If reports are to be believed this week, the following players may have made moves to or from Arsenal this week; Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Juan Mata, Per Metersacker, Nicklas Bendtner, Phil Jagielka, Joel Campbell, Gary Cahill, Chris Samba, and Emmanuel Eboué.
Oh, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
No team has had as turbulent a pre-season as Arsene Wenger’s men, though it has been exacerbated by indecision. Wenger has flitted between bids for Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka, decided Samir Nasri is staying and then changed his mind, and reiterated his desire to keep Fabregas whilst continuing negotiations with Barcelona.
By the end of the month, it is highly probable that Arsenal will have signed a new centre back, probably Cahill or Jagielka, and Juan Mata at least, as well as having sold Bendtner, Eboué, Nasri and Fabregas. Yet the club have huge games against Liverpool and Manchester United in the league, as well as Udinese in the Champions League. Wenger would do himself a favour by hurrying up his transfer dealings. Though he may save the club a few million by waiting to complete the transfers, he could cost them far more if they lose to their biggest rivals in the Premier League and to a strong and dangerous Udinese in the Champions League.
Most pertinently, there does not have to be gloom and doom at the Emirates. Whilst Wenger may understandably be scornful of cheap PR moves, he would do well to keep the fans onside. Buying unproven youngsters like Carl Jenkinson and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, particularly as the latter was bought for £12 million, only irritates fans who are desperate to see new defenders join.
Furthermore, it is well within Arsenal’s grasp to go into the new season with a squad capable of challenging for silverware, but the choice is Wenger’s. Losing Nasri will be a major blow to the club’s perceived standing, but it will not be the huge issue it may seem on the field if Juan Mata can be brought in (a more than adequate replacement for Nasri, particularly given that Gervinho will strengthen the attack further). And Fabregas’ departure is even less of a blow. Though the club’s best player, Arsenal play best at pace, and the Spaniard slows down their attacking moves with his patient, Barcelona education. And in Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere, they have a midfield which is both combative defensively, as well as creative and incisive going forward.
Defensively, the sale of the error prone Eboué and Clichy should not be mourned, though concern will be raised over Kieran Gibbs’ suitability to take Clichy’s place. But if he can develop as Wilshere did last year, and Arsenal add Cahill alongside Thomas Vermaelen, then back up of Johan Djourou and Laurent Koscielny is more than capable of driving the club to silverware next season.
But indecision will cost the club if they don’t act soon. The world knows who is probably leaving and joining; it’s time for someone at the club to make it happen quicker.
And Wenger would do well to add someone with some experience to his ranks too before the season starts. His team have the talent to match almost anyone in the world, evidenced by wins over Manchester United, Chelsea and Barcelona last year, but they don’t possess the mental strength to win the league – yet. The sale of Bendtner, Eboue and others will help. As much as Wenger will hate to admit it, the club are miles behind Manchester United and Chelsea in terms of experience, and that counts for a lot. Champions United are so far ahead of Arsenal, but it isn’t because of technical skill or ability; so much in football is in the head, and United are the masters of keeping their heads in the storm. Experience would help Arsenal breach the mental gap. There is no harm in having elder statesmen at the club to guide the youngsters; indeed it speeds up their development. Wenger has proven the world wrong before, but he’ll have to pull off something remarkable to do so again.