Former Celtic striker John Hartson believes that Manchester United have set the perfect example for Arsenal to follow as they embark on their first ever Europa League campaign, pointing towards the players they managed to sign without Champions League football.
Jose Mourinho, even without the allure of Champions League football, managed to sign Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba and duly went on to win the Europa League and subsequently claim a spot in the Champions League group stages.
Arsenal, however, invariably dropped out of Europe at the hands of Bayern Munich and failed to secure a Champions League spot following yet another campaign hallmarked by a lack of resolve and, well, Arsenal Fan TV and the connotations that come with it.
Hartson, speaking on Sky Sports, believes that Arsene Wenger will need to match the feat of Mourinho in this summer’s transfer window.
“Their priority this summer is to be in for big players,” he said.
“It’s difficult attracting big names, the biggest names in football when you’ve not got Champions League of course.
“But Manchester United were able to attract them when they didn’t have Champions League. They brought in the likes of (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan, one or two others.”
Mourinho managed to secure a number of major signings last summer because there was a genuine belief that, under his new direction, United would re-emerge as a force after two years of ambiguity under Louis van Gaal. It was a project – one that has already brought in two major trophies and will continue to develop over the next year or so.
At the Emirates, however, the complexion is completely different. Nobody knew how United would do under Mourinho; there was an exciting sense of opportunity at what may lie ahead that attracted the likes of Pogba. But with Wenger at the helm once more at Arsenal there is, even amongst the more positive-minded Gooners, a gloomy sense of predictability – of where exactly they will go next season.
I said it last summer; I even said it the summer before. And I’ll say it again: under Wenger, and with that toxic fanbase, Arsenal will only ever be a dominant force on social media – no big player, you imagine, wants to be part of that.