Everybody wanted action. Everybody wanted changes. Fresh faces to get excited about, to plug the gaping holes in a squad that looked nowhere near challenging for the title.
But surely NOBODY expected this:
From left to right we’ve got André Santos, a stereotypically attacking Brazilian left-back signed from Fenerbahce; Mikel Arteta, an experienced, reliable Spanish central midfielder signed from Everton; Per Mertesacker, a 6’6 German giant of a central defender signed from Werder Bremen; Yossi Benayoun, a superbly-gifted Israeli attacking midfielder signed on loan from Chelsea and; Chu Young-Park, a hard-working, experienced South Korean striker signed from Monaco.
Each and every one of the signings brings superb value to the squad. Let’s take a look at how they will do so.
We lost Gaël Clichy early in the transfer window to Manchester City and with Armand Traore following suit with a recent move to QPR, that left us with just the injured Kieran Gibbs as an established left-back. Gibbs is someone I rate highly despite his fragility but at 28 years of age and with plenty of international experience we have a player that, on paper, appears to eclipse the young Englishman. One thing that was always lacking with Clichy was a genuine attacking contribution from deep positions and in Santos we have a player that looks capable of providing this.
I expect Santos to slot straight into the starting line-up and his presence should both improve our side and take some much-needed pressure off Gibbs.
Arteta is another player that I expect to move straight into the starting line-up and injuries aside, he should stay there for most of the season. The Spaniard has bags of Premier League experience and will provide a calm presence in midfield alongside the likes of Jack Wilshere, Alex Song and Aaron Ramsey. He has demonstrated his excellent technical skills, including an ability to wreak havoc from set-pieces and will undoubtedly improve our midfield.
Arteta is a versatile player — he often played on the right-hand side of a midfield four for Everton — and is more defensively-responsible than your average midfielder. He has always been a player that I admire, containing the unique quality of consistently having tangible impacts on a game of football, and he will undoubtedly become both a fan (and squad) favourite within a short space of time.
If Arteta is the signing with the biggest marquee feel then Mertesacker cannot be far behind. For years fans have been crying out for a big, strong, experienced central-defender and standing at 6’6 with 75 caps for Germany Mertesacker is a player that ticks these boxes.
One has to feel that like Santos and Arteta, Mertesacker will go straight into the starting team alongside Thomas Vermaelen. With the underrated Laurent Koscielny and Johan Djourou moving to third and fourth-choice we all of a sudden have great balance and quality in this area of the pitch.
Benayoun is arguably the strangest of the five signings but provides further strength in depth in the final third of the pitch. He is a player that divides opinion but I was always impressed with his ability to have an impact off the bench for Liverpool and I remember being puzzled as to why Rafa Benitez did not use him more frequently.
Unlike the previous three signings I do not expect Benayoun to be a regular starter but his professionalism, experience and the danger he provides from the bench could see him make a valuable contribution to the squad.
It is hard to know what to expect from Park, given that he is a player that I know little about. On paper he looks promising: 53 caps for South Korea, not to mention the recent award of the captaincy and a decent scoring rate of 25 goals in 91 appearances over three seasons for struggling Monaco. Korean players tend to come with a never-say-die attitude and are extremely robust and reliable and if Park fulfills that criteria, he will endear himself to the fans and the rest of his teammates.
Our team (and squad) as it now stands
Arsene Wenger and the management team at Arsenal have copped a lot of flak over their pre-season actions — rightly so, too — but you’ve got to hand it to him here: these signings are just what the doctored ordered. Each are over 26, have experience at the highest level and will improve the quality and depth of our squad.
It does pose an interesting question: just what is our likely first eleven going to be? And when everybody is fit, how does our squad look on paper? Here’s how I see it:
All of a sudden things are looking up, don’t you think? The season really does start now.
Spread the Arsenal love by leaving a comment.