATCH: LOVE OF THE GAME – EPISODE 3 – HOW TO OWN A FOOTBALL CLUB