Arsenal beaming thanks to bright summer
The difference in mood at Arsenal compared to this time last year is hard to fathom. Back then fans were still waiting, some patiently and some not so much, for the club to spend some money. Yaya Sanogo had arrived on a free transfer, but no money had changed hands and no further additions to the squad had been made.
Now, with four signings already sealed and the manager on record as saying he's open to do more, it feels like a different world -- a different Arsenal.
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Although two of the new men are direct replacements -- Mathieu Debuchy for right-back Bacary Sagna and David Ospina for goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski -- the captures of Alexis Sanchez and Calum Chambers are both very exciting.
In the case of the Chilean, he adds so much to the attacking side of the Gunners' game with pace, power, finishing, strength and a reputation built off the back of an excellent World Cup in Brazil. A player coveted by most teams in Europe chose the red and white, and the thought of him speeding at opposition defences is tantalising.
As for Chambers, the idea of spending 16 million pounds (if all the clauses are met) on a 19-year-old who has played just 25 professional games may raise some eyebrows. But manager Arsene Wenger is a master at moulding potential talent into a top-class player, and it wouldn't be the first time he's done it with raw materials from Southampton, either.
Chambers follows in the footsteps of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain -- both purchased in very similar circumstances -- but what makes Chambers' arrival even more interesting is that we're not quite sure what Wenger will do with him.
Ostensibly a right-back, Chambers will certainly provide cover for Debuchy now that Carl Jenkinson has joined West Ham on loan, but Chambers himself said he could play at centre-half or as a deep-lying midfielder. We know Wenger likes a versatile player, and watching what he does with Chambers is going to be fascinating as things progress.
Speaking at his pre-Emirates Cup news conference, the French manager was asked about what he'd done in the transfer market to this date, and he said, "I'm very happy and I'm still open to do more.
"I think August 15 to 30 will be busy again."
Those words will be sweet music to the ears of many. It does appear that a central defender will be needed, as Thomas Vermaelen's future remains in doubt, while the chase for a midfielder is still on, with Sami Khedira and Morgan Schneiderlin still on the agenda.
Further additions will probably also mean departures, but as long as none of those involve "key" players -- and it's hard to argue Vermaelen is one -- it will remain an overwhelmingly positive preseason.
And although Ospina will miss the Emirates Cup with a thigh problem, Arsenal fans should get their first glimpse of Sanchez, who is scheduled for a Sunday cameo against Monaco.
It's been a summer to enjoy thus far, perhaps ahead of a season to remember.