Another summer transfer window has come and gone without much activity at Arsenal, with the Gunners being the only club across the major European leagues not to sign an outfield player.
All the hype and expectation that Arsene Wenger would loosen the purse strings and utilise the reported £200 million war chest at his disposal practically came to nothing, as the dreams of bringing the big names to the Emirates never really materialised.
The manager does deserve praise for securing the rather surprising, yet superb, acquisition of Petr Cech from Chelsea who could finally end the club’s dying need for a top quality goalkeeper, but for the spending to end there will undoubtedly come as a huge disappointment to fans who realise the lack of strength in depth and quality throughout the squad.
Signing a top goalkeeper is simply not going to solve the problems in other areas of the pitch, and if Arsenal’s unconvincing start to the season is anything to go by, then failing to be more actively could prove costly early doors.
The hugely disappointing defeat in Croatia at the hands of Dinamo Zagreb will have done nothing to improve Arsenal’s Champions League chances with Betway, with Olivier Giroud’s debatable, yet stupid and unnecessary, sending off and poor defending epitomising the Gunners’ downfall.
The striker’s red card, combined with Danny Welbeck’s long-term injury, leaves Arsenal with not a single recognised central striker for the next European fixture at home to Olympiakos; Alexis Sanchez could be moved into a number nine role as a more direct approach to find space behind their defence, but it felt inevitable that the dearth of strikers at Arsenal could leave Wenger short of options when injuries and suspensions strike.
Wenger may point to the fact that Arsenal are currently fourth in the table as a sign that the team are doing well despite all the criticism thrown in his direction, but the Gunners have been far from their best. Stoke keeper Jack Butland’s wonderful performance may have been the only thing that prevented Arsenal from winning more comfortably than the 2-0 scoreline suggests, but on another day it could have been different as Mark Hughes’ side created enough chances to punish the players for not being more clinical.
Giroud, in particular, is enduring a difficult time in front of goal, with the Frenchman booed by his own fans throughout his national team’s most recently friendly against Serbia after he squandered a number of golden opportunities.
The jury is still out on whether the former Montpellier man is the world-class striker that Arsenal need leading the line and whether he is capable of scoring the same number of goals as the likes of Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa, but although Wenger could call on the wealth of talent coming through the academy, none of the rising stars are likely to have the sort of impact that wins Premier League titles.
Every Arsenal fan has compiled their own shopping list and wish list for players they would love to see arrive at the Emirates, but although the modern game is much more complex than playing Football Manager or any other football-based computer game, Wenger had plenty of time during the summer to address the current problems at the club. Petr Cech was never going to be the answer; the Czech international can hardly play defensive midfield or upfront – two areas where Arsenal are seriously short in numbers and all-round quality.
Karim Benzema and Edinson Cavani were the two names that many fans dreamt of seeing walk through the doors at Arsenal, but although Arsenal proved last season that big-name players do want to join when Wenger snared Alexis Sanchez from under Liverpool’s noses, the manager left it far too late at times when opportunities opened up to sign at least one of them.
Once-Arsenal targets Sami Khedira and Geoffrey Kondogbia, who would be ideal in the defensive midfield role to provide much-needed protection in front of the back four and offer more options to the team, were allowed to move to Juventus and Inter Milan respectively (the former moving to Turin on a free transfer), while another target, young star William Carvalho, remains at Sporting Lisbon despite his profile standing out as the sort of signing that Wenger loved to make in the past.
Despite their lack of spending during the summer, Betway rate Arsenal’s chances of ending their twelve-year wait for the Premier League at 5/1 – second favourites behind Manchester City who have started the season like a house on fire.
It is difficult to make any strong predictions with the 2015/2016 league campaign just five games old, and it may turn out right for Arsenal without conducting the level of transfer activity that the other nineteen teams have, but Wenger’s stubbornness and unwillingness to spend could turn out to be the Gunners’ downfall if anyone else joins Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Welbeck on the sidelines.