Recent quotes from Arsene Wenger suggest that in the summer he faced a decision over whether to sign one of two strikers – Demba Ba, who has just sealed a move from Newcastle to Chelsea, or Olivier Giroud, whom Wenger did sign for Arsenal.
It’s always possible that perhaps he has been taken slightly out of context, but when asked about Ba moving to Stamford Bridge, his quote on the official site reads:
“I like Demba Ba personally, he is a similar type to Giroud who we just bought. It was one or the other one.”
Wenger usually opts for lesser-known players from the French league – or indeed any league other than this one, where he has signed very few players – because they are cheaper, and in the past this has brought great success, especially when you compare it with some of the crazily inflated fees paid by Liverpool for flops like Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson just because they were being signed from rivals.
The strange thing here, however, is that with Ba’s well-documented minimum-release fee clause, he was available for nearly half the price (£7.5million) we are thought to have paid for Giroud (£12million). Now I’m hardly complaining about Giroud’s performances – because 9 goals and 7 assists is certainly showing some promise in your first season in a new team and a new league – but if Wenger likes saving money as much as he does, why did he sign the more expensive player? Especially given that when you do bring a player over from a different country there is no guarantee they will adapt to the change and reproduce their form, however good it was. Not only was Ba available for much cheaper, but he brought a proven goal-scoring record in the Premier League with him. So far this season he has 13 in the league, to Giroud’s 6.
It is well known that many clubs looked at Ba before he joined Newcastle, but were worried about his knee. He failed a medical at Stoke (though, to be fair, god knows what they do in their medicals) and his spell with West Ham was on a pay-as-you-play deal, as he was clearly not expected to stay fit.
Despite having an injury-free time at Newcastle, Wenger was obviously still worried about the potential knee problems, or he surely wouldn’t have turned down what looks like such a bargain. Chelsea have money to throw around and can afford to spend £7.5million on a player even if his leg snaps in the first game – it would still probably represent slightly better value for money than the £50million they paid for Fernando Torres.
Jokes aside, there is a very real chance that Wenger knows something we don’t know, and that we have dodged a real bullet in not signing the Senegalese forward. With our luck with injuries as well, you can imagine the abuse the boss would get if he had spent that money on a player who ended up being another Diaby and never playing. He might argue that he got his man in Giroud and he now doesn’t need another striker, and while I would disagree with that because there’s no doubting the goals have dried up somewhat since you-kn0w-who left, there’s certainly no need to be making hasty decisions; we need to bring in someone who is value for money, but also reliable. Ba might have seemed like an obvious transfer, but if the manager didn’t see him staying fit, then I trust him over whoever signs the players at Stamford Bridge. It might well be that he continues to get lucky and stay injury-free and has a great career at Chelsea, but a large amount of that would be down to luck.
We should also be grateful that this signing surely means they won’t be bringing in Falcao, which looked like a real possibility. The Atletico Madrid striker is a level above Ba and indeed most others in world football at the moment; a genuine world class forward capable of scoring from anywhere, who will score bucketloads and achieve legendary status wherever he ends up going. Obviously that won’t be us as he’s well out of our price range, but if it’s not to our rivals that’s still a positive.
And let’s hope this doesn’t signal the end of our search for a striker this January.
Follow me on Twitter @markbrus------------
If you’ve been having problems accessing this site on your work computer using the URLS globalgooners.com and gossip.globalgooners.com should sort that problem for you.
Get your free LadyArse app here for Android, BlackBerry and Windows phone [iPhone coming soon]
Get your free Arsenal wallpaper, Facebook covers and Twitter headers here