I expected activity from Arsenal. I hoped for three, maybe four additions. But five signings in two days is more than I could have wished for.
The 8-2 defeat to Manchester United brought the club to its knees. But it also brought a change of ideology. Arsene saw how on that day how vulnerable his young squad was, and has moved decisively to reinforce it with experience and quality. The cavalry has arrived.
On Tuesday we completed the signing of Park Chu-Young, and Wednesday afternoon saw us secure the anticipated signings of Andre Santos and Per Mertesacker. That saw the defence and attack sorted, but huge concerns remained about the midfield. As night drew in and the 11pm deadline inched closer, fans were deeply concerned: could Arsenal really go in to the season without adding to a midfield shorn of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas?
They needn’t have worried. An impeccable source tells me that Mikel Arteta was at London Colney as early as 6.30pm. After some haggling over wages – it seems Arteta may have taken a pay-cut to secure his four year deal – his signing was secured, right on the deadline. Not only that, but he was joined by Yossi Benayoun, on a season long loan from Chelsea.
The signings all bring a wealth of experience and character to the table
Per Mertesacker – 26 years old, Former Werder Bremen captain, 75 Germany caps
Andre Santos – 28 years old, 22 Brazil caps
Mikel Arteta – 29 years old, 161 Premier League appearances – more than any other Arsenal player
Yossi Benayoun – 31 years old, Current Israel captain with 83 Israel caps
Park Chu-Young – 26 years old, Current captain of South Korea with 53 caps
And all that for a total outlay of about £28m.
The negative element of the fanbase with complain that we haven’t made a marquee signing – someone of the stature of a Cesc or a Nasri. To a degree they’re right – although I consider Mertesacker and Arteta to be unusually high profile signings for Arsene. What we have done is significantly strength the squad – certainly since Sunday, and perhaps even since last season. I expect Santos, Mertesaker and Arteta to make a significant impact on the first XI this season, whilst Benayoun and Park will provide capable options in attacking areas.
The big German centre-half is what we’ve been crying out for, and I’m looking forward to him forming a mean looking partnership with Thomas Vermaelen. Santos will provide stiff competition for Gibbs – you don’t play for Brazil regularly without being a half-decent footballer – and Arteta is an absolutely vital addition. He knows the league inside out, he can pass the ball, and score goals. We’ve seen how someone like Ashley Young has stepped up to another level since joining a Champions League club, and I believe Arteta has the talent to do the same.
I think Benayoun is regarded a little harshly by Arsenal fans, perhaps because he’s played for several rival clubs. I believe he’s talented and capable of scoring goals – and he hasn’t cost us anything yet! Remember, this is the man who scored the goal for West Ham that put us in Europe ahead of Spurs after lasagne-gate, so we owe him a little goodwill. Park, meanwhile, seems like a very solid pro who will fit right in to our technical style of football.
It’s all unprecedented for Arsenal on so many levels. To make so many signings – and this kind of signing too. Mertesacker is the tallest player Arsene has ever bought. He’s added two veterans of the Premier League. He’s signed players who are ready to go now – and for some of whom time is actively running out!
For those who wanted a global superstar: Arsene will tell you that within twelve months, the likes of Wilshere or Gervinho could reach that level. These players will provide the platform they need to do that. My favourite aspect of deadline day was seeing the tweets flood in from young Jack:
Maybe Arteta will give him the support Cesc needed but never had. Against Manchester United, we saw an Arsenal team that didn’t believe in themselves. Now, they might just have a reason.
There were departures too. Henri Lansbury joined West Ham on loan, and with his contract close to expiry he may not be coming back. Nicklas Bendtner also joined Sunderland on a temporary deal – his long-term future is harder to call. We might get him as a proven Premier League goalscorer. Gilles Sunu got himself a four year deal at Lorient, who have also taken Joel Campbell on loan for the season.
It is a radical overhaul of the squad. At a glance:
Out: Denilson (loan), Clichy, Fabregas, Eboue, JET, Vela (loan), Nasri, Traore, Lansbury (loan), Sunu, Campbell (loan), Bendtner (loan)
In: Jenkinson, Gervinho, Chamberlain, Miyaichi (WP granted), Campbell, Park, Santos, Mertesacker, Benayoun, Arteta
I’ve probably missed some out – but still, you get the point.
Over the international break there’ll be plenty of time to analyse each signing individually and their potential impact on the side. For now, I’m exhausted, and need to rest for a long time.
It’s a new look Arsenal squad. It might not be good enough to win the league, but it’s certainly good enough for Champions League qualification. Also, it’s one I can take pride in, which is more than I can say for the situation last week. I’m glad that Arsene, too, seems to have shown some humility and amended his transfer policy. It was, I’m sure we all agree, entirely necessary.
The season starts against Swansea. I can’t wait.