Arsene Wenger’s transfer activity, generally speaking, has been prudent at best. A keen believer of living within your means and keeping a tight rein on finances has allowed Arsenal to keep on the right side of Financial Fair Play and allowed them to move into their luxurious new home in North London.
More recently, however, Arsene has been making waves in the transfer market with some high profile signings as he bids to upset the odds in the Premier League title market. Last season, the marquee capture of Mesut Ozil for an eye watering £42m fee sent a message out that Arsenal meant business. While Wenger has followed that up, splashing out another £85-90m on the likes for Mathieu Debuchy, Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez and Calum Chambers. But who will prove to be Arsenal’s signing of the season?
Alexis Sanchez, the £30m signing from Barcelona, is the obvious candidate after a string of match winning performances. The 5ft 6 Chilean attacking midfielder tops the Arsenal scoring charts with 18 goals in all competitions and has been the catalyst for the best part of Arsenal’s season.
He arrived in North London as the Gunners’ first signing of the summer and looked an ideal fit into Wenger’s already bulging wealth of midfield talent. Sanchez, though, brings more than just skill and artistry to the table. He has a physical presence and the ability to play anywhere across the final third of the pitch.
It’s almost as if ‘Sanchez the footballer’ was built specifically for the Premier League – a player with flair, skill and pace to bamboozle defences – while having the strength and power to withstand the sometimes physical nature of English football.
Sanchez’s form (12 goals in 22 league games) and versatility has made him an irremovable figure from Wenger’s starting XI – although Arsenal fans maybe worried about the one or two injuries he has picked up recently. Perhaps a sign of World Cup fatigue and the relentless start he made to life in England.
Closely followed into the Emirates over the summer was French defender Mathieu Debuchy – a £12m signing from Newcastle – who looks at ease in the red of Arsenal. A classy right back that has made a seamless transition into Wenger’s first XI. Debuchy, if it wasn’t for two nasty injuries suffered already this season, would surely be pushing Sanchez close as the clubs most consistent player.
Instead, the Arsenal fans have seen the 29 year-old Frenchman make just ten league appearances to date as he recovers from his latest setback – a dislocated shoulder suffered against Stoke last month.
Another Premier League regular that joined Wenger’s side over the summer was Danny Welbeck. The former Manchester United striker was deemed surplus to requirements at Old Trafford and, in some respects, feels much more suited to Arsenal’s style of play than that of United.
Welbeck, despite all of his obvious talent and potential, can be a frustrating player to watch. He is a typical C+ student that should really be achieving A grades but lacks the confidence and consistency to reach that top level. Nevertheless, he proved his worth at the beginning of the season when netting a hat trick against Galatasaray in the Champions League and linked up well with Ozil in the 3-0 win at Villa Park. But, if given the chance, he really needs to grasp it with both hands.
Calum Chambers is up next and the £16m defender is as talented as he is inexperienced. Chambers only made 22 Premier League appearances for Southampton last season but that was enough to persuade Wenger to sign him up. The 20 year-old right sided defender has played perhaps more than Wenger would have liked, due to Debuchy’s injury, but he has impressed with his eagerness to get forward and support as well as his versatility, being able to play as a centre back.
The one fly in the ointment was the performance against Stoke in the 3-2 defeat – it was a horror show for young Chambers after being blitzed in the opening 45 minutes and seeing red in the second half.
Meanwhile, Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina has made an encouraging start in North London. In five league appearances he has kept three clean sheets and the fans have warmed to the 26 year-old stopper – a chant of “Ooooooooossssssssssspinnnnnnna” has been ringing around the Emirates for every goal kick – although it remains to be seen whether he has the presence and stature to become the Arsenal number one.
Meanwhile, it’s obviously too early to pass judgment on Paulista and Bielik. But it’s highly unlikely either player could displace Alexis Sanchez as Arsenal’s signing of the season.
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