Arsenal must sign big names this summer or risk losing the interest of many supporters

Let’s get something out the way: Arsene Wenger is staying. If he were minded to leave Arsenal, he would surely have said so before now, shielding himself against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune with an announcement that this would be his final season in north London. It would have given him a free pass, and rallied the fans behind the team. Wenger may be a self-professed “masochist, but he’s not stupid. If he was going to go, the smart move was to say so.

No, barring an unprecedented cup final humiliation, Wenger will be in charge of Arsenal next season. He’s clearly already making plans for 2017/18, with reports swirling that Arsenal have snapped up Schalke left wing-back Sead Kolasinac on a Bosman.

That’s a smart move from Arsenal—first and foremost because it should allow them to dispense with Kieran Gibbs, who has struggled to prove his worth in the wing-back role since Arsenal switched to their new 3-4-2-1 system.

However, with this being a free transfer, it also keeps plenty of Arsenal’s powder dry. The Gunners have solved a problem within their squad without spending a signification portion of their budget. That’s good news, because Arsenal are going to need every penny they can scoop up into their vaunted ‘transfer warchest’ this summer. This year, Arsenal need to push the boat out and land another world class star or two.

Arsenal need to make a splash in the transfer market. If you’re in any doubt about that, look at the attendance for their match with Sunderland on Tuesday—and not the official attendance (determined by tickets sold), but the number of fans who actually turned up. Some have attributed that to protests against the manager, but the reality is arguably more disturbing: it’s born of apathy. Arsenal fans are losing interest.

They need something now to spark some life back into the club—much like the arrival of Andrey Arshavin briefly applied the defibrillator to Arsenal’s ailing season in 2008/09. They need something to re-energise the club, like the acquisition of Mesut Ozil back in 2013. That had Arsenal fans turning up to the Emirates Stadium in their droves—and it wasn’t even a matchday. The Gunners need a signing like Alexis Sanchez to tout before next season kicks off.

Those deals had a huge impact on the club. They raised expectations, putting bums on seats and hope in hearts. They made Arsenal feel like a big club. They desperately need to feel like that again.

However, signing top class players is about more than improving morale around the club. The proof is ultimately in the pudding—or rather on the pitch. Alexis and Ozil are the two most expensive players in Arsenal’s history, and for the most part, they’ve delivered against those price-tags. Look at their contribution this season: 40 goals and 24 assists. Those numbers do not lie. Arsenal paid big prices but have received big productivity in return.

Throw in the fact that Arsenal could well lose at least one of those key men this summer, and it becomes all the more essential they add another elite player to the mix. At best, it will give Ozil and Alexis someone of comparable talent to play with. At worst, it will help fill the void left by a departing star.

The biggest barrier Arsenal face in recruiting top names is the likely lack of Champions League football. That may mean they have to bite the bullet and pay bigger salaries to convince players to come to north London. So be it.

Last summer’s acquisition of Rob Holding shows there are still bargains to be had out there on the transfer market. However, Arsenal already have a big squad. They do not need to bulk out with more squad players. This summer, perhaps more than ever, they need a sprinkling of stardust.