Brilliant late moves for Arsenal but the post mortem must be thorough
WOW. Five players in the age 25+ bracket signed in two days.
The significance can not be overstated. Much of the increasingly burdensome philosophical baggage that has built up over the past eight or so years tossed aside in one fell swoop. Those youngsters who Wenger once professed he didn’t want to kill now basically told it is survive or die.
So if Johan Djourou wants to be an Arsenal centre-back he’ll have to be better than Thomas Vermaelen or Pet Metersacker. If Kieran Gibbs is to fulfil potential he will have to barge aside experienced Brazilian competition, much like Ashley Cole did, except hopefully without the passport issues. And if Aaron Ramsey is to cement himself in this Arsenal team, he’ll have to fight off two highly experienced Premier League scrappers.
Out of the incubator and into the adults enclosure if you like.
In many ways, we’ve got there in the end. We’ve taken out a fair bit of trash: Denilson and Eboue were symptomatic of our effort issues last season. Same goes for Bendtner, who I think if he’d only run harder would (and maybe still could) have a fine Arsenal career. And after his odiousness of the past fortnight I’m glad we’re shot of Nasri, as culpable as any player for last season’s collapse.
And at centre-back we have clearly strengthened. Imagine we’d signed an English centre-back age 26 with 79 caps? We’d be cartwheeling. Well, look at it this way: Per Mertersacker has got that and plays for a half decent country too! Two semis and one final is his major tournament record! He’s 6ft 7ins! Who knows how he’ll turn out, but we can’t complain.
And as I intimated, at left back, we’re sorted too. And with Sagna now able to concentrate on his correct position of right-back Jenkinson can hopefully concentrate on being his understudy, playing in the Carling Cup and making the odd sub appearance in the league.
We were never going to replace Cesc with another Cesc. And while Arteta may underwhelm some people, would a 20 year-old French wonderkid with no Premier League experience but a heftier price tag really have been the better option? I think we’ve become so unaccustomed to signing Premier League players that you forget that you can take a good player like Ashley Young or Arteta, put him in a better side and with a bit of luck watch him fruit.
And while Benayoun and Park may not on paper be the ideal replacements for Nasri and Bendtner (surely Chamakh was a better candidate to leave), they are at least replacements.
Have these been desperation signings? I don’t think so. More evidence of what you can get done when you don’t have all summer long to faff around on signing 17 year-olds.
So I think it fair to say the last 48 hours have been a pretty decent stab at doing the equivalent of all Xmas shopping on Christmas Eve.
But there is a major but.
What on earth were we doing in this situation in the first place? Did it really have to take an 8-2 defeat for the management at the club to cotton onto what had been glaringly apparent to most of us all summer long? How can we find ourselves in a situation where we need to sign FIVE proper, for this season, players with 48 hours left of a three month transfer window?
And be under no illusions: the surprise result of this season was not for me the 8-2, but in fact the beating of Udinese. We could so easily have been out of Europe for now and all because we didn’t seem to realise that the season started two and a half weeks ago. We are, it should be noted, already way adrift in the league.
To go into transfer deadline day looking for one player who might be the cherry on the icing of the cake of your squad is one thing. If you miss out, you miss out. But you can’t do that when you have such crucial signings to make and not when your fingers have been burned so badly in previous years.
The upshot of all this is that Arsene has bought himself time. Undoubtedly so. But if he and the board are wise, they won’t try and hide behind these signings. They will acknowledge that this summer was a catastrophe in so many ways and show they are taking steps to ensure it is not repeated.
And it is also true that we still have a lot of cash in our pocket. Let’s spend it in January. And let the manager demonstrate that he can be pragmatic. It doesn’t mean abandoning one’s principles. It just means adapting to what is in front of you. Hopefully this is a first, positive step.