I have been an Arsenal supporter for more than eight years. Before then, I followed Real Madrid from a distance. I was completely enamoured by the Galacticos and the sparkling football they produced game after game. My Arsenal love affair started from the middle of their unbeaten season. For some reason, I just watched and prayed, hoping they stayed invincible till the end of the season. And when they did, I moved from the Spanish club promptly.
All the years I have supported the English team, I have come to know and even predict how events unfold. I know for instance that we will always play in the Champions League, that Spurs might lose 10 games consecutively but they would give us a fierce game when we meet in the 11th, that we’re capable of producing some magical football and great results even when we are not given a chance, that Arsene Wenger sells more than he buys, etc.
But I never saw the deadline day rush coming. I’m sure I’m not the only Arsenal supporter who watched in amazement as Wenger completed the signings of Pers Mertesacker, Park Chu Young, Yossi Benayoun, Andre Santos and Mikel Arteta before the window closed by 11pm on the last day of the transfer market. The surprise didn’t end there. The average age of all these players is between 27. In just a few hours, the Frenchman threw two of his principles into the trash bin.
The signings drew mixed reactions from fans and foes. Some were happy that the humiliation he was forced to watch at Old Trafford a few days back had forced him into action. Other fans were not completely pleased. In their opinion, Wenger had bought second rate players – they would have preferred the likes of Eden Hazard, M’Vila, Goetze, etc to replace Fabregas and Nasri.
Whatever the opinion though, the summer shopping is over. Arsenal have to play their domestic and European games with the current players. At least no further purchases can be made till January, when the winter window opens. The big question is, will these signings make the difference desperately needed in North London? The Gunners have made the worst possible start, gaining just one point from three games and conceding 11 goals in the process. They currently lie one place above relegation.
Park Chu Young, a relatively unknown South Korean striker, ditches French club, Lille for Arsenal. The forward will provide much needed cover for captain Robin Van Persie. Park is said to be a tricky player, whose off-the-ball movement is superb. Analysts say he will add some killer instinct in front of the goal which Arsenal lacks at times. Nicklas Bendtner has been sent out on loan to Sunderland and with Chamakh looking off the pace most of the time. Pers Mertesacker is definitely going into the thick of things as Thomas Vermaelen has undergone surgery on his troublesome Achilles.
Andre Santos, the Brazilian left back will be looking to fill the void left by the departure of Gael Clichy and Armand Traore. Injury to Gibbs has forced Wenger to play Sagna and Jenkinson in that position and the makeshift arrangements have failed miserably. Arsenal have also signed Benayoun on loan from Chelsea. He is now 31 years of age but should add depth and experience to the depleted squad, who will also lose Wilshere till November.
Most of the burden will lie on Arteta’s shoulders. The Spaniard, who is viewed as a like for like replacement for fellow country man, Fabregas is expected to bring the creative spark the team has lacked in the first five games this season. Arteta might not be of the same level as the Barcelona player, but he can certainly do a good job. Arteta brings bags of Premier League experience and creativity along with him. He oozes class and style with the ball at his feet. He has the eye for a defence splitting pass and with his style of play, he will fit into the Arsenal system like hands in a glove.
It all starts this weekend at the Emirates when Arsenal host new comers, Swansea. I expect to see at least four of the five signings play. I am optimistic though. But the jury is still out on them, on whether they are what Arsenal need to sustain a challenge on all four fronts.