Arsenal’s training ground of Colney will not represent strange environs to Daniel Welbeck.
The Gunners’ new signing has undergone several training sessions there while on duty with the England National Team having been at the Hertfordshire village with the Three Lions just hours before he made that training ground a more permanent one.
With Liverpool forward Daniel Sturridge ruled out of England’s opening Euro 2016 qualifier against Switzerland on Monday evening, Welbeck was widely expected to start the match at St. Jakob Park and his two well-taken goals will be an excellent preview to what he will offer Arsenal this season.
In many ways, Arsenal have had an excellent transfer market. Bucking their recent trend of investing the funds from selling a couple of world-class footballers in several squad players, Arsenal splashed the cash this summer, spending £72.2 million on incoming players.
Also dissimilar to previous windows was the manner in which Arsenal began their summer. In a manner similar to the blockbuster signing of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid last season, the Gunners brought in yet another world-class player in the form of Alexis Sanchez for £30 million from Barcelona.
The Chile superstar is not just a player who will obviously excite Arsenal fans, but also represents a statement of Arsenal’s intentions to once again regularly challenge for honours after ending their much-publicised nine-year trophy drought by winning the FA Cup last season.
Sanchez will fit seamlessly into Arsenal’s style of play and his direct running and technical ability will surely aid Arsenal in unlocking opposition defences. Last season, the winger created 55 chances in 43 appearances for Barcelona, scoring 19 goals. This season, he’s already created 10 chances in three appearances, scoring twice.
If the fanfare surrounding him wasn’t reason enough for him to be remembered in England, he’s already begun making a name for himself in Red and White by scoring the goal that sees Arsenal enter the group stages of the UEFA Champions League. The Gunners will receive £7 million for reaching the group stages, in addition to their £1.7 million prize money that all teams contesting the Champions League play-off receive.
But Arsenal’s transfer deadline day wouldn’t be complete without the usual deadline day jitters as Arsenal scrambled to add quality to their squad. While not as clear-cut a threat as Sanchez, the arrival of Welbeck was as vital as the Chilean’s.
The Gunners were crying out for a second centre-forward to lead the line and with Olivier Giroud injured, the talented but raw Yaya Sanogo unable to shoulder that burden on his own and World Cup winner Lukas Podolski more suited to an inside-left forward’s role, Welbeck’s athleticism and physicality will see him stretch opposition defences and see him convert the chances that the Gunners’ very talented midfield create.
Perhaps the best example of how important a signing Welbeck is to Arsenal is the disappointment with which his departure has been met by Manchester United supporters and personages such as Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Rene Meulensteen.
Welbeck was unfortunately never going to be given the opportunity to lead the line at United, given the names ahead of him in the pecking order and at 23, he’s been handed the much sought-after opportunity to lead the line at club like Arsenal’s stature.
Other signings were less-high profile but equally necessary. Mathieu Debuchy had replaced Bacary Sagna for France and did the same at Arsenal, as the latter moved to Manchester City on a free transfer.
The ex-Newcastle right-back has plenty of Premier League experience and has effortlessly slotted in to that right back position, proving he is a ready-made replacement for his now-departed countryman and has ensured the club do not miss Sagna’s presence.
In typical Arsenal fashion, the signing of Callum Chambers was completely unexpected, but one that was hailed as another excellent signing for the Gunners. The Southampton academy product was brought in to replace Arsenal club captain Thomas Vermaelen, who left for Barcelona for £15 million with less than a year remaining on his contract.
Despite eyebrows being raised at the hefty £16 million fee the 19-year-old has commanded, Chambers has already demonstrated his ability to play at the highest level.
Because of the extended leave afforded to Germany’s World Cup winner Per Mertesacker and injuries to Laurent Koscielny, Chambers was flung into the deep end and impressed enough to earn himself the club’s Player of the Month Award for the month of August.
Much like Arsenal’s balancing of the books with the sale of Vermaelen and the arrival of Chambers, the Gunners’ signing of
Colombia’s David Ospina for a mere £3 million from OGC Nice following his excellent goalkeeping displays for his nation at the World Cup also represented a bit of tidy business.
But while Arsenal’s squad is definitely a lot better than it was at this time last season, the one glaring omission from the list of incoming players was a deep-lying playmaker to take over that mantle from Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini, who are in their early 30s and are soon nearing the ends of their professional careers.
At Arsenal, the role of playmaker is the foundations of their attacking play. Last season, Arteta completed 92% of his 2367 passes. Not only did he have the highest pass completion rate of any midfielder at Arsenal, but he also attempted more passes than any other player did.
Flamini is just behind him with a 91% pass completion rate of 1426 passes, albeit with a lesser number of attempted passes than his fellow midfielders.
But the Gunners need another long-term deep-lying combative midfielder to win the ball back and orchestrate play. They did try to sign Brazilian William Carvalho throughout the summer, but the deal fell through on deadline day because the club couldn’t agree a fee with the player’s third-party owners.
Arsene Wenger also tried to bring in Geoffrey Kondogbia but Monaco rebuffed his advances, while Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira’s wage demands were considered too high and Bayern Munich’s Javier Martinez picked up an unfortunate injury early this season.
The lack of acquisition of a fourth-choice centre-back might also come to haunt the Gunners this season, with the club attempting to bring in players such as Matija Nastasic, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Kostas Manolas and Winston Reid, but it is extremely unlikely that any of these players would want to play second fiddle to Mertesacker and Koscielny.
However, filling that spot is one that not extremely pressing as it is highly unlikely that Arsene Wenger would often break up that first choice partnership. Last season, Vermaelen had only 788 minutes of Premier League action, while Koscielny played 2737 and Mertesacker played 3149.
Arsenal do, however have academy graduate Isaac Hayden waiting in the wings as fourth-choice centre back for the club, with Hector Bellerin playing backup to Frenchman Debuchy.
Last season, Arsenal spent six months atop the Premier League table. While Arsenal’s title charge will go a longer way this season than it did the last time, the Emirates Stadium side might narrowly lose out to some of their challengers this time around as well, and needed a couple more marquee players to keep them atop the table.
Published Date: Sep 13, 2014 09:41 am | Updated Date: Oct 28, 2014 03:20 pm