Arteta - very good, but not top class
I've finally got time this morning to sit down and write some thoughts on the frenzied transfer activity we saw at Arsenal in the last two days of the window or, more specifically, the last hour. I have to admit that I am pretty underwhelmed at what I've seen.
Some areas of weakness have certainly been addressed to a certain extent. As I said the other day I am extremely happy with the signing of Mertesacker, but I still think we are short of one top centre-half. It seems that Bolton were really looking for some ridiculous figure for Gary Cahill as even Spurs wouldn't sign him on deadline day - this will come back to haunt Bolton who will now have to sell him cheap in January, or lose him for the square root of nothing in May. Whatever the case may be we are still not strong enough in the middle of the back four. One injury/suspension and we effectively are back to the status quo before the Man Utd game.
We were definitely in need of a left-back, and have been since before Gael Clichy was sold. Will Andre Santos be any good defensively? Time will tell. He has to be given the chance to prove himself, but I just can not understand why Wenger wouldn't just go and get some proven Premier League quality like Leighton Baines. Having said that, with the sale of Traore and the arrival of Santos, we are seemingly stronger than we were this time last week in that area of the pitch.
A new striker was also a key signing with Chamakh in such dire form. I see that our new Korean number nine got a hat-trick for his country this week, so let's hope he's in the mood for goalscoring if/when he makes his bow against Swansea on Saturday. I do not understand the logic, however, of signing a player who we know will be off in two years as he has to do his national service, but I think I should give up trying to work out what Arsene Wenger's strategies might be. I still believe Walcott would be a far better player in the centre, playing off another striker, but Wenger's promises to Theo can never be fulfilled all the time he persists with this flawed system. Meanwhile, Nicklas Bendtner has moved on to Sunderland - but only on loan. Bendtner's comments this week about how he "will never return to Arsenal" are disappointing to me as I've always defended the big Dane from unwarranted criticism. Now he can rot at a s**t club as far as I'm concerned - if he doesn't get goals he will find himself back at Colney next July with no prospect of getting a move anywhere (but he'll still be getting £52k a week!)
So we come to our midfield. This is where I am really at a loss. We have sold two top players for over £50m. We have brought in an injury-prone player from Everton for £10m and another injury-prone squad player from Chelsea on loan. What on earth is going on? I have to say that I do rate both players, especially Mikel Arteta. I think Arteta is a quality Premier League performer. But he is being expected to replace a World Class player in Fabregas. To me he is a poor man's Fabregas, "Fabregas-lite" if you will. I expect that, if he can stay fit, Arteta will do well for Arsenal, but he is no replacement for what we have lost. Then there is Benayoun. I mentioned the other night that I thought such a signing would be reminiscent of George Graham bringing in Chris Kiwomya - desperation, and simply not Arsenal. Benayoun, when he signed for Liverpool, was just the sort of squad player Arsenal required. Four years on, and at least one serious knee injury as well, I just don't understand what he is doing at our Club - he certainly used to be a good player, but now? And, while I'm at it, what the hell are we doing getting players on loan? We are Arsenal for God's sake. One other thing to bear in mind with the Benayoun signing - why are Chelsea willing to loan a player to Arsenal if he is still capable of playing at the top level? If we had signed Arteta and a World Class midfielder I would be happy with that. But we haven't done so. Mikel Arteta has become our major Summer signing. It's not exactly inspiring to the fans.
The other thing that has puzzled me greatly is the fact that Scott Parker has gone from West Ham for as little as £5m and yet Arsenal weren't interested. Alex Song is off to Africa in the New Year, and may well yet be followed by Frimpong if he chooses to play for Ghana. We are weak in defensive areas in midfield, especially with a work-horse like Jack Wilshere out injured (reports are suggesting today that he is out for at least three months, which would not come as any surprise to me). Make no mistake, we needed Scott Parker, and yet Wenger has allowed him to go to Tottenham for an absolute bargain-basement fee. At the same time we have effectively released Henri Lansbury, loaned to West Ham (why are we helping scum like Allardyce?) for the final year of his Arsenal contract. Given that Denilson played over 150 times for Arsenal I would be grateful for an explanation as to why Lansbury has been given not one opportunity to play for the Club. I'd rather have him in the squad than Yossi Benayoun, that's for sure.
The thing that sticks with me is that we have made a significant profit once again on our transfer dealings this Summer, even before you count the £30m+ we were told was available before anyone was sold. We have lost our best player, our Captain, and yet have clearly failed to replace him. The supporters are paying 6% more per ticket than last season to see a team which is palpably weaker than it was last term. The question that clearly needs to be asked is, where is all this money going to? The more you think of it, the more you have to believe that the Club is in financial difficulty, or is being drained of its resources for other reasons. We have been told there is money available, but even Wenger must realise the players he has signed (been allowed to sign?) are not of the required quality to challenge for honours. It seems to me that, right now, the Club is being run in to the ground by the powers that be. Kroenke remains silent about things. I believe he has been ploughing money in to some of his American sports franchises - where is the money coming from for that? Perhaps we are all being conned by our American owner. The AGM this year will more of a whitewash than it has been in recent years, and that is really saying something given the pre-screening of allowable questions etc. I see serious protests enveloping Arsenal Football Club as we progress through this season. These are dark times, and the fans require answers.