In Depth

Falcao and Welbeck: what are Man Utd and Arsenal thinking?

The two biggest deals of deadline day have raised as many questions as they have answered

As the dust settled on another hectic transfer deadline day, the two main deals that stood out were Man United's capture of Radamel Falcao, and Arsenal's purchase of Danny Welbeck.

Many have welcomed the transfers but both deals raise serious questions about the focus, ambition and direction of the two clubs involved.

United have spent a record £150m on players this summer, but there is a whiff of panic hanging over Old Trafford amid questions about how the club can afford all the new faces.

Down at Arsenal the question is why Arsene Wenger's first team squad features only six recognised defenders (and two established centre-backs), while he now has nine forwards (plus Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla) on the books.

A fortune for Falcao:

The headline news on deadline day at Old Trafford was the arrival of Radamel Falcao, and although he is only in Manchester on loan he does not come cheap.

The Daily Express says the player only agreed to the move if United "matched his £10m a year tax free salary at Monaco" and the upshot is eyewatering. "To ensure he is on the same £184,000-a-week 'take home' wages in Britain, United have to pay him around £350,000," says the paper. "That works out at £18m a year on top of his £6m loan fee and the huge investment underlines United's desperation to return to European football's top table next season."

That has raised concerns among some fans who recall the decline of Leeds United, who spent big in a bid to crack Europe and paid the price when it failed.

Can see Manchester United doing a Leeds, over paying for players, not getting into the CL and going into free fall

 

— lannny (@mattlangford06) September 1, 2014

But while the massive outlay on players this summer cannot become a regular occurrence, it will not push the club beyond their means thanks to new broadcast and commercial fees.

Where is the focus?

Of more concern to Daily Mail columnist Martin Samuel is United's overall transfer strategy. With Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney up front, plus Juan Mata and another new arrival in Angel di Maria, he wonders why Falcao was brought in. "They did not need another marquee striker... United do not have room for all these recent acquisitions," he says.

He is also confused by Van Gaal's defensive additions. Luke Shaw, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo (with a combined fee of around £50m) are all left-sided defenders who are likely to compete for one position, left wing-back, he notes. "Stupid money, silly salaries, and players piling up in the same position. It is fair to say if United have had a plan in this transfer window, it has come out of left field."

United's work does "appear frantic" says David Conn of The Guardian, particularly when compared to the "strategic reinforcing" by Chelsea and Man City, who were notably quiet on deadline day.

Abandoning Fergie's approach:

United's level of spending this summer would have been dismissed by former boss Alex Ferguson as "kamikaze", says Oliver Kay in The Times. "United have always prided themselves on developing their own young players... Even if Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck are hardly of the class of David Beckham or Paul Scholes, it feels as if something might have been lost in the rush to clear the decks to make way for a vanity signing or two."

United's loss Arsenal's gain?

The arrival of Welbeck at the Emirates left many Arsenal fans experiencing deja-vu. "There was a predictable exasperation and a feeling of being underwhelmed as Arsenal failed to find a desired target man and resorted to agreeing a deal to sign a second striker-cum-winger," says The Times.

With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Joel Campbell, Lukas Podolski and Alexis Sanchez already on the books it is unclear what Welbeck offers that Arsenal do not already have. Although his presence does add another domestic player to the mix.

"The question for Arsenal, of course, is whether Welbeck represents what they really need. The lack of options at centre-back – where Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny are the only senior options – seemed the most urgent priority and looks worryingly like a gamble that may yet backfire over the course of the season," says Jeremy Wilson of the Daily Telegraph.

Excited to see Danny Welbeck not just move to Arsenal but also become a Centre-back/defensive midfielder.

 

— Dara Ó Briain (@daraobriain) September 1, 2014

Wenger's familair failings:

Arsenal's purchase of Welbeck shows that United have changed their approach, but it could also be significant for Arsenal.

"Signing an English player, nurtured and developed through the ranks at Manchester United is Wenger's way of tipping his 'chapeau' to the greatness of Ferguson," claims Adrian Durham in the Daily Mail. "It's an admission that Wenger knows that despite coming close, the Arsenal manager can never emerge from Fergie's enormous shadow."

And as the window shut "two large elephants remained in the room", says Amy Lawrence of The Guardian, noting the lack of a centre-back and defensive midfielder in the ranks. "They have spent more money than ever in one window but doubts persist over their ability to challenge for honours with a squad that retains obvious weak spots."

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