Arsenal made two late signings to placate the fans who were demanding new faces in the squad, but have they done enough this summer to ensure that they can go one better than their second placed finish last season?
The Gunners claimed their highest ever finish since 2005 last season, but there are several critics who attribute that to the fall of the established elite rather than genuine dominance by Arsenal. In fact, many believe that it should’ve been their title to win, but they failed to truly threaten Leicester City.
The summer transfer window has come and gone, with Arsenal spending a reported £95 million on strengthening the squad. We take a look at how they’ve improved — or failed to do so — in the three key areas.
The Gunners addressed a long standing problem last summer by signing goalkeeper Petr Cech from Chelsea. They already had some quality full-backs in Hector Bellerin, Nacho Monreal and Keiran Gibbs, but central defence needed to be strengthened after the long-term injury to newly crowned Arsenal captain Per Mertesacker.
Laurent Koscielny is a top quality centre-half, but with Mertesacker on the wrong side of 30, he needs a good player alongside him. Gabriel Paulista and Calum Chambers have failed to impress in that regard, and Wenger made a couple of astute defensive signings.
Shkodran Mustafi could prove to be their best signing of the summer. Although the former Valencia defender did cost a hefty £35 million, he will be a great partner for Koscielny. Both are defensively sharp, agile and the German brings with him a resolute, tough tackling mentality that makes him the perfect successor to Mertesacker.
The signing of Rob Holding from Bolton Wanderers is also a good piece of business. The Gunners paid the League One team £2.5 million for their Player of the Season last year, and the 20-year-old has shown some good signs so far. His development under Wenger could make him a brilliant defender in the years to come.
Arsenal currently have an embarrassment of riches in midfield. The fact that their Golden Boy Jack Wilshere has been ousted from the squad is reflective of the level of competition for midfield positions. In central midfield the Gunners have Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka, while Aaron Ramsey is also adept at playing deeper.
In attacking midfield Alex Iwobi, Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and even the likes of Cazorla and Ramsey could be competing for the three spots just behind the striker. The two forwards Lucas Perez and Danny Welbeck have also played in wing positions before.
However, the decision to send promising young winger Joel Campbell out on loan has drawn a lot of criticism. The 24-year-old Costa Rican showed much promise last season, and is arguably more consistent than the likes of Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain.
They have also sent fan favourite Jack Wilshere on loan to AFC Bournemouth, but that could be more beneficial for a player struggling with injuries and form at the Emirates.
Arsenal tried to sign Jamie Vardy, but after facing rejection from the Englishman, went all out to secure the services of 25-year-old Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette. However, after a prolonged pursuit ended in failure, the Gunners ended up signing Deportivo striker Lucas Perez.
French striker Olivier Giroud has been a constant source of frustration for the fans, but it’s difficult to believe that Perez represents an upgrade. While Giroud scored 16 goals last season, the Spaniard scored 17. However, the 27-year-old scored his goals for a Deportivo team lacking quality midfielders that finished 15th in La Liga, while the Frenchman had the service of a world class midfield to back him up.
An argument can be made that Perez will make better use of the service provided by the likes of Ozil and Sanchez. It remains to be seen if he replaces Giroud or is used on the wing by Wenger.
Danny Welbeck, the other alternative, has been sidelined with injury till early 2017, while the arrival of Perez should put an end to Arsenal playing wingers like Sanchez and Walcott in a central striker’s role.
Signing of the Summer
In an uncharacteristic move, Arsenal signed Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka well before Euro 2016. The former Borussia Monchengladbach player got off to a shaky start in his first appearance this season against Liverpool, but was in good touch against Leicester City and Watford.
The 23-year-old central midfielder has all the makings of a future star for the Gunners, and has the leadership ability that they have sorely lacked in the past few seasons. The prospect of a central midfield combination of Xhaka and Wilshere in their prime is the stuff of dreams for Gooners.