Gabriel and Bielik at Arsenal make for a decent transfer window
Arsenal's January transfer window is a case of better late than never. After leaving themselves short on defense last summer, they have now undertaken the necessary business to ensure they have substantial strength across all areas of the pitch.
With the squad nearing completion, manager Arsene Wenger may be afforded some respite from intense transfer activity in the remainder of 2015. That shouldn't come as an enormous surprise after an outlay of over 80 million pounds since the end of last season. The team have adopted a radical new transfer policy that has seen them catch up with many of Europe's biggest spenders.
The result is a squad that has competition and quality throughout. Take the goalkeeping situation -- Wojciech Szczesny and David Ospina are currently locked in a fierce battle for the No. 1 shirt. That's a win-win scenario. Both players are seasoned internationals with big potential. Wenger has never had two goalkeepers of that calibre on his books simultaneously.
Gabriel Paulista's arrival, along with the emergence of 19-year-old Hector Bellerin, means there is plenty of defensive depth. The acquisition of Gabriel should allow another new signing, Calum Chambers, to develop at a more leisurely pace.
The midfield options have been boosted by the rise of Francis Coquelin, who has profited from an injury crisis to climb from Championship loanee to one of the first names on the team sheet. The Frenchman is set to be rewarded with a new three-year contract and shows signs of providing a long-term solution to the defensive midfield problem.
Up front, there have been no new additions. In fact, three strikers have left the club on loan in the past month. Lukas Podolski, Yaya Sanogo and Joel Campbell have all made temporary moves elsewhere, and Podolski seems particularly unlikely to return. That had led to some suggestions that Arsenal may have left themselves short at the business end of the pitch.
Such claims are unfounded. The squad was top-heavy to begin with, and Wenger has merely streamlined his options. If there were any lingering concerns in attack, those anxieties were surely dismissed by the 5-0 thrashing of Aston Villa at the weekend. Arsenal racked up their biggest league win in two-and-a-half years without Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the match-day squad.
Even having allowed a trio of forwards to depart, Wenger has rarely had such a glittering array of attacking talent at his disposal. Any more would surely prove excessive -- it is notoriously difficult to motivate players if they feel they have little chance of a regular place. It's a fine line between competition and congestion, and Wenger seems to have struck upon a decent balance.
Looking ahead, he won't want to disrupt that delicate alchemy with a summer of heavy transfer activity. He shouldn't need to. Arsenal have a squad stocked with young talent that will only improve.
Only Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta could be said to be approaching the end of their careers, and Wenger seems likely to keep both around for their experience and dressing room influence. What's more, in Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Krystian Bielik and Gedion Zelalem, Arsenal have midfielders with the potential to replace their elder counterparts. It had been assumed Wenger would use the summer to bring in a holding midfielder, but Bielik's arrival and Coquelin's progress place even that in doubt.
His main focus may well be on resolving the future of his three on-loan attackers. Podolski is certain to be sold, but the indications are that Sanogo and Campbell could stay. For that to happen, someone may be let go. Impending contract negotiations with Theo Walcott could play a crucial role in determining Wenger's summer plans.
If this season has seen Arsenal undergo a transfer overhaul, next summer ought to be just about fine-tuning. Wenger has done most of his work in the marketplace, and he finally has a squad of sufficient depth to satisfy the fans.
James McNicholas is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @gunnerblog.