There aren’t many people working in modern day football who could claim they love the beautiful game more than Arsène Wenger does. The 65-year old was this week pictured in Morocco, where he was involved in charity game – as well as wearing an eye-catching t-shirt, containing the faces of artists performing at the Marrakech du Rire festival. Three weeks on from leading Arsenal to a sixth FA Cup in his nineteen years in charge, Wenger was back on a pitch; the place he loves to be more than anywhere else.
It’s off the pitch, though, where the fans are mostly interested during the June and July Premier League drought. With just a month to go until The Gunners kick off their pre-season campaign in Singapore, Arsenal are, predictably, being linked with various players all across Europe. The most intriguing name to appear in the papers is perhaps Geoffrey Kondogbia. Still only 22, the Monaco midfielder was outstanding at the Emirates last season, a game in which the former Sevilla man also scored. Kondogbia combines physical strength with technical quality and has a clever understanding of the game; it comes as little surprise that a player featuring these attributes is targeted by Wenger. In fact, SKY Italia stated this week that the Arsenal boss has already spoken with the four-times capped French international.
Whilst you can never predict how well a signing will prove to be, it’s clear that Kondogbia, along with Francis Coquelin – who continues to improve – would bring much-needed qualities to the Arsenal midfield, in front of a sometimes feeble back four. The asking price of £25m – which Milan, another club interested in the former Lens player, are attempting to negotiate down – shouldn’t put off Wenger; not with a reported transfer budget of anything between £50m-£80m.
Eleven years Kondogbia’s senior is Petr Čech; another who Arsenal continue to speak with during the off-season. Experience, quality and reassurance in goal is something that Wenger’s side has lacked since the days of Jens Lehmann and before that, the legendary David Seaman. Many have tried to replace the pair – think Manuel Almunia, Wojiech Szczęsny and of course, David Ospina – but none have truly convinced. With just two years to run on his current contract, it’s obvious Wenger is desperate to fix the weak-spots in his squad ahead of, hopefully, a successful title challenge. Two FA Cups in two seasons is not something to be taken lightly, but as Thierry Henry told the club’s website this week: “Now it’s time to judge Arsenal in the League.”
If Wenger were to guide the club to another third or fourth place finish and a third straight FA Cup victory in the 2015-16 campaign, would it be success of failure? Perhaps, like this season, a combination of both. But what must simply happen is a challenge for the Premier League trophy. Over a decade without the top trophy in the land is too long for a club of Arsenal’s size. Signing Čech and Kondgobia this summer would go someway to helping make that dream a reality for Wenger and Gooners everywhere.
– Samuel Jay C