Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Implications of Arsenal's Deadline Day Acquisitions

Wenger: Maybe we’ll have a good surprise for you.
It seemed to take forever but we've finally spent and spent big this summer! In typical Arsenal fashion, we've left it late again and brought in two players on Transfer Deadline Day.

No, not Manuel Almunia but Emiliano Viviano
The first of which, is Emiliano Viviano on a season long loan from Palermo with a view to a permanent deal in the future. I remember Wenger trying to do a deal to get him from Palermo last year but he ended up at Fiorentina on loan instead. There, he made 32 appearances with 11 clean sheets to show for his efforts. While this isn't the marquee goalkeeper signing I was saying would be good for the club and for Szczesny, it does have its positives.

He is still a relatively young goalkeeper who is arguably on par with Szczesny and Fabianski. While he will provide some good competition for both Poles, they will also provide competition for him. Looking in hindsight, had a keeper of Casillas' ilk been signed, perhaps he'd easily walk into the first team and have had no challenge from Messrs Szczesny and Fabianski. It could have probably led to complacency on his part somewhere down the line. With three goalkeepers on pretty much the same level, they'll all keep each other honest.

Going into deadline day, it was a general consensus amongst Arsenal fans everywhere that the most crucial signing that the club needs is a back up center half. Incidentally, none was signed and while it seems risky business, I can perhaps see Arsene Wenger's reasoning behind it. Think back to 2010 when we signed Sebastien Squillaci. It was a signing that seemed to check the boxes for all the qualities we looked for in a center back: tall, physical, tasted cup success with his previous club, capped at the international level. So where did it go wrong? Well, in his time at Arsenal, Squillaci became what I like to term a "cold defender".

He'd spent so much time sitting on the bench that he'd lost his momentum, match sharpness and perhaps even his motivation, watching others playing all the time while he found it difficult to get into the first eleven. As a result of this, whenever he was chosen for the odd game due to someone being ineligible due to an injury or suspension, his performance was usually riddled with errors.

I think Wenger chose to avoid this happening again by not signing a back up center back. Instead, he felt that Sagna and Flamini would suffice as cover for the backline. Sagna has done exceptionally well when asked to fill in centrally and Flamini was always well respected as the best utility player at the club during his first stint with us. He was quite adept at playing in the full back roles. With his choice to use both players, he does not have a cold defender coming in. He'll have an option that will have been playing regularly enough to not have their match sharpness wane. This is just what I think Wenger's line of reasoning is anyway.

The other signing we made, and perhaps the biggest of the day (since Bale's signing was of course made official a day before) was the capture of Mesut Özil for a club record fee of £42.5 million on a five year contract from Real Madrid. He becomes the first player we've signed since Bergkamp in 95 who comes with a "World Class" reputation attached to his name. It is seen as a massive signal of intent by the club. About Özil, Wenger said:
Mesut Özil
“We are extremely pleased to have signed Mesut Ozil. He is a great player, with proven quality at both club and international level. We have watched and admired him for some time as he has all the attributes I look for in an Arsenal player.
“I have said throughout the summer that we have been working hard to bring in top quality players to this football club. This has involved many many people across the Club and I have always had the full support of the Club in making decisions on the football side.
“Mesut is a top quality footballer who will be a fantastic addition to our talented squad. We are all looking forward to him joining up with us after his international matches with Germany and working with us as an Arsenal player.” 
 From his quotes, it seems the deciding factor for Özil was the opportunity to work with Arsene Wenger. Of the move, the German says:
“I am thrilled to be joining a club of the stature of Arsenal and am looking forward to playing in the Premier League. It will be great for my own personal development as a player and I am particularly looking forward to working with Arsène Wenger.
“From our negotiations it is clear the Club has huge ambition and I look forward to being part of an exciting future.”
This transfer will have massive implications for the club. It's the first established world class player to join us while in his prime and you get the feeling it will only influence other players of a similar ilk to join us in future transfer windows. Something about it reminds me of when Manchester City signed Robinho in 2008. The fact that a high profile player went to a club who had previously struggled to attract players of that calibre, made other players in his class realise that the club had ambitions of achieving major success and they wanted to be apart of that. 

What we didn't get though, was a striker. I am pretty disappointed but this was more to do with gamesmanship by Chelsea than anything else. We had made an offer to loan Demba Ba for a fee of £1.5 million, however, The Blues wanted £3 million. They later mentioned that while they're not forcing him out of the club, they have no problems with granting him a permanent move away from Stamford Bridge. They said a fictional club that they wouldn't name had come in with an offer to buy but he'd rather play Champions League football and this club could not offer it, because of course, they don't exist. With just over 2 hours left before the deadline, they then made it clear they do not want to loan him to us because they don't want him going to a rival. Why I think this is gamesmanship on their part is if they'd felt that way, why didn't they say this right from the get go? Why string us along and have us spending our time negotiating with them when perhaps we could've gone and sought another striker elsewhere? Why leave it til when it was too late for us to broker a deal with another club for a striker, to tell us they're not keen on the move? Why other than the fact that it was their strategy to keep us from signing a striker, because they know we mean business this season and this was a tactic employed out of fear?

With these two signings, our team could now look like this:

                            Szczesny
Sagna     Mertesacker     Koscielny    Gibbs
                 Arteta     Ramsey/Wilshere
                          Özil
Walcott         Giroud        Podolski/Cazorla

Bench: Viviano/Fabianski, Jenkinson, Vermaelen, Wilshere/Ramsey, Flamini, Cazorla/Podolski, Sanogo

Out of squad: Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Bendtner, Park


This is a side that can now challenge for the title. What do you think?

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