Transfer Windows are like war – they bring unhappiness and superfluous unrest among fans and players of the team. They don’t do any good to the team’s pre-season preparation and end up lightening the cash bag of every football club. Well, not every club maybe! Arsenal Football Club, mostly under the astute supervision of Arsene Wenger, have always managed to ‘work out’ the transfer window in such a way that the board never got a chance to actually spend the “transfer money”. The norm didn’t change this time around, Arsene again ‘pulled off’ an ingeniously dealt transfer window making sure the club was in profit at the end of August 31st.
The overwhelming assessment of Arsenal’s transfers this season will be “good” even though they sold the club’s top goal-scorer and ‘top assist man’ of last season. With such a ‘creative hole’ left behind, one would ideally expect the fans to be unhappy with the transfers, but Arsene has done a ‘complete reverse’ in ‘Player Purchase’ this season. He has actually managed to buy three high profile players who are seasoned Internationals and proven goal-scorers for their respective clubs and countries. With an addition to the ‘tactical defensive department’ (Read – Steve Bould), Arsenal look a much more balanced and confident unit than last season during the same period.
Arsenal Transfers – IN
Lukas Podolski (Koln FC, £11 million)
It is certainly very difficult to find a like-for-like replacement of Robin van Persie in the transfer market, but Arsene has gone for the closest possible alternative. Podolski, being ‘stalked’ by Arsenal for quite some time now, is a predominantly left-footed player, has an eye for a goal all the time, makes incredible runs into the box and is a sweet free-kick taker – as van Persie as he could possibly be. Arsene wrapped up this transfer very early, even before the window had officially opened. A long admirer of the German International, Arsene hit the bull’s eye with this transfer – a fantastic purchase with lots of experience and purchased at a very decent price of £11 million.
“He is a very strong player and will provide us with good attacking options. We are happy to have made this signing early and we’re looking forward to watching Lukas contribute at the European Championship over the summer, a level where he has already made 95 caps at the age of 26 – a phenomenal record [which] just shows his quality as a player”
- Arsene Wenger, after his purchase, even before the Euros took off.
Olivier Giroud (Montpellier, £13 million)
The Frenchman, like the German striker, was brought in quite early in the summer, unlike the ‘madness’ last summer. Giroud was a phenomenal scorer for Montpellier last season, and was the league’s top goal scorer, helping his team to the title. Arsene Wenger, who has had acquired the services of many French strikers before, was a long time admirer of Giroud too. Giroud is a left-footed player, has very good control of the football and possesses a devastating header. The striker will fit in seamlessly in a 4-2-3-1 system with added pressure of filling the boots of the departed Robin van Persie.
“I think he has exceptional potential and will integrate very well in our collective and our way of playing, he is a real team player and knows how to combine with other players and I’m sure he will do well with us.”
- Arsene Wenger
Santi Cazorla (Malaga, £16 million)
The most flamboyant summer signing since Tomas Rosicky was signed six years ago from Dortmund – Arsene pulled off a cat from the hat with this one. Malaga was in need of money and Arsene and the board were ready to give in. The player’s added interest in playing for Arsenal helped the cause even further. Cazorla is an ambidextrous attacking midfielder – a player of his caliber is very few and far in between. He can play at the head of the midfield and is capable of roaming all over the park, threading passes with both his feet on either wings. He has a very mean shot too, smashing them from distance – an attribute Arsenal has been missing in their midfield for quite some time.
“He is a player with good experience at both club and international level, who will add significant quality to our squad. He is a versatile, attacking midfield player who can play comfortably on either side of the pitch or centrally. He has good pace, is technically gifted and will be a huge asset to Arsenal. We are delighted that he is joining us.”
- Arsene Wenger
Arsenal Transfers – OUT
Robin van Persie (Manchester United, £24 million)
Arguably, the most controversial transfer in Arsenal history saw the first Gunner under Arsene Wenger move to the Theater of Dreams. Robin van Persie, 29, fetched Arsenal £24 million and a chance to move away from the ‘One Man Team’ tag from last season. Sir Alex Ferguson came calling, and it would have been quite stupid to ignore such an offer from a player who was clearly not happy about staying at Arsenal once he made that historic statement a few months back, making his position untenable at the club.
No doubt Arsenal will miss the services of the Dutchman, but they have made a tremendous bargain out of a player who was in the final years of his career and who was still quite injury-prone. Arsene and the fans believe they have replaced van Persie quite well with the combined strength of three attacking players in the team now.
“We regret that we have lost a great player and for one simple reason – he only had one year left on his contract. He wanted to go. We anticipated this situation might happen, therefore we bought Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud. [Selling to a rival] is not what we wanted but there was not much choice. We had only one club really interested at the level we thought would be acceptable and that was Manchester United. At the end of the day, [selling] was the only decision we could make.”
- Arsene Wenger, after van Persie was sold to Manchester United
Alex Song (Barcelona, £15 million)
Statistically, Alex Song was Arsenal’s ‘creative head’ last season. He was responsible for delivering the most stellar through balls that many attacking midfielders dream of every time they see a striker making off-the-ball runs. Song was a massive presence in the center of that midfield, which Arsene hasn’t replaced (as Song was sold to Barcelona) yet. But, the fans and Arsene hope that Abou Diaby can live up to his reputation and stay injury-free. The Frenchman, if fit, can be an asset to any football team on the planet. After Song’s departure, even Mikel Arteta has been advised to play much more deeper than before, in fact, he has even raised his game by a few notches.
Alex Song will now reunite with former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas at the Catalan capital. Though Song was a player completely “made” by Arsene Wenger, the manager was fine letting him go, as he believes Diaby can fill the gap left in the team. Diaby, though, has a slightly different opinion about the comparison -
“I am not like Alex Song. We have many players who can take his place like Francis Coquelin or Mikel Arteta, who likes to play deep. I want to get forward – that’s me. I have defensive duties as well so I need to have a good shape defensively and, as soon as we get the ball, go forward.”
Henri Lansbury (Nottingham Forest, £1 million)
After spending a number of loan spells at different clubs, the 21 year old finally ran out of patience at London Colney. He was a fantastic player who was yet to make that ‘big leap’ into Arsenal first team football. But, Arsene decided to sell him to Nottingham Forest, being forced to do so, due to squad limits and FIFA rules. Lansbury had managed to make a handful of substitute appearances at the club and a few League Cup starts, including one against Tottenham, where he scored a very famous goal – probably his greatest moment in Arsenal colors.
Carlos Vela (Real Sociedad, £4 million, 50% Sell-On Clause)
Carlos Vela, after van Persie, was one of the oldest players in the club, having ‘officially’ signed for Arsenal in 2005. Since then, due to various issues, the Mexican didn’t manage to make an impact at the club, except for a few scintillating Cup displays. After lengthy spells are different clubs, Vela managed to make an impression on Real Sociedad, who became his suitor, finally. The stylish striker was sold along with a sell-on Clause. With the purchase of Podolski, Arsene, for sure, didn’t see a future for Vela at Arsenal.
Arsenal Loans – IN
Arsenal Loans – OUT
Ryo Miyaichi (Wigan Athletic)
The Japanese winger has been sent to Wigan for a loan spell. The fleet-footed player who had earlier plied his trade in Feyenoord, needs game time and has been sent to Wigan to gain the much-needed Premiership experience before he can make it to Arsenal’s first team.
Park Chu-Young (Celta Vigo)
The Korean hardly even made it to the bench last season for the Gunners, let alone playing for them. As most know, this was one of Arsene’s most mysterious signing ever. Park has been sent to Celta Vigo to play some football, hopefully.
Nicolas Bendtner (Juventus)
“The greatest striker to ever live” was sent to Juventus for a season-long loan. The Dane is also not in Arsene’s plans in the near future, he is most certainly sent over there to impress his suitors so that the Italian Champions decide on purchasing the Arsenal frontman.
The three players that couldn’t make a deal for themselves are Arshavin, Chamakh and Squillaci due to unavailability of any suitors – such has been their downfall in recent years. All three players will get their chance though in Cup games, but with Arsenal’s injury record, Arshavin is sure to play quite a lot throughout the season.
Overall, the transfer window might not have been ‘excellent’ based on how it ‘took off’, but it gave the fans some kind of a ‘comfort’ seeing the team perform admirably in the first few weeks of the season. The new signings have gelled in fine and some ‘old players’ have found new groove and are performing according to potential. The defense has been sorted out and Arsenal are now 270 minutes into the season without conceding a goal – that after a horrendous ‘defensive’ season. If Arsene can manage to rotate his players and keep the squad happy and fit, Arsenal are in for a fight this season like always, but with more vigor, this time around.