By Daniel Cowan
Soon after the wonderful news of Alexis Sanchez signing for Arsenal broke, I tweeted something along the lines of 'other clubs have made signings earlier than us but Arsenal are the first to do business'.
Sanchez is a world beater and a fee rumoured to be anywhere between £28m and £35m is insanely good business. Seeing him in our lovely new PUMA kit was a majestic sight.
I don’t want to belittle the signings of other clubs because I think every club has strengthened this summer but I don’t think the business is comparable to Arsenal’s signing of Sanchez.
Manchester United have gone down the route of promising young players and I think all but the most obstinate of United fans would agree that is mostly down to where they finished and the lack of European football. Outside of Dutch players wanting to play under Van Gaal I don’t see many of Europe’s top players wanting to go to United this summer.
Liverpool have signed a mixture of Premier League experience and young talent. Have they strengthened? With Suarez on the way out their signings are either going to be of the Arsenal RvP replacement variety (Cazorla, Giroud and Podolski) and create a more balanced team or of the Tottenham Bale replacement variety.
Lallana is a good player but is he another Charlie Adam, Fellaini (of Moyes’ Everton) or Stewart Downing – fantastic in a “smaller” team but not really up to scratch on the bigger stages? That is to be determined and I wouldn’t want to predict it either way. Lambert will be a good rotational option for Liverpool but that is about it.
Chelsea have signed two very good players but I discount Fabregas as that was entirely dependent on us rejecting him and I think Costa is yet to prove himself over a long period of time. Sanchez has proven to be a world beater for four or more years now whereas Costa has had one break-out season. Is he a one-season wonder? Many of my Spanish based friends and followers believe so. He could be fantastic but he could equally be average because there is no long-term history to support claims he is going to be a continuing success. Look at Soldado - he was a fine goalscorer in Spain but has so far failed to adapt.
I think each club has done fine business for their own needs but the Sanchez deal is a real sit up and pay attention deal.
"Arsenal’s transformation over the past few years has been astounding"
Arsenal’s transformation over the past few years has been astounding and despite there being no improvement on final league position there have been incredible leaps forward in every other aspect.
The fall from invincible champions to selling our best players every season to rivals both international and domestic caused injuries so deep to many Gooners that some felt as if they would never recover. They’re on the mend now, though.
Arsenal had become accustomed to finishing 15 points plus behind the champions but last season it was just seven. That’s two games. If Arsenal had taken maximum points from City then they would have been champions. Seven points sounds like a lot but it was actually pretty close. It felt worse than it was because we led the way for so long, but an objective and unemotional look at the facts says it was a huge improvement on the season before.
Factor in Arsenal struggling along with injuries to three or four key players all around the same time and the picture starts to look a little rosier. It infers that our fortunes would have been vastly different without those injuries, which infers that any squad additions this summer would be to create a gap between Arsenal and other clubs rather than closing one.
Most significantly Arsenal now have a trophy in the cabinet at the Emirates. A new football stadium rarely feels like home until you have won something and now the club has.
One of the most important changes Arsenal have had over the past few seasons is an even spreading of the load, which has allowed them to cope with player injuries and still meet minimum objectives (finishing at least fourth) and secondary objectives (winning a domestic cup competition). Arsenal of three years ago would have finished mid-table with the injuries to key players we had this season.
The biggest change, and the most glorious, is the change from a selling club to a buying club. We have gone from losing our brightest stars to the riches of Chelsea, City, United and Barcelona to buying world-class talent from some of the biggest clubs in the world. We started relatively small by purchasing a solid base in Mertesacker, Koscielny and Arteta, before moving on to signing the top striker in the French league, a potent German forward who still had a huge reputation and one of La Liga’s best kept secrets and most talented players.
Then Arsenal moved on to the big fish. The signing of Mesut Ozil last summer was a watershed moment. It announced Arsenal’s arrival to the big-boy table and saw us capture the best No 10 on the planet from arguably the world’s biggest club. Real Madrid probably didn’t need to sell, and certainly didn’t have to sell such a fantastic player, but they did and Arsenal was the club that got him.
"They have followed it up with the signature of one of the best players in the world from yet another club of gargantuan stature"
And now they have followed it up with the signature of one of the best players in the world from yet another club of gargantuan stature. People are used to seeing Arsenal raid the Barcelona youth ranks as often as Barcelona raided the Arsenal first team but surely no-one expected to see us sign arguably Barcelona’s second best player from last season?
What is utterly superb about all of this is Sanchez’s cost, once fees from Fabregas, Vela and Djourou plus what Barcelona owe Arsenal, is factored in is likely to be quite nominal. Arsenal still have plenty of money in the bank and with new deals in effect they have the means to continue buying players of this quality and paying enough money to keep them interested.
Arsenal may not be able to contend with the salaries on offer at City, Chelsea or PSG, but if you pay well enough and you are successful then you have no reason to fear players wanting to leave.
Arsenal are halfway there with their new finances and with the quality of player we’ve been signing, the other half isn’t far away. We are leading the way in the transfer market and it’s going to be hard for others to keep pace with us if everyone stays fit.