Arsenal: Hat’s off to Arsene
Just over a year ago, I wrote an article on this site in which I took a bit of a swipe at Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, saying that I didn’t believe the Gunners would win anything ever again if he remained in charge. This was mainly due to his continual lack of urgency and ambition in the transfer market, as well as the handling of the Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri transfer sagas. Well, twelve months on, Arsene may have proved me wrong somewhat. While Arsenal still didn’t claim any silverware last season, the point I’m mostly referring to is how Wenger has gone about adding to his squad this summer.
Although Arsenal frantically splashed the cash in the final hours of the transfer window this time last year, this was on the back of the received cash from the sales of the two aforementioned players, meaning Wenger had been forced to act. This year however, the Frenchman has dived head first into the market with alarming purpose by his standards, and has undoubtedly captured some real quality.
Lukas Podolski was the first arrival at £11m from Cologne, followed by Olivier Giroud from Montpellier for roughly the same figure and in the last 48 hours, the £16m signing of Santi Cazorla has been sealed from cash-strapped Malaga. That comes to approximately £40m, a figure that for such a long time just wouldn’t have been mentioned in the same sentence as “Arsenal”.
On the other hand, the party-spoiler would be the departure of the talismanic Robin Van Persie. While it would still be bad news if the Dutchman leaves the club in the coming weeks, the new arrivals have already cushioned the impact, and provided they haven’t been signed using cash that the board hope will be recouped from Van Persie’s potential sale, it would appear that Arsenal could strengthen further if RVP heads to Manchester United or Juventus, with Manchester City having now seemingly pulled out of the race.
Inspite of this, the latest signs are good on the Van Persie front. There are rumours in some respectable areas of the media which suggest Wenger’s transfer activity may have been enough to make last season’s top scorer re-consider his future. It looked certain that Van Persie was leaving just a few weeks ago, those unmistakeable Fabregas and Nasri vibes surfacing once again, but the storm seems to have been weathered for the time being. Whether or not Van Persie will sign a new contract is a different matter entirely, but the risk of losing him for free would appear to be worth gambling on at this moment in time.
With it looking increasingly likely that Van Persie will stay, the addition of the three new signings and the current attacking options Arsenal possess in the shape of Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tomas Rosicky, Gervinho and even Andrey Arshavin, the Gunners have a very sharp looking bundle of talent in the final third. Of course, not all these players will feature at once, but the competition for places can only be beneficial and the array of options at Wenger’s disposal could prove to be decisive over the course of the season. Arsenal now arguably possess the greatest amount of attacking threat in the Premier League, but surely they aren’t set for a genuine title push, are they?
I believe it could happen. Thomas Vermaelen must stay fit but even then Arsenal have many defensive concerns. They are undoubtedly not on the level of the Manchester clubs in that department. Whether or not the step up can be made defensively remains to be seen, and there still seems to be a general lack of conviction psycologically in the big matches, something that has been missing from the Arsenal side quite frankly since the days of Patrick Vieira.
Arsenal’s transfer business isn’t over just yet however, with the loan signing of Nuri Sahin from Real Madrid looking a real possibility and with Jack Wilshere set to make his long awaited return in October, the squad will look even stronger. The wait for a trophy may still go on, but Arsenal can head into the new campaign with as much optimisim as anyone, and the credit for that goes to Arsene Wenger.