Experienced centre-back Per Mertesacker has reportedly questioned Arsenal’s title hopes along with claiming that the club were lucky to finish second last season.
The German international has come out and said that Arsenal were lucky to have finished second last season and that it will be tougher for the club to mount a title challenge in the coming season of the Premier League.
“The way last season went, we were quite lucky to finish second. We turned things around at the end but it was kind of a miracle we finished runners-up,” Mertesacker was quoted saying by The Sun.
The central defender was visibly disappointed that the Gunners could not clinch the title last season despite the struggles of their major rivals.
“What really disappointed us was that Leicester were able to take advantage of all the other big teams suffering and we couldn’t do the same.”
Mertesacker was asked if he thought the big clubs that struggled last season would come out stronger this season, to which he said,“Of course, those big clubs will be stronger this time. That’s what I expect as they’ll start the season with a lot of new players.”
Per’s statement regarding the other big teams of the Premier League being stronger with an array of first-team signings does seem to hold true. Arsenal’s London-based rivals Tottenham and Chelsea have both strengthened their squad with a couple of signings this summer.
Pochettino was worried about star striker Harry Kane starting almost every game for the club and so has brought in AZ Alkmaar striker Vincent Janssen to lift some weight off the England sensation’s shoulders. Chelsea have been in search of a forward after releasing Alexandre Pato and Diego Costa also reportedly unhappy. The Londoners have delved into the market and signed Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi from France. The striker joins fellow Belgian Eden Hazard and would be hoping he can emulate the winger’s rise to fame at Chelsea.
The two London clubs have also strengthened their midfield before the start of the season, with Chelsea signing Leicester City midfielder N’Golo Kante after months of speculation surrounding the Frenchman’s future. Tottenham have gone for a player with similar traits to the Euro 2016 star, signing Southampton midfielder Victor Wanyama. Wanyama has previous experience of working under the current Spurs boss and their fans would hope the Kenyan can slot right into the Argentine manager’s tactics.
Both the red and blue side of Manchester have also been continuously grabbing headlines this summer with their transfer conquests, along with arrivals of Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola as the managers. Manchester City have also decided to strengthen their midfield and attack like Tottenham and Chelsea, with one major signing at each position.
The Citizens have brought in Ilkay Gundogan from Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund to provide some much needed steel in central midfield. The Pep Guardiola- onnection seems to have started doing wonders for City as they beat Barcelona to the signing of La Masia product Nolito.
A look at Manchester United’s confirmed and reported transfer activity since the appointment of Ed Woodward would leave even the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid envious. The executive vice-chairman seems intent on carrying on his good work in the market. Jose Mourinho had reportedly earmarked four signings to complete his United squad and Woodward has already delivered on three of the four.
United’s squad quality at the central defensive position was a cause of concern and the signing of Eric Bailly from Villareal would provide some relief at the back. The centre-back has looked commanding in the defence as well as comfortable with the ball at his feet and would be a huge plus to the United backline.
Manchester United fans have been delighted with the capture of Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Borussia Dortmund as the Armenian has looked eager to score and provide goals, which is something the Old Trafford side needed from the midfield.
Jose Mourinho has also brought in star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a free transfer from PSG, who has been tipped by club legends and fans to shine in the United shirt.
Liverpool have also added numerous players to the squad as Jurgen Klopp prepares for his first full season in charge of the Reds. Two of the major signings have been made from England itself – midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum from recently relegated Newcastle and forward Sadio Mane from Southampton. The other arrivals, Loris Karius and Ragnar Klavan, for a modest fee along with the signing of Alex Manninger and Joel Matip on free transfers are all set to be a part of the German manager’s first-team setup at Anfield.
Even champions Leicester City have delved into the market to strengthen their squad depth in order to compete both in the Premier League and Champions League with a similar trend of one major signing each in the midfield and attack. The Foxes have signed Nampalys Mendy from France as a replacement for N’Golo Kante and winger Ahmed Musa from the Russian Premier League amidst speculation surrounding Riyad Mahrez’s future. Ranieri though, has decided to add Spanish central defender Luis Hernandez on a free transfer as mostly a backup to his central defence.
All these teams are sure to be stronger than their previous season with the infusion of further star players into the squad. Even though the new signings shall take some time to adjust to their new surroundings, there is a mutual feeling that once they do, the sides would be a threat this season.
Mertesacker also seemed to be unsatisfied with the transfer business his club has done so far compared to their Premier League rivals and didn’t hide his emotions regarding the fact.
“A lot of transfer business has already been done and it won’t be easy for us this time, especially with all the signings going to the other clubs. So we also need to be stronger and I am looking forward to seeing how well we compete for the title with not a lot of signings and a lot of young players.”
Arsenal have only managed to sign one major player in the form of midfielder Granit Xhaka from Bundesliga side Gladbach but their constant failure to sign a world-class forward in the present summer transfer window is worrisome for the club, its players and the fans. Arsene Wenger has, thus far, failed in his pursuit of Gonzalo Higuain and has been rejected by Jamie Vardy, who instead opted to stay with the current Premier League champions.
While their rivals have chosen to upgrade their first-team with quality signings, the Gunners have instead opted to improve their youth squad and Mertesacker was not too shy about admitting the fact that this will make it more difficult to mount a title challenge this coming season. The transfer policy adopted by the Gunners may just prove to be hazardous for the club’s title ambitions for the 2016-17 Premier League.