And with that, the transfer window(s) has shut down for another English summer.
Park Chu-Young and Nicklas Bendtner are gone. Adding to Robin van Persie’s departure, that’s three strikers out of the club with only two replacements brought in. Marouane Chamakh remains at the club despite interest from Besiktas and Malaga and now looks ‘trapped’, as Goonerholic puts it, as third-choice striker.
From the start of deadline day, Arsenal was seemingly linked with a loan move, ala Yossi Benayoun last season, for Chelsea’s Michael Essien. There were credible sources suggesting the move was on, including the Guardian and the Metro, but ultimately the Ghanaian chose to work with old boss Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid.
One cannot say how genuinely interested Arsene Wenger was in making that move happen. Essien has been hampered with ACL and knee ligament injuries the past two seasons which can re-occur at a moment’s notice. But on paper it looked a very encouraging deal for Arsenal to beef up the midfield and at least temporarily replace Alex Song.
At the same time, the same sources were saying our eyes were watching what Clint Dempsey was up to. His link with Liverpool never really eventuated and at one point it looked like Aston Villa of all clubs was in with a shout for his signature. Instead, he showed his ambition to all the world by signing with the obsessives up the Seven Sisters Road.
Again, what our real interest in Dempsey really was in up for speculation. But where Arsenal needed one or two more players of substance to compliment a fine starting XI, the club ultimately came up empty.
I said earlier in preseason that Arsenal was ‘half-way to a title tilt’ with the signings of Podolski and Giroud. What was required further was signing RVP onto a contract and providing competition for Alex Song.
That came days before RVP’s infamous letter to the fans, with Song eventually departing for Barcelona. Santi Cazorla was the only addition to the side after that.
The idea of a title tilt is now down to the stuff of dreams, hopes and a bucketload of luck. Theo Walcott and Andrey Arshavin (who amazingly is still an Arsenal player) may very well be drafted in to cover in the forward’s position, while I will be hoping beyond hope that when Bacary Sagna makes his return, it is for the comprehensive length of the entire season. Another injury to him could seriously expose us, despite the early promise shown by Carl Jenkinson.
Or – is the situation really as bad as a lot of people would have you think?
Jenkinson’s start has been encouraging. As far as my player ratings are concerned (for as much as they’re worth), he’s been marginally the second best performer in the first two league games and deserves some backing for our match against Liverpool.
Furthermore, after a stellar performance in the NextGen Series opener against Marseilles, Nico Yennaris is promising back-up as a utility full-back, and Francis Coquelin has played very well in that position too.
Sticking with Coquelin, perhaps Wenger has the young Frenchman very much in mind when it comes to propping up the midfield. He’s a different kettle of fish to the Artetas, Wilsheres and Diabys of the world – he’s more of a skirmisher than a fine passer of the ball – but his performances in preseason left nothing to be desired.
The centre of defence is fine. Injuries aside, I can be happy if not over-the-moon ecstatic with our left-back options.
The midfield first XI is potentially a league-beater. The wing play needs some work but the options are many and varied.
The first two striker choices should come good, although the back-up (in order: Chamakh, Walcott, Arshavin, Gervinho, Afobe) is getting desperate.
This team won’t be the roaring-scoring Arsenal of old. We have to learn to expect a scrappy contest every time, with hopes of a win built on fight, intelligence and graft.
You have the right to be unhappy with the late transfer activity (though I’m still amazed with the fact that transfer business is still more keenly followed than our on-pitch performances in general). But now there is nothing anyone can do about it until January.
It’s now time to get behind the side. As ever, fourth place is the minimum requirement.
But the potential remains for exceeding that. On such hopes are the joys of football founded upon.