Arsenal fans are entitled to feel aggrieved at a potential triple loss to rivals of Gael Clichy, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.
In the past, the club would have been able to fall back on Arsenal Wenger’s scouting network to produce new recruits.
But the rest of the world has caught up with Wenger. In particular, England’s leading clubs have developed far more sophisticated recruitment operations in recent years.
It is no longer a case of Arsenal being able to sign a Serie A cast-off like Patrick Vieira from Milan for a song, as Wenger did on his arrival in London in 1996.
Other clubs are no longer left reeling at Arsenal’s superior knowledge of the European secne. The likes of Man City and Chelsea have extensive scouting networks that rival that at Arsenal.
City’s chief scout Mike Rigg gave an illuminating interview to the Independent last month in which he explained how City now compile detailed dossiers on their transfer targets. In the case of David Silva, the dossier even included information on the type of house lived in by Silva in Valencia, so that City could offer a similar style of home in Manchester.
Chelsea are scouting further afield at youth tournaments outside of Europe. Brazilian forward Lucas Piazon, soon to move to Stamford Bridge, was one of the outstanding performers at the South Amercian Under-17 championships earlier this year.
With other clubs copying Wenger’s methods, Arsenal no longer have the edge on the recruitment of talent. Financial considerations become more important and a reluctance to break their rigid wage structure means Arsenal are struggling to compete.
Ricardo Alvarez, a reported Arsenal target this summer, looks set to join Internazionale from Velez Sarsfield. While the Argentinian influence at Inter is strong – with Javier Zanetti a senior player – the financial package offered by Inter is likely to have been suprerior to any offer made by Arsenal.
Talent spotting is no longer enough for Wenger.