Arsène Wenger has railed at the accusation that he has been miserly with Arsenal's summer transfer budget as he suggested that big money alone was not enough to close complicated deals at the top level, such as the one for Luis Suárez.
"The issue is that the club sometimes does not want to sell at any price," Wenger said. "In the example of Suárez … you are Liverpool, you have to calculate if you want to get into the Champions League, who are our rivals and do we want to sell to them? Unless they need the money or they have a clause or things like that, things are not always working just because you put the money up."
Wenger oversaw a bid of £40,000,001 for Suárez, which was designed to test a threshold in the Uruguayan's contract which, Arsenal thought, would allow them to open negotiations with the player. The clause, however, did not prove to be a trigger for his release and Liverpool not only rejected the offer but made it plain that Suárez was not for sale. He has manoeuvred for an exit, making clear his desire to leave and he had been exiled from the first-team group only to make a return and his apparent peace on Friday.
Arsenal continue to hope that the Suárez situation could yet change in their favour before the closure of the transfer window, however unlikely that seems, while they have a similar dream regarding the Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney, who they have also tracked throughout the summer. Rooney is determined to leave Old Trafford, preferably for Chelsea, but United are unequivocal that his future remains with them.
Arsenal are confident that they will make positive additions to their squad and if the marquee striker happens, then they would consider the summer to be better still. But as they prepared for their opening Premier League fixture at home to Aston Villa on Saturday, the feeling among their supporters was one of simmering frustration.
Arsenal have roughly £150m in the bank and the chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, said at the beginning of June that the club were in the position to challenge for the very biggest names on the market. So far, they have signed only the young French striker, Yaya Sanogo, on a free transfer from Auxerre and the summer's narrative has been shaped by the ones that have got away.
Wenger was unsuccessful with a £18.5m bid for the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Lars Bender; he was willing to pay £23m for Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuaín before the striker went to Napoli for £32m and, most recently, he expressed his interest in the Bayern Munich's Luiz Gustavo only for the midfielder to complete a £17m move to Wolfsburg, who finished 11th in last season's Bundesliga. Arsenal insist that they did not make a bid for Gustavo.
The mood at Arsenal has not been helped by the thigh muscle tear that Mikel Arteta suffered during an intense training session which will rule him out for six weeks. It is a massive blow, and he joins Thomas Vermaelen, who is out for a similar period with back trouble, and the long-term casualty Abou Diaby in the treatment room. Nacho Monreal is expected to return to full training on Monday after a back injury but he is three weeks away from fitness. In the absence of Arteta and Vermaelen, Per Mertesacker will captain the team against Villa. Wenger, already, appears to be on the back foot.
"The perception that I am resistant to spending is unfair," he said. "Why should I resist? I just defend the idea that you spend the money you have and not the money you don't have. Today, we have more so we can spend more. I am excited by that prospect.
"What I want to convince you of is that we are ready to spend the money if we feel that the players make us a better team tomorrow morning. If you want absolutely to describe me as greedy [about keeping money in the bank] and you would live with me, you would see that I am not. I am rather generous. I did fight my whole life to pay well the players."
The criticism of Wenger at present is that the valuations he places on prospective signings are consistently too low. He was asked whether he had the final word on the sums that might be offered. "I have, of course, a big influence on that," he replied.
But Wenger suggested that there were not many available players on the market that would improve his team. "You know all the names that we are chasing," he said. "There is not many in Europe, honestly. If you bring me players who are better than those we have, I promise you we will look at them. There is a shortage of top, top talent and many clubs who have money. It is a bit frustrating [when people talk about a crisis]. We just beat Manchester City 3-1 [in a friendly]. Imagine had we lost."