Arsenal have a long and illustrious history of missing out on players because of a reluctance to match an asking price, it’s something we’ve made into an art form.
From recoiling at an extra £5,000 on Ashley Cole’s weekly wages to an outright refusal to stump up a few million more for Gonzalo Higuan, nobody has scuppered themselves in the transfer market quite like we have.
It came as no surprise then, to read in various outlets that Aston Villa had gazumped Arsenal to land the signing of Argentine forward Emi Buendia from Norwich in a deal which could rise to £40million once bonuses are taken into account.
But is this another one we will rue getting away or a sign that Arsenal are finally wising up to the market?
While it’s disappointing to miss out on a player the manager and staff have clearly been following for a long time, for my money the club has done the right thing. The fee agreed between Norwich and Villa varies based on the report you read but most agree that, with add-ons, it could rise to £40million and there is even talk of a sell-on clause.
In this post-Covid football world, with no fan revenue for 18 months, no European football, and a bloated and over-paid squad, that is money we simply cannot afford to spend. Frankly, I’m not sure how Villa can afford it either but good luck to them.
Buendia is a good player, he makes chances, he chips in with a few goals and assists, he is quick and lively and can play as a number 10. In terms of what this team is looking for, I’d say he was a decent match. But let’s not forget, this guy cost Norwich £1.5million from Getafe in 2018 – at the peak of the market. Let’s not forget, also, that he has spent two of his three seasons in England in the Championship and he was also relegated in 2019/20.
I say again, this guy is clearly a good player, we wouldn’t have moved for him otherwise, but is he £40million good? Can we really afford to be dedicating that much money to a player who is largely untested at Premier League level? It’s not like we’ve passed up Jack Grealish here, this is a guy who still has a lot to prove.
The word is that Arsenal bid in the region of £30million and baulked at the idea of paying what Villa offered. I’m fine with that. We’ve made a lot of expensive errors in the market in the past and clubs like Leicester have shown repeatedly that you don’t have to spend substantial amounts to buy top quality players.
I don’t expect us to go out and assemble a title-winning squad on a shoestring, of course not, but if we have to commit a big chunk of our budget to anyone, it should probably be to someone like Martin Odeegard rather than the more speculative Buendia.
As for the rest of our kitty, European football finds itself on the precipice of financial ruin. If there are bargains to be anywhere, it’s on the continent. There is talk of fire sales across the board in France, Spain and Italy and I’d like to think our list of targets this summer might include a few players who we can get for sensible money.
If Buendia was our top target, it’s obviously disappointing and a little embarrassing to be out-bid by a club like Villa. Given the straight choice, you’d think Arsenal would have been his preferred destination and Dean Smith probably recognised that fact too. They’ve moved decisively to get their man and fair play to them. Sometimes, however, discretion is the better part of valour and passing up on this one was probably the right call.
It’s what we do and how fast we do it that matters for Arsenal now.