That was a very strange few days. We spend years carefully, slowly building squads, with obscure players brought in from far and wide, punctuated with highly profitable sales. This modus operandi became familiar to all of us. But in this transfer window, that has all been ripped up, culminating in an insane final evening yesterday. To recap:
Brought into the squad: Arteta, Mertesacker, Benayoun, Park, Santos, Jenkinson, Gervinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Miayichi (and Campbell was also signed)
Sold: Fabregas, Nasri, Clichy, Eboue, Traore, Emmanuel-Thomas, Randall, Cruise and Sunu
Loaned out: Denilson, Bendtner, Lansbury, Vela, Wellington, Bartley, Afobe, Bothelho, Galindo and Campbell
That is a scale of business we simply haven’t seen before, ever. And in addition to the new youngsters, seeing the recruitment of solid, experienced players, some from within the PL, some from elsewhere, also marks a break with the past.
We can pick over the bones of how the summer was managed another time, and there will be those who continue to query how we can be ambitious and make trading profits (I reckon we’ve made something like £20m this summer). But what cannot be denied is that our squad today is deeper and stronger than it was a week ago. Before Sunday’s decimation at Old Trafford, we were already screaming for signings to be made; the crescendo only grew louder when those eight goals were shipped, despite the fact the team on display that day was freakishly weakened.
I reckon our strongest starting XI is now:
That is a line-up that should give any opponents cause for concern. Also, the very fact that we’ll now be able to debate whether Ramsey or Koscielny or Gibbs or Benayoun or Arshavin etc should be in ahead of the eleven I’ve listed means we are in a far healthier state than we were. There will be competition for places, alternatives for the manager and education for raw youngsters like Jenkinson, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Miyaichi. And as Jack W’s superb tweets through yesterday evening showed, these signings will lift the squad at a time when morale was in danger of collapsing.
However, let’s not pretend it’s all rosy. Arteta and Benayoun are talented, experienced, creative players with substantial PL pedigrees. But neither one can match the talents of Fabregas. And Mertesacker is undeniably slow, which given our naive fondness for a high defensive line, could create difficulties. We’ll also have to see whether Santos and Park can make meaningful contributions when called upon. And above all else, this revolutionary change to our squad means that there is a hell of a lot of work for Wenger and the coaching team to do to assimilate the new elements into the squad after the international break. Having already given up eight points, we need to get our season going quickly, and that means these new Gunners need to knit together immediately.
Is this squad better than the one that last season promised so much but ultimately failed so miserably? Difficult to say with so many unknown factors, but plenty of Gooners will have a spring in their step this morning. Quite a contrast to the miserable embarrassment we all felt after Sunday.
Come on Swansea, let’s be having you!
Written by 26may1989