In the last 24 hours Arsenal have thrown all forms of social media into a meltdown. With the story developing that they are closing in on signing Leicester City and England forward Jamie Vardy the move signifies just how desperate Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have become.
Short term success has never been top of the order for Wenger when planning out his transfer business but not this time. Looking at the two entities side by side they simply do not match. Arsenal chasing a 29-year-old striker, who will be 30 in January, and willing to pay around £20m for his signature. With one high profile signing in Granit Xhaka already in the bag Wenger looks to bolster his front line with a man who, let’s be honest, has only had one truly outstanding season.
So does the move represent one of Wenger’s biggest gambles should Vardy become and Arsenal man? Absolutely. But Wenger clearly feels it is a gamble worth taking after the 2015/16 season saw his men fall short once again in a season where all of the so called ‘big teams’ struggled and the minnows of Leicester City reigned supreme.
Perhaps this was the season that finally made the Frenchman snap so to speak and now, in the final year of his contract, wants to go out the way of his great rival Sir Alex Ferguson in a blaze of glory.
Ferguson also made a very uncharacteristic signing in his final season after suffering final day heartache in the 2011/12 season. Ironically he went to Arsenal for his man Signing Robin van Persie for £24m in a move that would see Ferguson topple Manchester City and win the league by 11 points in his final season. Van Persie, by all accounts, had 18 months of pure prolific goal scoring for The Gunners before heading to Old Trafford but timing is everything and Ferguson struck with the Dutchman at his peak. He went on to score 26 goals in his maiden season for United.
The Vardy to Arsenal deal draws up similar comparisons. Scoring just five goals in 2014/15 season and mainly deployed on the left hand side of a front three Vardy was nothing more than a squad player. Vardy scored his first goal in Leicester’s famous 5-3 win over Manchester United before going on a 22 league game drought before scoring four goals in the final ten games of the season to help The Foxes retain their Premier League status. By enlarge that return was considered a success for such a small outfit.
Now, Wenger looks to be striking at peak time when Vardy has had a season play through the middle and show what he can do. 24 league goals later and the England striker took the Premier League by storm and even smashed Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record by scoring in 11 consecutive Premier League games. Wenger seems poised to capitalise on the man in form and act quickly to bring him to The Emirates.
Always a man for showing faith and loyalty the move also signifies Wenger’s loss of faith in Theo Walcott. Wenger has always prioritised winning with players he believed in – his desperation to recapture his glory days of winning the league title seems to have reached a point where his patience with many players is beginning to wear thin.
Walcott has insisted he can be the striker Wenger has been looking for. However over the last two years the former Southampton wonderkid has failed to live up to expectations and now looks highly expendable in the Arsenal team.
Wenger’s move for Vardy paints a picture that the once revolutionary Frenchman has no time for players to prove themselves to him. Vardy and Walcott have some small similarities – mainly their pace and directness. Other than that Vardy is everything Walcott perhaps should have been – hard working closing down defenders, confident finisher, efficient in taking his chances and, above all else, consistent.
It also symbolises that Wenger’s faith in fellow Frenchman Olivier Giroud may be starting to fade. While Giroud scored 16 league goals last season his dry spells and inefficiency in taking his chances often cost Arsenal games. For the past two years people outside the club have been screaming for Wenger to bring in another forward help Giroud. Edinson Cavani, Falcao, Karim Benzema and all of the above have been linked with a move to north London but Wenger has diligently stuck his French front man. Should Vardy join the ranks as a Gunner then Giroud’s place in the side is no longer automatic – in fact he almost certainly becomes the second choice striker.
The move is perhaps the biggest indicator that Wenger will relinquish his hold on the Arsenal managerial position sooner rather than later and this summer represents the final time he will bring in players. If so then he is really going for it, £30m for Xhaka, £20m+ for Vardy and perhaps more to come.
His greatest failing may be that in a season when nobody wanted to win the league Arsenal could still not get the job done over 38 games. Every man has their breaking point and perhaps last season Wenger found his. Arsenal have not been slow to show the door to players surplus to requirements and their recruitment process has been speedier than usual.
With every club around them bringing in world class managers and already making world class signings desperation has set in for Wenger. Call him what you will but the Frenchman is defiant and the 2016/17 season may see his last act of that.