Grading Arsenal’s Summer Transfers
Although Arsenal did not have a very busy transfer deadline day yesterday, the Gunners did manage to do most of their business early in the window. In the end, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger strengthened his team compared to last year’s squad, spending over $130 million on five first team players and three young academy players (including highly-rated 16-year-old midfielder Ben Sheaf from West Ham).
While the Gunners did lose three somewhat significant first team players during the summer (starting right back Bacary Sagna, backup center back Thomas Vermaelen, and backup goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski), they also succeeded in bringing in solid replacements for the outgoing trio. Former Newcastle and France international Mathieu Debuchy is one of the better right backs in the Barclays Premier League and the 29-year-old was even France’s first choice right back over Sagna during this summer’s World Cup.
Colombia’s David Ospina also had an outstanding 2014 World Cup before joining the Gunners in late July. The 26-year-old keeper only allowed four goals in Colombia’s five World Cup matches, while making some crucial saves and also distributing the ball to his teammates well. Ospina could very well challenge incumbent Wojciech Szczęsny as Arsenal’s starting goalkeeper.
Youngster Calum Chambers was brought in from Southampton as Arsenal’s right back of the future; however, the 19-year-old has only featured at center back for the Gunners so far, covering for World Cup champion Per Mertesacker. Despite many Arsenal fans not quite comfortable with Chambers’ $26 million price tag, the young defender has been absolutely outstanding filling in at center back, and will certainly only get better. Chambers was recently given his first senior call-up for England, and the versatile youngster could soon become a regular for the England national team.
The Gunners also made significant additions up front, with record signing Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck both being bought during the summer. Sanchez, the former Barcelona standout, is extremely quick, strong (despite his size), and both a good finisher and passer of the ball. The 25-year-old Chilean international could be the game-changing forward that Arsenal has been in need of.
Welbeck, who joined Arsenal from Manchester United on the final day of summer transfers, gives the Gunners another option at the forward position. Arsenal were said to be in the market for an additional striker after Olivier Giroud was injured and sidelined for the next four months. Welbeck should fit well into this Arsenal side, as the England international is a solid link-up player with good speed and passing abilities. Sanchez and Welbeck have essentially replaced outgoing forwards Park Chu-Young and Nicklas Bendtner on the team (significant upgrades to say the least).
The five first team summer transfer additions to the squad will certainly improve a team that led the Premier League for 128 days last season. The only area that Arsenal could have upgraded further was at the defensive midfield position. The Gunners could have done well to sign a commanding player in the middle of the pitch such as Lars Bender or William Carvalho. I would give Arsenal a B+ grade for their summer transfer signings. If the Gunners can stay relatively healthy, the north London squad could very well challenge for the title.