The Gunners spent a significant amount early on in the summer, while Danny Welbeck was a surprise late addition to the squad - but has Arsene Wenger done enough?By Julian Bennetts
This summer Arsene Wenger spent more in one transfer window than ever before, did the majority of his business early and signed the world-class attacker for which his squad were crying out.
But as the dust settles on Arsenal's business there is still a nagging doubt that it isn't quite enough and that a good window could have been spectacular with just one or two more signings.
Wenger would argue that is unfair, but the fact that he was interested in three different defenders and a defensive midfielder in the latter stages of the transfer window suggests that he is well aware of the glaring weaknesses in his squad.
For a start, Arsenal have just six first-team defenders for four positions. A tall, powerful defensive midfielder was also on their wishlist.
But let's start with the positives. Having surprisingly become regulars in the transfer deadline-day trolley dash of previous years, Wenger and chief executive Ivan Gazidis resolved to sign players as soon as possible.
Alexis Sanchez, Barcelona's Chilean forward, was top of the list. While Wenger was criticised for playing football on Ipanema beach during the World Cup, it was very much a work trip rather than a holiday.
While there he met with Alexis' representatives – contact is thought to have been made as early as May - and convinced the player to move to London. By July 10 the 25-year-old was posing for pictures with the cannon emblazoned on his chest. The marquee signing was completed quickly and efficiently.
|9/2||Danny Welbeck is 9/2 with bet365 to be Arsenal's top scorer|
But Wenger wanted more. His scouts at the World Cup were on the lookout for defenders and defensive midfielders but it is thought that they were largely unimpressed. They felt the general level of the tournament was far lower than in previous years, particularly when it came to the defensive side of the game.
That 171 goals were scored in the tournament – the joint-highest in history – seems to back that up, while the three most expensive defenders of this summer (David Luiz, Eliaquim Mangala and Luke Shaw) did not shine in Brazil.
Indeed, when you look around Europe at the paucity of top-class central defensive and midfield cover, Wenger's stance is unsurprising. Manchester United and Barcelona, in particular, have been desperate for cover in those positions but have been criticised for underwhelming signings.
Calum Chambers, a fine young prospect, was brought in from Southampton at a cost of €20m with Wenger conscious of the need to maintain the 'English core' at the club, albeit one that also includes Aaron Ramsey and Wojciech Szczesny.
All this was done by the end of July and it is thought that Wenger was content to go into the season with that squad.
The one exception was the captain, Thomas Vermaelen, whom he knew was likely to leave, on the condition that it was not to another Premier League club. In a far stronger position than when Robin van Persie was sold two years ago, Wenger refused to deal with Manchester United and the Belgian ended up in Barcelona (again perhaps highlighting that world-class defenders were thin on the ground this summer).
It was here that mistakes began to be made. A replacement was sought for Vermaelen, yet none was found. Enquiries and bids were made for Kostas Manolas, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Matija Nastasic but none were pushed through despite the former, in particular, being very much available and keen on the move.
Rumours from within Arsenal suggest that Wenger took too long before making a decision, particularly over Manolas.
It is also worth pointing out that Arsenal's structure is different to a number of other clubs, with Wenger in charge of transfers. At Manchester United, for example, chief executive Ed Woodward has taken the brunt of fans' anger in the past but Wenger is undoubtedly 'the boss' in every sense at the Emirates Stadium.
Wenger also has a huge amount of faith in Yaya Sanogo and believed that he did not need another striker as a result.
That all changed when Olivier Giroud was injured against Everton. Enquiries were made for Radamel Falcao but he was a long way out of Arsenal's price range.
A phone call was made to QPR regarding Loic Remy. It was never followed up, particularly when it was leaked almost immediately.
Then, on deadline day, came the deal for Danny Welbeck. It came as a surprise to many and was only possible due to Manchester United's move for Falcao, with all signs on Monday morning being that nothing significant would happen. The logic behind the deal – signing a young, hungry player who can improve and has something to prove – is unarguable, and Ivan Gazidis and Dick Law - one of the Gunners' chief transfer negotiators - did well to get it over the line.
Yet they are still short in key areas, as shown by consistent attempts to sign Sporting's William Carvalho. Arsenal conceded 17 goals at Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool last season and there is a fear that the underlying cause of those problems has yet to be addressed.
The loss of Giroud highlighted that Arsenal were one injury away from a crisis up front and those same fears exist at the back. Once Laurent Koscielny went off injured against Leicester City, Wenger was down to his last four fit first-team defenders. It would take no more than three injuries for Wenger to be playing Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin at centre-back.
Yet Chambers has impressed Wenger so much that he has decided that he can be second-choice right-back, third-choice centre-back and also cover defensive midfield. That ensured that Wenger was only looking for a fourth-choice centre-back and there aren't many top-quality players around who would move to the club with little to no chance of regular football.
Still, though, to enter the season with six defenders seems a risky decision.
"It has been a good window but it could and should have been even better," is the view of Tim Payton, of the Arsenal Supporters Trust.
"With €62.5m not spent Arsenal had the capability to keep going. Now we must keep our fingers crossed whenever any of our defenders go in for a tackle."
And that is the crucial point. With Manchester City and – in particular – Chelsea improving significantly over the summer, Arsenal needed to make a big leap forward themselves just to keep up.
They have spent €96m on five players but the worry is that it may not be enough.