THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

4 September ~ The signings of loanees, stopgaps and a 31-year-old journeyman discarded by your rivals might be met with groans of disappointment at some clubs. But at Arsenal such short-termism was very welcome indeed. With no players left that either Manchester City or Barcelona half fancied, the end of the transfer window was mostly about buying for Arsenal and never have they been so active. Arsène Wenger bought nine players this summer and though we'll never know how much the Massacre of Old Trafford influenced signings, there's a clear before and after pattern.

Before it was the teens. After came proper footballers. Deadline-week deals for Park Chu-young (aged 26), Per Mertesacker (26), André Santos (28), Mikel Arteta (29) and Yossi Benayoun (31) represent a clear change of tack by Wenger.

Unusually, the signings include Premier League experience, names most fans have heard of and, shockingly, they're all over 25. Some of them probably haven't been watched 73 times by a scout either. On paper, Mertesacker is exactly what most observers have been crying out for since Sol Campbell first left. Though oddly you sense if Wenger rated the German defender that highly he would have bought him before now.

Taking on loanees is an admission of inferiority and perhaps before Black Sunday Arsenal wouldn't have done so. But the Gunners need Premier League-experienced players who won't stunt the progress of the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for long. So Benayoun makes good sense, especially for free. Despite his millions, Wenger was still looking for bargains.

To get a 28-year-old Brazilian international for around £6 million seems like good business, too. Likewise Arteta. Though the fact the he took a pay-cut to join Arsenal perhaps signals a need to rethink the club's wage structure. Of all the nine newcomers this summer, Park is the most curious and yet paradoxically the most Wengerish. Impending national service means the South Korean striker is short-term only, yet there's room for some Wenger-style development, it'll just have to be quick.

Arsenal will still look weak up front when Robin van Persie next gets injured, however. The thrilling emergence of Emmanuel Frimpong may mean, once he loses his Labrador puppy over-enthusiasm, the search for more midfield muscle is over. The team look weaker offensively but stronger defensively than last season, and that may be a better balance.

Yes, Eden Hazard, Wesley Sneijder or Karim Benzema would have been nice and there may be another £30-50m in that well-protected Arsenal bank vault. But new faces were essential and the Gunners have them. Why they weren't bought earlier and more calmly only the Arsenal suits know. Indeed, the deadline week deals were not only un-Wenger-like signings, but conducted in an un-Wenger-like way, ie doing all the Christmas shopping at 4pm on Christmas Eve. Also known as being Harry Redknapp. However, the fact Wenger is being so noticeably unlike himself doesn't seem as worrying as perhaps it once might have. It is what was needed. Damian Hall

Comments (2)
Comment by Paul Rowland 2011-09-04 17:08:13

The mountaineer George Mallory famously replied to the question, "Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?" with the retort, "Because it's there".

I get the same feeling about Arsenal's signing of Yossi Benayoun. The Emirates Boo-Boys wanted to see some transfer activity, Benayoun was available, so Wenger signed him. Why? Because he was there.

Comment by Jongudmund 2011-09-06 12:58:02

He may have acted too late. Wenger has the look of a man on his way to the gallows.

His last season in English football, maybe?

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