By Josh Clarke
The sale of Robin van Persie to bitter rivals Manchester United prefigured a dismal week for Arsenal. An exasperating 0-0 draw at home to Sunderland in their opening Premier League fixture sealed it.
Though the Gunners controlled possession against a Black Cats side characterised solely by gutsy defending, their performance was all-too-similar to dominant performances last term that required Van Persie's predatory instincts to salvage three points.
Simply put, the Gunners cannot afford a repeat of last season's utterly dismal opening to the campaign – primarily because, this time round, there's no flying Dutchman to dig them out of trouble.
The captures of Santi Cazorla, Lucas Podolski and Olivier Giroud represent positive pre-emptive transfer market activity before Van Persie's departure yet, for the Gunners to truly cope with the void left by their talisman, captain and top goalscorer, Arsene Wenger needs to spend big again before the window shuts.
After all, the £22 million received for Van Persie, on top of the further £15m that Barcelona added to the coffers in exchange for Alex Song, means that Wenger must have a bit of cash to play with.
|Read our match report as the Gunners endure a frustrating start to the new Premier League season|
Of Saturday's three debutants, it was Cazorla who gave the best impression.
Despite playing a full 90 minutes for Spain in their midweek friendly away to Puerto Rico, the inventive midfielder entirely orchestrated Arsenal's attacking efforts against Sunderland, so much so to the point that Wenger conceded that the ex-Malaga player was the architect of all his side’s chances.
However, the Spaniard was not added to the squad because of his firepower in the box. Podolski and Giroud, on the other hand, were.
Wenger opted to begin the game with vastly experienced Germany international as the solitary front man yet it became evident before his withdrawal that it will take time for him to adjust to the specific requirements of the Premier League.
Granted, the service he was given was near to non-existent but an immediate replacement for Van Persie he is not.
In terms of want of service, the same cannot be said of Giroud, who replaced Podolski on the 82-minute mark.
The Frenchman was put through on goal by Cazorla, with the Gunners desperately pushing for the winner but the chance to become an instant north London hero was spurned with a dreadfully struck effort as the goal gaped.
Giroud may have been Ligue 1's top scorer last term but that means little in the here and now.
Though it was an inspired defensive performance by Sunderland, the Gunners will face much sturdier back fours than that comprised of Craig Gardner, John O'Shea, Carlos Cuellar and Kieran Richardson in the weeks to come and the blanks that Arsenal fired yesterday should serve as a warning.
To say that Giroud and Podolski will not come good, this early on, is misguided at best. Yet, in order to give the club, the players and the despondent fans the shot in the arm required to deal with the loss of Van Persie, Arsenal's board must sanction one last marquee signing.
The fact that Song has gone means that Wenger is likely to follow up on either long-standing interest in Yann M'Vila or reported target Nuri Sahin.
Given the club's recent transfer history, no major investment, in any department, should be scoffed at and each would be a valuable, worthwhile addition to the squad. However, neither Sahin or M'Vila will plug the gap that Arsenal desperately need to fill.
Abou Diaby has been restored to first-team action and this, coupled with the anticipated returns of Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere will leave Arsenal well-enough-equipped in this area, with options out on the wing – given that Podoloski can operate out wide - also well catered for.
One more investment in genuine quality up top, a player capable of finding the back of the net, working alongside Podolski and Giroud, is the tonic needed to lift spirits at the Emirates Stadium and banish lingering doubts about a Van Persie-less Arsenal.