A week to go against Swansea, means a week of discussion, analysis and bemusement over the last 3 months since the end of last season. We’ve done our transfer dealings and we’re done for the summer, but there are a lot of mixed feelings about how we’ve done in the window and the manner of which we’ve done it.
At the beginning of the summer, Arsene said he was planning on strengthening defensively and with experience… but as the summer kicked off, it was clear that we had a few potential departures on the horizon. With Cesc, Nasri & Clichy in positions to move and as an Arsenal fan, those names departing were not unexpected.
Why didn’t we sell earlier in the summer?
Selling a player isn’t an easy as many people may think – Arsene Wenger wasn’t keen on selling either player and therefore had the intention of keeping both. It only became apparent throughout the summer that Barcelona would move for Cesc – in the first few weeks of the transfer window, they hadn’t bid for him and coupled with our intention to keep him, meant that there was no need to strengthen that position. Cesc was also keen on a move, and to bring in £30m for a player where he would only go to one club, although less than the value of the player if on the open market, was high enough to allow it to happen.
With Man City’s desire to buy Nasri increasing and the bid, which started at £10m ending up at £25m, we reluctantly had to sell the French playmaker. Again, although half expected, based on his refusal to sign previously, Arsene would have kept onto him if he could – but the money was too good to refuse.
Why didn’t we buy earlier in the summer?
We live in a footballing world in which we compete for players with the likes of Man United, Man City & Chelsea and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to act earlier on in the transfer window when the vultures sniff around. We had talked to Blackburn about Phil Jones and Valencia about Juan Mata, but as soon as United & Chelsea found out, they swooped in, offering the clubs more money and the players a great salary.
One thing to remember, is that Gervinho had come in earlier in the summer and the return of Miyachi and signing of Oxlade & Jenkinson meant that we’d spent a chunk of money earlier on. However, I believe it was always Arsene’s intention to bring a few more players to the club. The sales of Cesc & Nasri went some way to distracting the summer activities and if two of your best players leave, then you’ve not got too much time to act and you have to act fast.
Did we panic?
I don’t think we panicked, and despite the result at Old Trafford, we were always looking to buy the players we bought – the exception being Mikel Arteta. Mertersacker had been in the offing for a while and our centre back choices this summer were torn between him, Cahill and Jones. The German international is still a quality player. After we sold Cesc & Nasri, the question is surely, why didn’t we buy immediately, before the games came thick and fast – what stopped us buying Mertersacker & Santos 2 weeks earlier?
I believe that we operate within our means, and therefore it was the sale of Nasri that ultimately allowed us to bring in more players. With Arsene looking for super quality early on, I’m sure there were a lot of targets on the radar and when you’re trying to strengthen multiple positions, it’s a balancing act which allows you to get the best group of new players rather than one major stars and then a few average players.
Should we be happy?
This summer has been a difficult one for Arsenal fans and one thing is clear – if a player doesn’t want to play for Arsenal – then they should move on. The departures of Cesc, Nasri & Clichy may not be a negative thing. We’ve satisfied the requirements at the beginning of the summer; Arsene wanted experience, he has brought in 2 captains, a player with vast experience in the Premier League; Arsene wanted defensive re-inforcements, he’s not sold a centre back and brought in a top quality one; Arsene wanted better depth and players like Benayoun, Santos, Jenkinson, Miyachi, Oxlade will offer us more options in the various positions they play in.
In the summer of 2008, Arsene said this:
“The strategy of the club is to sell every year and to buy less expensive players. We manage at Arsenal to maintain all our football ambitions—national and European—while having to free up—for 17 more years—an annual surplus of £24million to pay for our stadium. The club’s strategy is to favour the policy of youngsters ahead of stars and to count on the collective quality of our game.”
And as a result, being able to correct the balance of our squad, adding quality where required, and to remove the players who have often disappointed us (loans for Bendtner & Denilson and sales of Clichy & Eboue), can only be a good thing.
The acquisition of Arteta for me was one of the transfer stories of the deadline day, he’s one of the very few players who plays the Cesc role in the way in which Cesc plays it – he is a very talented footballer and most Everton fans believe he was their best. Of a poll of best buys by Sky Sports, Arteta came top – I am very excited to see him in an Arsenal shirt.
We’ve got a new team, one with more experience, and one that looks like it has more passion, desire & drive. We’ll have some of the missing 8 players returning soon – our season kicks off against Swansea in roughly a week’s time.
It’s time to reserve judgement and support the team…