In an exclusive interview with 888sport, former Arsenal and Middlesbrough striker Jeremie Aliadiere has expressed concern at the Gunners’ transfer strategy that risks seeing last season’s fifth place finishers trail even further behind their rivals.
“It’s frustrating when you see a club like Leicester, who with all respect to them are a smaller club, spending £75m so far this summer yet Arsenal can’t seemingly afford to spend the money that Leicester can. It’s difficult to understand where the money goes.”
“I remember when we moved to the Emirates and Arsene telling us that money will be tied up in the stadium for the next ten years so and that transfer fees will be a bit limited.
"But that has passed and the stadium has been paid off. Given that, you can understand the frustrations of the supporters when it’s reported that there is only a transfer budget of £45m.”
"There has been talk that Arsenal want Wilfried Zaha who Crystal Palace supposedly value at £80m and we were reported to have offered them half the money - £40m. If that’s true, it seems a bit ridiculous and could be seen as disrespectful to Crystal Palace.”
The financial restrictions placed on Unai Emery by the club’s board have led to petitions and protest from the Emirates faithful. Yet if it’s angered the 36-year-old Invincible he is equally baffled by how they’re reportedly set to spend what little money is available.
“Defensively is where Arsenal need to strengthen the most and they’re pretty close to signing the French Under 20 international (William) Saliba.
"But I have heard they’re going to sign him then loan him back to France for a season so I’m a bit surprised by that: spending thirty million on a defender and giving him back straight away.
"I don’t understand that type of business. I’m not sure if right now we can afford to buy a player for the future, we need players to come in and improve the team right now because that’s where we struggled last year.”
All of which has only added further pressure on Arsenal’s coach Emery who has been graced with a season to acclimatise to English football but from this point on will be expected to guide the North London giants back into top four contention at the very least.
Though Aliadiere has a good deal of sympathy for the Spaniard, he is also realistic.
“This is a massive season for him and he needs to start well, especially because if we don’t sign any big players the fans won’t be best pleased.
"If they start slowly it is going to be very difficult for Unai Emery and the club and the fans will turn on the manager. He’s got a big task then in that opening month.”
If having scant funds to improve his squad ties one hand behind Emery’s back then he is just as disadvantaged by clearly not trusting his star player Mesut Ozil.
Here Aliadiere – who states he is as much a Premier League match-going fan as he is a retired player working in the media – is obviously conflicted.
“It’s a tough one because I feel when he plays he does bring something different to the team and also Lacazette and Aubameyang clearly enjoy playing with him.
"Obviously though the manager sees things we don’t see and maybe in training his work-rate is not there and work-rate is really important to Emery. I think they have a different philosophy on how to play the game.”
“It’s a difficult situation and I can see both sides. Arsenal right now need to sell in order to bring in other players and when you look at the supposed breakdown between player and manager last year if they get an opportunity to sell him I would understand if they decided to do that.”
During the French front-man’s time in the capital he was part of the squad that pulled off the incredible feat of going through an entire campaign undefeated.
At the time it felt like it could never be repeated but such is the duopoly Manchester City and Liverpool have on the Premier League right now that Aliadiere is candid enough to admit that it just might.
This leads us onto the awkward gauging of where Arsenal lie presently in relation to Guardiola and Klopp’s creations.
“When we were close to finishing in the top four last season you felt we were only two players short maybe defensively from really pushing on.
"But now the others are getting even stronger so the top four is possible – but difficult again - but the top two is impossible. “
It is not all doom and gloom in N5 of course. Arsenal fans owe Aliadiere a big debt of gratitude for persuading his then team-mate Matteo Guandouzi to head across the channel rather than join an unspecified European club and the 20-year-old is expected to kick on once again after a very promising debut season.
In Maitland-Niles, meanwhile, they possess a talent capable of lighting up the Emirates for years to come.
“I rate Maitland-Niles really highly. With injuries last season it’s been tough for him on that level but he’s got all the attributes to become a top player.
"I think this season could be really big for him because it looks like Arsenal doesn’t have a lot of money to spend so I’m sure they will be counting on him.
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