With a crash, a bang and an explosion of Jim White’s head, the summer transfer window has officially closed.
And once again, it’s been a summer of unprecedented spending from the Premier League; in no small part due to Manchester City breaking their club record transfer fee twice to secure deals for Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling and Wolfsburg’s Kevin De Bruyne.
Arsenal, on the other hand, were surprisingly quiet in the market considering the momentum built at the end of last season. Rather than their impressive end to the 2014/15 campaign manifesting in the form of a lucrative spree, the north London outfit parted with a miserly £10million this summer – spent exclusively on Chelsea’s Petr Cech.
So was Arsene Wenger wise to hold onto his money or is it yet another transfer window of missed opportunities for the north London outfit?
In order to find out, Football Fancast have combined Arsenal’s top performers from last season with rumoured targets realistically within the club’s reach to create the starting Xi they could’ve had.
No cause for complaint here. David Ospina’s superlative form last season gave a glimpse of what Arsenal could achieve with a top class goalkeeper and uncharacteristically, Arsene Wenger wasted no time in sourcing the best goalie on the market this summer – former Chelsea No.1 Petr Cech.
The 33 year-old endured a troubled debut against West Ham but more than validated claims that he’ll gain Arsenal vital points over the course of the season with a Man of the Match display against Liverpool last week, shown in the video above.
The only problem, however, is that he’s the only senior signing the Gunners made this summer.
There were perhaps some superior options out there this summer, such as Liverpool’s £10.5million signing Nathaniel Clyne and Barcelona star Martin Montoya, who has joined Inter Milan on a season-long loan.
But surprisingly well endowed in the No.2 department through Calum Chambers, Mathieu Debuchy and the selected Hector Bellerin – not to mention Carl Jenkinson, serving another term on loan at West Ham – it would be unrealistic to suggest the Gunners should have signed another right-back this summer.
Especially considering how impressive Bellerin was last season and how important his pace has proved for the Gunners in both defence and attack. It’s perhaps a little too early to suggest the Spaniard will be a long-term fixture at the Emirates, but he’s certainly making solid progress towards that aim.
Many fear for Arsenal’s limited depth at centre-back and those concerns were validated just weeks into the season as Laurent Koscileny and Per Mertesacker were both ruled out of the Liverpool clash with injury – leaving January signing Gabriel and Calum Chambers to make rather unconvincing performances in their absence.
Indeed, the Gunners’ title credentials would certainly be bolstered with another option at central defence and one that came their way this summer was former Monaco man Aymen Abdennour, now of Valencia.
The Tunisian international hugely impressed during his short stint in Ligue 1, not only providing physicality and defensive quality but a real sense of composure and style at the back
Aged 26, Abdennour could have been the ideal candidate to slowly take the reins from the subtly declining Mertesacker. But he’s now an official Valencia player, joining the La Liga outfit for £22million last Sunday.
Arguably Arsenal’s best centre-back since the days of Sol Campbell, the Gunners are a completely different side with Laurent Koscileny in the starting Xi.
His pace seems vital to a Gunners outfit who are often caught on the break which, in combination with the rest of the France international’s impressive defensive game, has seen him emerge as one of the top centre-halfs in Europe over the last few years.
Rather than considering an upgrade, Arsenal spent the summer keeping potential suitors at bay. Particularly Real Madrid, who were linked with a bid in July amid rumours of Sergio Ramos’ abrupt Bernabeu departure.
With Kieran Gibbs struggling to make the starting Xi and Nacho Monreal by no means a stellar option, an injection of new blood at No.3 certainly wouldn’t have gone amiss this summer.
Admittedly, left-backs were hardly in copious supply during the transfer window; especially in comparison to last summer where we saw huge deals (by full-back standards, anyway) for Manchester United’s Luke Shaw and Liverpool’s Alberto Moreno.
But one rumoured target of noteworthy appeal was Napoli’s Faouzi Ghoulam, who the Gunners allegedly launched a £7million bid for.
The beauty of the Algerian international is that whilst he’s best famed for his ability going forward, he’s also a towering and physical presence at 6 foot 2 – and therefore would have injected some much-needed height into the Gunners’ pintsized starting Xi.
Despite their failure to qualify for the Champions League at the end of last season, Napoli managed to hold onto the 24 year-old this summer. But you get the feeling an offer breaching double figures might have convinced them to sell.
Morgan Schneiderlin is the tough-tackling holding player Arsenal could and should have signed this summer, representing precisely what the Gunners’ engine room currently lacks in terms of height, power and defensive awareness.
Indeed, the 6 foot 2 enforcer has emerged as one of the most formidable ball-winners in the Premier League over the last few years, last term averaging the second-most tackles per match of any player in the division, a whopping 3.7, alongside an equally impressive 2.6 interceptions.
Furthermore, whilst there obvious doubts over the compatibility of many midfield warriors and the technical nature of Arsenal’s midfield, the 25 year-old is competent and composed in possession, this season boasting a pass completion rate of 90%.
But instead of arriving at the Emirates, as many had expected for the best part of the last twelve months, Arsene Wenger stood idly by as Manchester United snapped up the Southampton star in a £25million deal. Perhaps a little steep, but certainly justifiable from Arsenal’s perspective.
In typical Wenger style, Arsenal’s hopes in defensive midfield are now almost exclusively pinned on the shoulders of the relatively inexperienced and unproven Francis Coquelin – based on half a season of decent form.
A slightly different role for Aaron Ramsey but needs must for this select Xi. Arsene Wenger appears determined to shoe in the Welsh playmaker wherever possible and we at Football Fancast are largely in agreement; even when the 20-yard piledrivers aren’t creaming into the net, he always seems to have an instrumental impact on the Gunners’ fortunes going forward.
The 24 year-old has often struggled to control games from central midfield but a sturdy partner like Morgan Schneiderlin should bring out the best in him.
Virtually every major Premier League club was linked with a bid for former Barcelona star Pedro this summer and with good reason; through his blend of technical flair, pace, netting prowess and industry, the Spain international is a perfect fit for the English game.
On top of that, we’re talking about a three-time Champions League winner, five-time La Liga winner, World Cup winner and European Championship winner still enjoying his best years at the age of 28.
Furthermore, he was available through an outrageously cheap £22million release clause which, after some protracted negotiations with Manchester United, Chelsea eventually decided to pay instead.
Perhaps there were other areas the supporters would have wanted Arsene Wenger to focus on this summer, but nonetheless Pedro is a far superior option, both in terms of experience and ability, than Arsenal currently have on the right-hand side.
Similarly, a consistent goal threat from midfield like the former Nou Camp ace would have alleviated concerns regarding the Gunners’ limited firepower up top. In my opinion, a world-class player without a world-class price-tag, even in a midfield as overloaded as Arsenal’s, is a no-brainer.
The eternal enigma that is Mesut Ozil. One week he can’t find his way out of the pocket of a 16 year-old West Ham debutant, the next he’s the best player on the pitch by a country mile.
It seems the German international will always be accused of inconsistency, in no small part due to his club-record £42.2million price-tag, but at this point it’s largely indisputable he should be operating at the tip of Arsenal’s midfield, getting as close to Alexis Sanchez as possible.
Which brings us nicely onto…
If there’s one Arsenal player who was always guaranteed to be in the starting Xi this season, it’s Chile international Alexis Sanchez.
Since arriving at the Emirates last summer, the winger-forward has propelled both his own and the Gunners’ game to new heights, bagging 16 goals and eight assists to claim Arsenal’s Player of the Year award for 2015 and a slot in the Premier League’ official Team of the Year.
If the north London outfit are to launch a serious title bid this term, the 26 year-old’s performances and consistent supply of goals will be a crucial factor.
In the interests of fairness, considering the amount of stick Arsene Wenger will receive following the close of the summer transfer window, it’s worth pointing out that world-class centre-forwards have hardly been in copious supply this summer.
Arsenal spent much of the transfer window courting Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema but it’s become abundantly clear in recent weeks that he was never interested in swapping the Bernabeu for the Emirates.
In terms of second-rate centre-forwards who could have alleviated the goal burden on Olivier Giroud and provided a much-needed sense of competition up front, however, there were a multitude of options the Gunners gaffer overlooked.
We’ve gone with Jackson Martinez, simply because Arsenal seemed close to signing him at one point and his goal record for FC Porto is absolutely phenomenal; 92 in 132 appearances.
But countless alternatives were on the market that Wenger could and should have taken more interest in, such as Sevilla’s Carlos Bacca, now of AC Milan, Juventus signing Mario Mandzukic, Juventus departure Fernando Llorente, Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Lyon’s Ligue 1 Player of the Year Alexandre Lacazette, Serie A prodigy Paulo Dybala, La Liga hotshot Luciano Vietto and West Bromwich Albion’s Saido Berahino to name a few.
Whilst none are particularly superior options to Giroud, the netting prowess of any would have significantly boosted the Gunners’ title bid.