Thoughts From The Transfer Window
It’s September, the transfer window is shut and an exhausting summer sideshow is finally behind us. We’ve had some ups and far too many downs but finally we have a few reasons to feel positive again.
As the wheels fell of last season’s challenge it was clear that we were too frail to win titles. Time-after-time we were unable to stand up to tough mental and physical tests. The talent of our young squad was plain to see but they were too easily dismantled on the biggest stage. The need for leadership was obvious.
The sale of our captain and talisman was tough to take and I would be inclined to agree that, on the face of it, any squad who lost him would be worse off, however Cesc wanted to leave and it doesn’t make sense to keep an unsettled player. Fabregas led the team by example, when we hit a tough patch he took responsibility to play through it. Ultimately we ended up with a team who looked to Fabregas to solve the problems, they didn’t get inspiration to pull together as a unit and many stagnated.
Most of the offenders from last season have gone although Manuel Almunia somehow remains. I don’t harbour any ill will for the Spaniard but I can’t help but think it would have suited both parties to terminate his contract. Almunia aside, everyone else has gone or at least been pushed down the pecking order.
The key point about the signings we made in the latter part of the window is their age and experience. They are all 26 years of age or over. They all have Premiership, International or Champions League experience and four of the five have captained at club or International level. They may not be the headline names that many demanded but they offer leadership and come to Arsenal hungry to make a step up.
Gary Cahill seemed like a genuine possibility at the end of last week but our interest waned when Bolton decided to keep their asking price high and risk losing him for free next summer. This doesn’t represent a huge disappointment for me and neither does Everton’s stance on Jagielka. Per Mertesacker is 26 and has years ahead of him. He has 75 caps for Germany whereas Cahill and Jagielka have only managed to play for England a combined total of nine times. Neither has ever played in the Champions League.
The German’s experience comes at roughly half the price quoted for the English alternative. His stature and cool temperament should help him cope with the English game and question marks over pace should be offset by those surrounding him.
There were whispers about uncharacteristically lavish deals for M’Vila or Hazard; talk of offers in excess of £20m spread around the virtual grapevine. It’s always nice to make a statement of intent and splash some cash but looking more pragmatically, there is an argument that the approach we’ve taken is more sensible at this moment in time.
For years now we have invested in youth, not £20m+ youth but prospects none the less. In that period we’ve won nothing. Arsenal fans often berate Wenger for making the same mistakes over and over; would buying Hazard not have been to make that mistake again, only at greater expense? Sure, Hazard is a special talent but he would still need to settle in and develop as a player. Adding the young Belgian to our squad now would have seen him arrive as an equal and contemporary of Wilshere and Ramsey. Both players are immensely talented and will go on to great things but they are still learning. Hazard would have been another player that needs to grow whereas Benayoun and Arteta can help bring the best from our prodigious youngsters right now.
In the past we have bemoaned Wenger’s acquisition of young players who make a name for themselves and then move on elsewhere for more money. Ashley Cole, Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure, Samir Nasri. My fear about signing yet another coveted youngster, whatever the fee, is that he might ultimately have seen himself as a trialist for Man City or Barcelona. The players we have signed are making their big move now; to Arsenal. There is a lot to be said for players who join with hunger and a desire to make the best of their current situation without an eye on a move in a few years time.
We’ve lost the odd star name this summer but we now have more of a stable base. The time for adding more youngsters is not now; we have enough of those in Ryo, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere, Gibbs, Ramsey and Jenkinson. What we needed was leadership, desire and stability. The last three days have gone some way to providing that.
There’s no hiding the fact that we’ve had a traumatic time this last few months but now the deals are done. We’d have loved to see Nasri sign a new contract and declare his love for the club and for Cesc to lose patience with Barca’s classless pursuit but it wasn’t to be. We are now left with a tough season ahead. We shouldn’t be too eager to talk ourselves up and raise the pressure. Let’s get back to playing football and bedding in the new boys and see where we are around Christmas. We’ve now got a settled squad of players and money to strengthen should it be needed in January. Thankfully the sideshow is over, now we can concentrate on the main event.
Keep The Faith, In Arsene We Trust.