Wenger goes for experience as he abandons Project Youth

What a day! I feel like I’ve watched a six hour Arsenal match on Sky Sports News, going through the highs and lows as the shape of our season potentially changed every few hours. The delight at signing Mertesacker and Santos; the excitement when Arteta was first linked; the despondency and then anger when the deal apparently died. Punching the air in jubilation when the Sky Sports reporter revealed it was back on, but then no confirmation as time ticked away… had we blown it? Finally, as deadline day went into injury time, Lukic bowled it out to Dixon, who played it up to Smith, who turned it into the path of Thomas and confirmation came that Arteta was an Arsenal player – GET IN!

Why the tremendous excitement? Because these five signings give us an excellent chance of finishing in the top four and even an outside shot of challenging for the title. A chance that was down to one percent at 6pm on Sunday is now back up to a reasonable level. We still have a lot to do, but at least now we have the right tools to do it with.

Today has also lifted the gloom around the club after Black Sunday. Jack Wilshere tweeted about how excited he was when the Arteta deal was confirmed:

Best news of the day! Brilliant signing! Welcome to Arteta! Great day all round for #AFC this is why #ILoveAFC. Come on you gooners!!!!

He won’t be the only player to be lifted by Arsenal’s five new signings. The squad will arrive back after international duty with a spring in their step to prepare for the game against Swansea next week and morale will be high.

The other reason for optimism – certainly for me anyway – is that with these signings Wenger has signalled an end to Project Youth and our restrictive policy of only buying young players who we can flog for a profit in a few years time. There were no Oxlade-Chamberlains or Jenkinsons signed today. The ages of our new recruits are 26, 26, 28, 29 and 31. Between them they have 233 international appearances with two being captains of their country. Wenger has delivered what I and many other bloggers have been asking of him and the board for too long now, three commodities we were woefully short of 24 hours ago:

1) Proven quality at the highest level
2) Experience
3) Leadership

I posted last week that only seven of our 31 man squad were over 25 years old. That number is now up to 12, a much healthier figure. Our best eleven 24 hours ago only contained two players over 25, van Persie and Vermaelen. Now you can add Santos, Mertesacker and Arteta to that.

Consider this – our first choice midfield a few days ago was Song, Wilshere and Ramsey. Between them, they have made 174 appearances for Arsenal. Yet Arteta has played 173 times for Everton while Benayoun has played 163 times for Chelsea, Liverpool and West Ham. That’s a whole lot of Premiership savvy and experience in an area we desperately needed it after the departures of Cesc and Nasri. These two wise heads will be able to help our youngsters, give them advice and bring a calming, mature presence to the midfield. Hopefully now the silly stamps on opponents’ legs and reckless challenges may be a thing of the past.

Per Mertersacker signs for Arsenal

The 9 foot German signs - yeeeeeessss!

Another area Wenger has (finally) strengthened is the defence. I’ve not been alone in calling for a top drawer centre back and left back since Clichy left and he’s certainly delivered. At 6’6 Mertesacker is the towering aerial presence we’ve needed since Sol Campbell left the first time round. With 75 caps for Germany including two World Cup semi finals and the Euro 2008 final, you can be sure he won’t be fazed by a Carling Cup final against Birmingham.

Andre Santos is 28 and has represented Brazil 22 times at left back – you have to be very good to do that. As I understand it he’s very attacking and scored 10 goals in 52 games for Fenerbahce. To have signed these two for the same fee that Bolton wanted for Gary Cahill is excellent business. (On a side note, I’m so glad greedy Bolton failed to sell Cahill. Let’s hope we get him for peanuts in January or on a free next summer – that’ll really piss Gartside off!)

Finally, Chu Young Park joined from Monaco. A striker who can also play out wide, he could prove a real bargain at just £3m. He may not be a Benzema, but remember he’s only a back-up to van Persie. We aren’t Man City who can afford two world class players for every position. He is South Korea’s captain, which suggests mental strength and leadership, and apparently takes a mean free kick.

So all in all a good day’s work from Wenger, Gazidis et all. This should all have been done last month, but better late than never I suppose. I wonder what effect the 8-2 drubbing had on today’s activity. If we’d blagged a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford, would Wenger have convinced himself his squad was good enough and kept faith in his kids? After all, he said that Gibbs would be his number one left back when Clichy was sold but seems to have done a U-turn on that. Or did the Man Utd result make Kroenke choke on his cigar and order Wenger to add quality and experience to the squad?

It’s all conjecture and the truth may out some day, but I’m not too bothered either way as we now have a much more solid squad. It’s a shame this didn’t happen last summer when we still had Fabregas and Nasri, but the future seems brighter than it did at 6pm on Sunday. I didn’t think I’d see the day Wenger would not only spend £10m on a 29 year old, but give him a four year contract as well! This from the man who only gave one year deals to legends such as Bergkamp and Pires once they hit 30.

Things are definitely changing, as borne out by the shedding of youngsters who were never going to be good enough for Arsenal. Youngsters who have been kept too long on too high a wage like Bendtner, Denilson, Vela and Traore. I think this is a sign that Wenger realises the kids he placed so much faith in have let him down and it’s time to pursue a more balanced player recruitment policy.

I’ve given Wenger a lot of justifiable stick over the last few months, so it’s only fair I give him credit today. I’ve said all along that he’s the right man for the job if he changes his ways and it looks like he may be doing so. So let’s forget the disastrous opening to the Premiership, stop the booing and the chants of ‘Spend some fucking money’ and get behind our new-look team and manager. The season starts now.

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  1. MurhinioForWenger

    You are right to suggest that good buys should have been done last season. I reckon neither Fabregas nor Nasri would have been in such a hurry to leave if they had quality team mates. A little psychology that Wenger has consistently failed to apply as manager. The 8-2 drubbing definitely galvanized AW but I still think that Wenger is a spent force and should be replaced. But for now, I am looking forward to another great season of football and all the joy, elation then the pain followed by hope and then again the heartaches that it brings. I will continue to rant and rave and praise where praise is due – thats what its all about for me. Go Gooners GO!!!

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  2. Dattijo Aliyu

    At least wenger have now listen to the voice of wisdom, I hope the team will now be back on track. This new signing should move straight into the starting line up and I hope wenger should start preparing to look for a goalkeeper in January. I still believe we need a goalkeeper with commanding stature in our goal, because there are some goals we conceded against Manu that we suppose not to concede. If you have a goalkeeper who has commanding qualities he urges his team but when he become hopeless the whole team become affected as witnessed in oldtraford, I hope our first choice for now will have the experience to overcome that nightmare and etcbounce back. He must be worked on. The greatest problem of our goalkeepers is inconsistency, I always maintain that all our present goalkeepers are lucky goalkeepers not consistent goalkeepers like the Shay givens, jaskaliners etc.

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  3. Nicokoli

    What a night – 5 hrs watching Sky Sports News – 84 texts in and out of my phone, 6 coffees, 3 toilet visits, tears and jubilation.

    Finally Wenger and the board have woken up and seen the light!! Praise the lord!!

    Good signings and now our stagnant players will have to fight for their places. Exactly what we needed to rejuvenate the squad, lets hope this experience brought in fits in quickly and well.

    Looking forward to Swansea and the rest of the season – lets get behind them and Wenger and stop the negative we all have had recently. We must make 4th spot this season at least and ensure we are playing in the Champions League next season. Arteta signing was based on our participation in europe this season and shows how important beating Udinese was.

    Look forward to happier bloggs and comments Steven from now on! Come on you Gunners!

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    • Gooner Steve

      I’m looking forward to writing happier posts too! Let’s hope Arteta, Mertesacker et all settle in quickly and we can climb that table.

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