Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Arsenal go big: Transfer Window Review

So, at the eleventh hour (almost literally), Arsenal pulled it out the bag and finally went big. What a window - thoughts as follows:

* Was there a plan? I suppose we'll never know. It's easy to say that the window was a shambles, but it may be the case that we simply had lots of high-profile targets, at high-profile clubs, who are simply harder to buy. The rarer the commodity, the more difficult it is to acquire. It did seem to me that we were fairly methodical in how we moved from one target to the next, and there may have been a more orderly approach behind the scenes than that which played out in public. It also didn't help that our biggest rivals bought a number of good players before the season started. So, for that, I a willing to be fairly forgiving about how things went overall.

* But one can't escape the idea that there was a strong sense of chaos to our window, and it may well be that we were saved by Real's ridiculous transfer policy in the final week. OK - getting Suarez, Rooney, Higuain etc. is hard. But there were other areas of the team that could have been strengthened at an earlier date. Did we really have to wait until the last week of the window to get Flamini and Viviano? I don't think so. The fact is that we started the season in a mess, and get absolutely thumped by Villa because of it. We may have saved the window in its final week - but we surely have got some more bodies in before then.

* So, Ozil. This transfer was not mooted until the end of the window, and was largely written off by the ITK mob, until abou 20 hours before it happens. Given the talk of shenanigans that had been going on for a week before the deal was confirmed, I find it amusing that anyone talks with any real authoriy about the transfer market. No-one really knows what's going on.

As for Ozil the player, well, he's brilliant. A marquee signing, one of the best 10 or so players in the world. The notion that he's "not what we need" is absolutely baffling. Did Manchester United "need" van Persie last year? Probably not - but you buy world class players when they become available. I genuinely think he takes our already decent midfield, and elevates it (along with the Flamster) into one of the best in Europe. The size of the fee is a statement, and the transfer has the potential to be a game-changer in the way that Dennis's arrival was all those years ago. Well done, Arsenal - you got this one right.

* But I actually think the re-signing of Flamini will also prove to be an inspired move. I had been slightly skeptical, but the way he instantly resumed his c.2008 performances on Sunday was breathtaking. Flamini is a high-tempo scrapper, but with a refinement to his passing that should only have improved further after his time in Milan (who, after all, offered him a new deal). Given he can fill-in across defence, and with Vermaelen's impending return, I actually thnk we are pretty well stocked defensively, especially given that Sagna hasn't left (a massive coup in itself).

*I am broadly happy with the signing of Viviano, who does seem to be highly rated in Italy. I would have preferred, however, if we had simply gone big on a new keeper. This seems like a signing to keep Szczesny on his toes, and I'd rather we'd bought an experience keeper to simply replace him. Maybe Szcz will make good on his promise, but I have real doubts about his ability, and whether he really has what it takes to become an elite keeper.

* The one absolutey glaring omission to our spending was a striker. Yes, we got Sanogo, but, at present, he looks like a midget thrown into the deep-end of swimming pool - completely out of his depth. Signing a striker is just about the hardest thing you can do in football, given their cost, but I refuse to believe we couldn't have gotten anyone. Given Podolski's injury, we are now a Giroud hamstring twinge away from being completely light up-front. One wonders if our relunctance to pay Ba's 3m loan fee may prove to be a bit of an error. Here's hoping we can get Bendtner to stop running over cars for a few weeks.

* Overall, then, I give this window a solid 8 out of 10. The deadwood were finally swept away (although who know where the hell Park is). We didn't lose any major players (koz, santi, jack, etc), brought in two players of proven quality, and a keeper who may to prove to be a decent option. If we'd pushed through a striker as well, I'd be in wonderland. As it stands, I'm very excited about this season, rather than being completely terrified, as I was only a few days ago.

* This window has also ensured two other very big things. Firstly, Wenger will now get a new deal with minimal protest. He's done the dirty and spent big, and, it would seem, been key to our acquisition of Ozil. I would expect a three-year extension before Christmas, despite the fact that one marquee signing does not make up for all the years without a trophy, and all the years in which we could have gone big but didn't. Secondly, Kroenke's presence in the statement accompanying Ozil's arrival might as well have been marked out in 30 feet high, flashing neon letters. Who knows what role that Stan played in all of this, but it will certainly be used as a means of justifying his continued stewardship, after conspicuous levels of (justified) grumbling from the fans. Given that this wasn't his own money that was being spent, I imagine Kroenke is chuckling to himself as Arsenal's enterprise value ticks up another few million pounds.

*A few quick thoughts on other clubs. Spurs have certainly got a lot of new players, but who knows if they'll gel or not. And they also certainly now appear to be short in the creativity and goalscoring stakes - I think we will finish above them again. Liverpool bought quite a few good players, but I still think they have weaknesses in their side that will keep them out of the Champions League. Chelsea bought some exciting players, yet still have Torres as their main striker (megalolz), and let Lukaku go out on loan (why or why?) Manchester City look like they've bought well, but showed fragility against Cardiff that may reflect bigger problems in the squad. As for Real Madrid - essentially buying Bale for 50m and Ozil is surely one of the worst transfer deals in football history.

* A special word must go to Manchester United, who's window was surely nothing short of a shambles, despite keeping hold of Rooney. The cracks that Ferguson's aura helped paper over have surely now emerged with a vengeance. Signing a player for more than his release fee beacuse they thought they could get better; failing to get Real to register Coentrao's loan deal with La Liga, thus scuppering the transfer; and having, it would seem, a group of chancers represent them in the Herrera negotiations - it's not very good really. This is hardly the well-oiled machine that Ferguson presided over. I think they will be the big story this season.

Anyway, roll on September 22. And prepare to see a lot of umlauts at the Emirates this year.