Arsenal sign Flamini on a free - how long can Wenger survive?
Another old boy rejoins Gunners without a fee, making a mockery of 'game-changing' summer
ARSENAL have made their second signing of the summer, with utility player Mathieu Flamini rejoining them on a free transfer five years after leaving for AC Milan.
It is hardly the kind of high-profile arrival that the fans have been crying out for, and manager Arsene Wenger has yet to spend any of the reported £70m transfer kitty at his disposal. But the 29-year-old Frenchman, who was dumped by Milan at the end of last season, does at least give Arsenal a little extra cover in midfield.
He is by no means the first Wenger old boy to return to the Emirates. Sol Campbell, Jens Lehmann and Thierry Henry have all made comebacks.
Flamini's return comes after the Gunners suffered yet more injury problems in their Champions League play-off against Fenerbahce. The result may have been conclusive but knocks for Lukas Podolski, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere took the gloss off the 5-0 aggregate victory. Podolski is definitely out for the north London derby against Spurs on Sunday and could be missing for up to ten weeks, but Wenger is hopeful that Ramsey and Wilshere will be available.
However, not everyone is concerned about the threadbare look of Arsenal's squad, exacerbated by Wenger's failure to bring in reinforcements this summer.
Theo Walcott scoffed at suggestions that Spurs, who have signed four new players this summer and have at least three more in their sights, are now stronger than the Gunners. When the Evening Standard asked if he thought Tottenham were now the superior outfit, the winger replied: "Not at all. I feel we're very, very strong. Everyone makes out our squad is very weak and there are not many of us but I think we showed in the last few games that we bounced back from a bad result in the first match [a 3-1 defeat against Aston Villa] and proved a lot of people wrong."
But with time running out before the transfer window closes the pressure is on Wenger to make at least one marquee signing and keep the fans on side. Writing in The Times, Matt Hughes says the Arsenal manager could be undone by his caution.
"By refusing to cave into Arsenal fans' demands for big-money signings he risks jeopardising not only his future at the club, but his legacy in English football," he argues.
Talk last season of an "escalation of financial firepower" for the Gunners now have "a distinctly hollow ring". The game-changing summer that had been promised has not materialised. The arrival of Flamini only adds insult to injury.
Hughes believes that it's not just the fans that are growing impatient. Chief executive Ivan Gazidis and owner Stan Kroenke have done what was asked of them by making money available. It is Wenger who has not spent it.
But there is an irony for Wenger in the situation, Hughes believes. "As a result of the off-field growth he has created and his own parsimony Arsenal can contemplate a radical change of direction for the first time in a decade, as the club now have the resources to bring in a new manager and star players, a factor he may want to consider as he agonises over transfer valuations in the coming days. The most reluctant of punters suddenly finds himself playing high-stakes poker." ·