Gossip continues to intensify that Arsenal will try and solve the club’s current depth crisis at striker by acquiring Dimitar Berbatov. NBC’s broadcast today of the Gunners 2-0 win against Fulham was filled with references to his potential transfer. Given the success of Arsene Wenger’s side this season, I can think of no worse signing at this point in the season.
The Bulgarian striker is volatile and prone to on-the-pitch sulking. While his goal scoring rate in English football is a marvel, he is a mismatch for an Arsenal side that has been careful about the types of personalities they bring into a dressing room of younger players.
The fighting mentality of the Gunners, a side often lamented as being “too soft” in previous seasons to compete at a high level, has much to do with the positive vibes coming from the veteran players at the club. The fight has been on display since the second matchday of the Premier League season.
As has been the case over the course of the past several seasons, Arsenal has suffered far more serious injuries than the other top sides. Additionally, much like those seasons, the Gunners lack of depth has been used by detractors to illustrate why Arsenal is not a legitimate title contender. But merely signing Berbatov to placate some of those critics would be a mistake and my guess is that Arsene Wenger knows that.
Certainly Berbatov from a playing standpoint could fit seamlessly into this Gunners side. His touches on the ball, and his willingness to involve teammates in build up play fit the way the side plays. But his attitude and mentality are not what Wenger demands from his players, and thus I cannot see him working in this side.
Wenger has instilled a spirit and a mindset in this side that regardless of the bags of quality the side possess is more a trait of the manager than anything else.. The fighting mentality of this Arsenal side, and the willingness of players to sacrifice repeatedly for the cause is a trait we previously associated with Ferguson’s Manchester United or Mourinho’s Chelsea. However, this season the Gunners have been the most resourceful side in the division and have shown strength in character at the top of the table, which is rare in this age of the types of highly paid mercenaries that litter the Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United squads. In fact, it can be strongly argued Wenger’s side is replicating the type of spirit, fight, form and results we previously saw from Ferguson’s United in tight title races.
Wenger has gone out of his way to only sign a certain type of player. Instead of competing for overpaid players with inflated egos that have dominated the recent signings of title rivals Chelsea and Manchester City, Wenger is looking for character and the ability to positively influence a training session or dressing room. Berbatov is a complete mismatch of this philosophy, a contradiction of what the manager has built this season at the Emirates.
While being mocked for not competing for the top transfers and not enhancing squad depth, Wenger has carefully analyzed the compatibility of each transfer target with his side, both from a playing and a mentality standpoint. That has created a side that might have less depth and less quality than the other title aspirants, but is in fact more unified with a single purpose in mind. This mentality has been on full display in repeated matches where the Gunners have defended in numbers or have rallied late to get a result, something we did not often see from Arsenal in past seasons.
In the end, Arsenal’s team spirit and fighting mentality is the heart of this team. Bringing in a player of Berbatov’s temper and disposition could disrupt that. I for one would be shocked if the Gunners signed him.
For more Gunners news, analysis and opinion, visit the Arsenal team page.