Swift signings key to Gunners' summer
If the news that Arsenal are passing on the chance to sign Cesc Fabregas back from Barcelona has caused some dismay amongst Arsenal fans, that can be offset by the club ensuring that the business they do this summer is more timely than this time last year.
By the opening game of the season, the amount of money the Gunners had spent in the market stood at 0.00 pounds. The team Arsenal put out that day was more than capable of winning against Aston Villa, but defeat was, to many people's thinking, a consequence of transfer market inaction.
While the team did respond by winning their next 10 games, it was only on August 29 that Arsene Wenger brought back Mathieu Flamini (on a free) and then, on deadline day, spent a club-record fee of 42.5 million pounds on Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid. The summer pursuit of a striker had ended without a forward being signed, and overall there was a sense that the transfer window could have been better managed.
Now, having won the FA Cup and made progress in the Premier League in terms of points -- albeit not final position -- it would be good to see Arsenal learn the lessons of the last off-season and do their business as early as possible.
It really shouldn't be that difficult to find a back-up goalkeeper to Wojciech Szczesny and a right-back to replace the departing Bacary Sagna. The Frenchman was a wonderfully consistent performer but, as a club, Arsenal have known about his decision to leave for a long time now. Certainly long enough to identify a number of potential targets so that failure to land one means they move on to the next one -- and that's assuming Carl Jenkinson isn't going to be asked to step up.
The decision to ignore the availability of Fabregas seems to mean that Wenger feels his squad already has sufficient cover in the attacking midfield area. With Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all capable of creative, play-making midfield play, it's easy to see why he feels his priorities will lie elsewhere. It doesn't preclude the signing of another midfielder, but it's likely to be somebody who can fill the role currently occupied by Mikel Arteta.
The Spaniard is a fantastic professional and has played a key role in guiding Arsenal from the depths of that 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford to a team that has finally won a trophy but -- at 32 --his age is a factor that has be considered. As is Wenger's reluctance to use the 30-year-old Flamini as often as some would like. He added some drive and aggression to the team, but over the course of the season his influence waned and, like Arteta, he's not getting any younger.
But it's who the Arsenal manager finds up front that will probably define their transfer window. In finishing fourth, Arsenal scored 68 Premier League goals; the first- and second-placed teams, Man City and Liverpool, knocked in 102 and 101 respectively. That's a gap that needs to be bridged, and while some of it will come from the likes of Theo Walcott when he regains fitness, there's little question that against the best opposition Arsenal need a more ruthless and efficient scorer than they currently possess.
There are plenty of names being bandied about -- Mario Balotelli, Loic Remy and Mario Madzukic to name just three -- but it would be classic Wenger to find somebody obscure. Another Eduardo da Silva, perhaps. Certainly identifying that player is going to be a challenge, but the timing of the deal could well be crucial too.
Arsenal have a Community Shield appearance against Man City to open the season, and August will also bring the Champions League qualifiers. With players away at the World Cup and given extended holidays, the squad will have a somewhat disrupted preseason, so having the deals done before the season starts seems sensible.
If people are expecting Mesut Ozil to have a better second season with Arsenal because he's adapted to English football, part of the reason he had to do that over the course of the campaign was because of his late arrival. He didn't get to settle in in preseason and ease his way into life at a new club. He was thrust into immediate action.
Although, like any club, Arsenal are restricted by the vagaries of the market, giving any new signings that time to get to know their new teammates, the club, perhaps a new country and language, without the pressure of competitive football, should stand them in good stead.
Two years ago, Arsenal signed Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski in plenty of time during the summer (and they had to contend with Euro 2012 too, so the World Cup isn't quite the impediment some might suggest). A repeat performance this year would dispel the doubts some still have over how transfers are conducted, and ensure that the team is in the best possible shape when it all kicks off again.