Sparked by an atrocious start to the new season, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger flexed his recruitment muscles on last season’s summer transfer deadline day. In 24 hours, four players signed on at the Emirates Stadium in a period which was perceived by many to be a frantic last-ditch attempt to strengthen a threadbare squad weakened by sales and injuries.
By May, the same club which had been destroyed 8-2 by Manchester United in August had somehow secured an automatic Champions League qualification spot, despite a frenetic and, at times, absurd campaign – mainly thanks to the insurance of a now-departed world class striker in Robin van Persie. But the summer signings played a part too, most notably Mikel Arteta who had a fine season in a withdrawn midfield role.
12 months on from that hectic deadline day, Wenger decided against pressing the panic button. Despite having lost his prized asset in van Persie to Manchester United, and the widely under-appreciated Alex Song to Barcelona, he has chosen to stick with the squad at his disposal, which includes only three new signings – Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla.
Arsenal fans may well be worried, as A
but they should be encouraged by the start that their side has made – the Gunners were unlucky not to find the back of the net in an opening day stalemate against Sunderland while the performance against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium was the best on that ground that an Arsenal side has produced for some years.
And while the club missed out on a host of rumoured targets, including Nuri Sahin to Liverpool and Michael Essien to Real Madrid, the midfield remains well-stocked.
Cazorla’s first steps in Arsenal shirt have been excellent and he looks like he could replace the creativity vacuum which has been present since Cesc Fabregas left for Barcelona last summer. Arteta continues to produce steady performances while Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky are also highly-capable. Much will though depend on the fitness issues of Abou Diaby, Jack Wilshere and Emmanuel Frimpong. If Arsenal can get that trio fit, having the depth in the central area should not be a problem. But it is a big if.
Two players who may have expected to leave North London in the window may now have a role to play this season too. For the last season, Marouane Chamakh and Andrei Arshavin have been peripheral figures at the Emirates Stadium but with Giroud and Podolski now Arsenal’s only striking options, Wenger will have little choice but to call on the much-lambasted duo, if needed.
Such contingency plans were not available to Wenger 12 months ago and the lack of reinforcements show he trusts this squad. Whether that faith will be justified remains to be seen.
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