What is it with Arsenal, strikers and contract clauses? In 2013, Luis Suarez decided that he wanted to join them and Arsenal thought their bid of £40 million, plus £1, would make Liverpool powerless to resist. They messed up. The clause was not binding and Liverpool said no, both to Arsenal and their player.
Arsenal would not be making the same error again on Jamie Vardy. Unfortunately, they just seem to have made a whole series of other mistakes instead. They placed a bid that met his £20 million buyout clause at Leicester City, except that this time they appear to have had no definite idea of what the player would do. And Vardy has now said "no" and decided to remain at Leicester.
Arsenal are at least not going to be accused of tapping up anytime soon but there will be a strong feeling in football today that they have been just a little naïve. Offers of this sort are generally not made unless the buying club has a pretty good idea of the answer. Either Arsenal have been misled by intermediaries and simply used to ensure that Vardy gets a better deal at Leicester or they have not completed what is common due-diligence in football.
The timing of their offer also raises questions. This was a huge decision for Vardy and, by not making their offer, and thus gaining official permission to speak with him, until 48 hours before he left for the European Championships, they left only a tiny window to get the deal done.
Maybe they hoped that Vardy would be more likely to say yes under that sort of time pressure but, as any good salesman could tell you, some customers are cautious and prefer more time and space before coming to a decision.
It has all ensured that the best part of a month has been potentially lost in Arsenal’s search for a striker. It has also advertised one of their key priorities for the summer ahead of a recruitment process that will now widen across Europe but probably start with a call to Real Madrid about Alvaro Morata.
Wenger, though, must now wonder if he has been jinxed in his striker search ever since Robin van Persie was sold to Manchester United four years ago.
A £23 million deal for Gonzalo Higuain was also close to conclusion in 2013, only for Real Madrid to push the price up towards £30 million once Napoli came in. Wenger walked away but, after 91 goals in his three subsequent seasons in Italy, he must now wonder if he should have upped his offer.
Arsenal also gave up on Suarez once their £40 million, plus £1 offer, was knocked back. Suarez’s subsequent performances have again vindicated Wenger’s initial judgment about his vast potential but exposed an over-caution about upping an offer.
An economics graduate, Wenger frequently cites the supply side of the equation as a reason for inactivity in the transfer market but then seems reluctant to accept that this reality does drive prices up.
Arsenal will now move on. Set-backs happen. Players do make unexpected decisions. This is not evidence of some great, wider shift that means they can never sign a player again from a club bigger than Leicester City. Or that they always get it wrong - Petr Cech, Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka are three well-executed signings in the past 12 months - but it will still all be seen as embarrassing.
The global market for strikers will again be hugely competitive this summer and, if Wenger is not now prepared to take what might be a costly gamble on an alternative, the greater risk is surely going into what might be his final season as manager with only Olivier Giroud as a true specialist in the No 9 role.