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Arsenal Review: …SLAM!

Well…we can’t complain that the Transfer Deadline Day wasn’t action-packed.

In the past two days, we have said goodbye to some players temporarily and others permanently, while also welcoming five new signings into the fold.  They are central defender Per Mertesacker, left back Andre Santos, striker Ju-Yong Park, and midfielders Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun.  The last two signings went right down to the wire as one is coming on loan from Chelsea – a move to make room for Raul Meireles – and the other a purchase that required Everton to sell him and for the player to agree to lower wages. 

I spent most of the day reading Twitter and being surprised at the anguish with which Gooners were following the rumors.  We all desperately wanted a midfielder or two – but then turned around and were disgusted when the midfielders we went after weren’t the ones we wanted.  It was an odd Catch-22 the club found itself in.

The fact is that transfers for the likes of Mario Gotze, Eden Hazard or Yann M’Vila are done way before the deadline.  The club selling them has to come to terms with losing a key component of their set-up as well as target a potential replacement.  With Lille, Borussia Dortmund and Marseille all in the Champions League – and desperate to ensure they’re in it again next season – the chances of landing those kind of players were zero and none.  Now, you can (and should) ask why we left it so late if we had any real interest in Gotze or M’Vila.  Why did we wait until the season had started to go see if they’d sell them?  Why wait until Dortmund was in our Champions League group before asking if they’d sell their best young midfielder to us?

But that’s a different point that others have raised elsewhere. 

I’m personally happy with the purchases.  We have obtained a true partner for Thomas Vermaelen in the middle of the defense as well as a left back that can challenge Kieran Gibbs – and ensure we’re not playing Bakary Sagna out of position.  Two purchases and the defense falls into shape.  Laurent Koscielny falls to the first CB replacement and Johan Djourou is the second alternate – which will give him time to figure out where the hell his game went.  Gibbs and Jenkinson can be understudies and improve.  And we should probably get Sebastien Squillaci a subscription to Top Gear magazine – as reading is all he’ll be doing on the Arsenal bench. 

Depending on where you think Theo Walcott slots (I think he’s going to get his wish for a central role), bringing Arteta and Benayoun was crucial.  Arteta can allow a clearly-overwhelmed Aaron Ramsey more time to work his way back from his injury without pressure.  With Alex Song and Emmanuel Frimpong taking over defensive midfield duties, Francis Coquelin can just be a Carling Cup/Reserve player again and improve – plus Craig Eastmond is around back there somewhere.  And Jack Wilshere won’t have the weight of the entire team on his young shoulders.  With Tomas Rosicky and Abou Diaby still around, there might be a question as to health.  I think we will see the boss give Wilshere and Ramsey as much time to bed themselves in before deciding to move back for a Gotze-type midfielder in January/next summer.

Out wide, the biggest buy has to be Gervinho, who takes Samir Nasri’s spot while also pushing Andrey Arshavin to the bench.  (What the hell has happened to Arshavin?  He went from world-class to no-class fast!)  He’s clearly got the goods and should make for a fun player to follow.  Ryo Miyaichi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (or Alex Chamberlain) will likely not feature a lot, but they are going to get their chances in Carling Cup games.  Benayoun can assist here as well and Walcott can drop back if needed.

Up front it’s all about Robin Van Persie.  He’s the captain and leads the line.  How he fares with the extra responsibility of the armband will be interesting.  Behind him will be Park and Theo and the entirely lost Marouane Chamakh.  If Arshavin is a puzzle, then Chamakh is the puzzle box from Hellraiser.  How does someone go from looking so awesome to looking so lost?  I’m surprised he found a way to stay while Bendtner was loaned out.

At the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised if young forward Benik Afobe and midfielder Chuks Aneke are pushed forward from the Reserves to catch some Senior team minutes.  It’d be right in the Arsene Wenger Way to bring two youngsters to fill up more roles.  Particularly considering that we are going to lose Song and Gervinho (and Frimpong if he opts to represent Ghana over England) due to the African Cup of Nations.

So there you have it: Arsenal’s 2011-12 roster is set.  We’ve waived goodbye to the past, taken our licks and now it’s time for the future to start.  Come on you Gunners!


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