Since moving to The New Home of Football we’ve become rather accustomed to summer transfer sagas. Following defeat to Barcelona in Paris, all the talk during the summer of 2006 was whether or not Henry would be leaving us. In the end he stayed, but Ashley Cole didn’t, making his move to Chelsea, with William Gallas arriving as part exchange. Twelve months later and Henry finally did depart for the Catalan giants. A year later, the summer of 2008, it was Hleb’s turn to head for Catalonia. 2009 was the summer of the greedy Togolese and 2010 was the centre back exodus, with Campbell, Gallas, Senderos, and Silvestre all departing. 2011 saw the exits of Nasri and Clichy, in addition to the return of Barca, with Fabregas this time being the middle man. And finally there was last year, when a certain Dutch cretin headed up north.
It goes without saying the list above includes bigger names and bigger sagas for some years than others, but what is consistent is the uncertainty and upheaval caused each time. And that brings us to today, right at the heart of summer 2013, a summer we knew would not see us facing such drama, but instead one during which we finally have a stable squad and some money to spend. It was a summer that promised so much, but has so far delivered very little.
Let’s start with the positives. Our outgoing business has been excellent. The ‘deadwood’ has finally been removed, for the most part, freeing up funding for wages and places within the 25 man squad limit. Our front line was very thin last year, but has been bolstered by the arrival of Yaya Sanogo. Further reinforcements are of course needed to the front line, but a promising young talent to compliment Giroud and a new star signing seemed like a good start; a step in the right direction. And then there was our tour of Asia, with visits to Indonesia, Vietnam, and Japan.
However, with the start of August comes the realisation that the negativity surrounding our lack of inbound activity now outweighs the positives. The new star signing striker, who was supposed to follow the youthful Sanogo, hasn’t materialised. I don’t want to tread over too much old ground, so in summary it’s fair to say I very much sit in the “I wish we had a quality Argentine international for £34m” camp and very much do not want to be sitting in the “oh look, we’ve got an overrated bitey racist Uruguayan for £50m” camp. Nobody needs to be in that camp.
And that’s just the striking department. Our goalkeeper situation is worse compared to the final day of last season, with Mannone out and nobody in. At centre half we’re down to just three, with one of those three being injured until at least October. Yes Miquel has shown promise (at times) and yes Bacary Sagna is an able deputy, but a title challenging squad needs four top class centre halves. As for the full back positions, right back would be stretched if Bacary is needed in the middle and Monreal will be out injured for some time, meaning we’re relying on Gibbs to have an injury free run for the first few months of the season.
Then there’s the midfield, the strongest area of our squad, but one that still requires additions. Arteta isn’t getting any younger, so a strong defensive minded player, to help out at the base of our midfield, would be a welcome signing. If Cazorla is going to operate from the left (his best position in my mind) like he did at the tail end of last season then I think we’ll be ok out wide, given we have Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Podolski, and the youthful exuberance of Gnabry and Miyaichi. But Cazorla’s deployment on the left would leave us light in the middle. Rosicky is unlikely to be fit August through May, Diaby is already out until January, Ramsey demonstrated at the end of last season his best position is lying deeper alongside Arteta (bursting forward at the right times), and Wilshere, after two seasons of injuries, can’t be expected to carry the load for a full season. Reports of Zelalem’s performances in Asia are encouraging, but he’s far too young to be thrust into action. So either a creative addition is needed, or Cazorla will be deployed centrally, in which case another winger would be required. Either way we’re short.
So that’s a goalkeeper, a centre half, a defensive midfielder, an attacking midfielder, and a striker. Five players, much-needed, in order to make a cemented top four place, a title challenge, and a trophy realistic ambitions. So far all we have is one Yaya Sanogo.
Santi Cazorla was our player of the season last year. His signing was officially announced on the 7th August. So there is still time, there is still hope. But Ivan and Arsene have talked a lot of talk. Now they really must walk the walk. And given we’re now in August I’d recommend a very brisk walk at that. A summer of high promise is now balancing on a knife’s edge.