Grading the Transfer Window

I will get this out of the way right now - the frenzied activity of deadline day did indeed result in four new warm bodies finding their way to Ashburton Grove, and for that I suppose we should be thankful. However, I would emphatically file this transfer window as a whole under "Minimum Acceptable". because at the end of the day we are still light years behind the two Manchester sides and even Chelsea as far as challenging for any significant honors. What happened tonight brought us back from the precipice of a free-fall into the UEFA places or worse (10th place was not out of the question on the back of the drubbing at Old Trafford), but we still have a hell of a fight on our hands just to finish in 4th place again.

Don't get me wrong - I'm as excited as any other Gooner at the fact that we're not going to see any repeats of last week's debacle. But, I also urge you all to keep in mind that our ambitions degraded from Juan Manuel Mata, down to Eden Hazard, down to Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun in quick and all-too-predictable fashion. In one sense, I completely get it when Arsene says money doesn't always translate into quality...just look through Real Madrid's transfer history and you'll see a bucketload of hyper-expensive flops (Nicolas Anelka, anyone?).

However, given the despondent state of Arsenal Nation and especially coming off the back of the worst defeat in over A HUNDRED YEARS (yes, I'm harping on deserves to be harped on), a marquee signing...a true feeling of actual reinforcements...would have gone a long way towards revitalizing our faith. Seriously, Juan Mata to go with Per Mertesacker would have been all it would have taken to shut up the "In Arsene We Rust" crowd and get everyone in red and white back onside and fighting for the much as the prawn sandwich brigade at the Emirates ever will, anyway.

I don't think that was ever realistic though, whatever the reason why. Compounding the frustration is that Arsenal FC these days is as open and transparent as the Soviet Politburo circa 1945, so who the hell knows who is responsible for what these days? Arsene, The Board, this Dick Law guy...there's so much misinformation and contradictions that I for one have given up trying to make sense of it. There's no doubt in my mind that 95% of what's out there is total horseshit anyway, with the added fun of knowing that no one has any idea what 5% is actually based in reality.

With all of that said, I think the fairest and most objective way of grading this transfer window (lest I be painted as a complete Debbie Downer) is to compare the squad that finished out the campaign last season to the one that stands before us now.


Last season: Wojceich Szczesny, Lukasz Fabianski, Manuel Almunia, Vito Mannone, Jens Lehmann
This season: Same, except switch Mannone for Almunia as the No. 3, and no Lehmann

The main difference, of course, is young Szczesny's ascension to the clear and undisputed No. 1 role. Despite the marked improvement that his countryman showed last season, he was never going to be the answer. Of course, we all know that Almunia played like he was a special agent from the other end of the Seven Sisters Road, whereas Mannone has proved to be as good a No. 3 as you're ever going to see in this league.

While it would have been wonderful to finally see the back of the droopy-dog Spaniard for good, the fact that we have solidified a position that was a gaping chest wound for years is nothing but a good thing. Whatever else I have or will say about the manager and how he probably cost us trophies in the last few seasons by persisting with the Manuel and Lukasz Wrecking Company, at the very least he got it right last season by not getting the likes of Mark Schwarzer or Shay Given. Our Wojciech is better than them both already (I personally have him 4th-best in the division behind Reina, Cech and Hart), and who knows how awesome he will be when he's 27 or 28?

Grade: A+


Last season: Gael Clichy, Kieran Gibbs, Armand Traore
This season: Andre Santos, Kieran Gibbs

Well, better late than bloody never, huh? It's too bad we couldn't get Santos in earlier in the transfer window (though part of me suspects we wouldn't have bought at all had we not been bent over by the Manks), and instead had to watch as that wankstain Traore smirked his way off the Old Trafford pitch like he had been on the side with 8 instead of that divided by FOUR.

Santos looks to be a decent shout, with over 20 caps for Brazil and 10 goals last season (ludicrous for a fullback) for Fenerbache. One can picture him being somewhat of a defensive liability when taken in a vacuum, but actually I'm OK with that. You have to remember that "fullback vs. opposing winger" is a constant struggle in any game of modern football, and an effective marauding fullback can in many cases neutralize an opponent's width. The problem is that if he gets hurt, what are we left with? Treatment Room Specialist Kieran Gibbs has gone back to being the backup, but remember that for all his faults, at least Clichy was durable enough to make it through most of the games. Hopefully Santos is the same, but if he's not or gets suspended, we have to hope that it falls in the 50% of the time Gibbs won't be crocked. Had that happened last season, despite the fact that he's toilet, we still at least had a recognized last back. If we don't have Santos or Gibbs, we're left with our best center-half out of position, our best RB out of position, or the backup RB who got flambeed by United out of position. Frightening.

Grade: B- Depth is a concern, but LB was a problem area with Clichy decomposing before our eyes...Santos can't help but be better. Just don't get hurt, mate.


Last season: Thomas Vermaelen (permanently crocked), Laurent Koscielny, Johan Djourou, Sebastien Squillaci, Ignasi Miquel
This season: Thomas Vermaelen, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Johan Djourou, Sebastien Squillaci, Ignasi Miquel

The good news here is that an epic Rube Goldberg machine of events has to happen before young Miquel finds his way to the bench or in a game again, and only slightly less has to happen to see the execrable Squillaci. Also, TV5 is LIKE A NEW SIGNING~!~!~!~!

Kidding aside, we are in much better shape here unless our German ends up pulling a Squillaci on us.

An underrated part of this as well is that as much as I talk about the deterioration of Gael Clichy, what in the entire fuck is happening with Johan Djourou? Even as recently as two seasons ago, he was a relatively solid defender whose main problem was constant injury. Now, he's more durable but far less consistent...and when he's bad, he's shambolic. Having Mertesacker around means that Koscielny becomes the main insurance policy, and thus far less playing time for Djourou. At this stage, I cannot begin to tell you how comfortable I am with that.

When it comes down to it, one center-half was the requirement...and when you consider we got a 75-cap German with tons of top-level experience vs. an English guy from Bolton with what is it, 1 cap? And we got him for a third of the price? Arsene got it really right here.

Grade: A- The only thing I would have liked even more is Mertesacker AND Phil Jagielka.


Last season: Bacary Sagna, Emmanuel Eboue
This season: Bacary Sagna, Carl Jenkinson

Sagna is and will remain one of the best right backs in the division, but my god is this a downgrade at the backup slot. Yes, I said it...a downgrade from Emmanuel Eboue.

It's not that I have a problem with us getting Jenkinson, per se. He's an OK prospect and having him in the reserves for a year before sending him out on loan somewhere, to return ready to play in year 3? That makes sense to me. Having him and all 8 games of his third-tier experience playing at Old Trafford because one guy got sick? Institutional lunacy of the worst order. Absolute clown shoes.

I actually think we should have kept Eboue for one more year, or gone out and gotten an older reserve type to tide us over until Jenkinson was ready. And, who's third-choice, curiously?

GRADE: D Would be an F, but Sagna is usually durable enough where this shouldn't be a major issue


Last season: Cesc Fabregas, Jack Wilshere, Alex Song, Denilson, Abou Diaby, Aaron Ramsey (assaulted by a violent psychopath)
This season: Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Song, Emmanuel Frimpong, Abou Diaby, Francis Coquelin

I only list Diaby here for completion's sake - he was perma-crocked last season, he'll be perma-crocked this season, he'll be perma-crocked the season after that. I don't even want to know what kind of ridiculous wages he's on, but it sure is indicative of the institutional lunacy of paying guys like him shedloads of money (multiplied by a factor of 5 or 10 considering how much deadwood and busted flushes are in the squad), but refusing to break the top end of the wage structure for players of established and demonstrable quality. It's beyond comprehension.

The good news is that the universally-reviled Denilson is gone, off to Brazil on loan and hopefully NEVER BLOODY SEEN AGAIN. Replacing him with Emmanuel Frimpong is nothing but positive - the young Ghanian has a tremendously-high ceiling and is about the age where he should be playing first-team football.

The bad news is that we lost one of the 3 or 4 best central midfielders in the world, sold for about 30-35 million euros based on what birdcage-liner you believe. With all of that money splashing around, we replaced him with...umm....yeah.

The upshot of what you see here is that there is an immense pressure on a 19-year old and a guy coming back from a horrific career-threatening injury to replace one of the greatest midfielders in the world, the guy who was the club talisman. That, friends, is dereliction of duty and poses a clear and present danger to the development of the two young players. Sure, some of the guys we got on deadline day could play there in the event of injury/suspension, but it's not their natural positions and overall, we have a GIANT Cesc-shaped hole in the squad that could easily have been filled but wasn't.

Even if you want to argue that one of them could play that position with no problem (I'd disagre, but I'll roll with it for argument's sake), you're replacing Cesc Fabregas with guys who are older, even more injury-prone and not nearly as good. It would have been unrealistic to expect another Fabregas to roll in the entry door, but we took a 10 out of 10 and replaced it with either nothing or at best a 6 out of 10 based on what you think the replacement was. No fucking bueno.

GRADE: D- Only saved from an F by the departure of the unlamented Denilson.


Last season: Samir Nasri, Andrei Arshavin, Tomas Rosicky, Theo Walcott, Carlos Vela
This season: Gervinho, Mikel Arteta, Andrei Arshavin, Yossi Benayoun, Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Well, there's more warm bodies here, if nothing else.

Here's the thing, though. Arteta would have been a fine player to bring in 2 or 3 seasons ago, where he could have complemented the weapons we already had. Hell, you bring him and Mertesacker in 2 years ago, and we could well be talking about the two-time defending champion Arsenal side (not to mention any domestic cups we may have won). It's such a frustrating rabbit hole to mentally go down, but I can't help it. There's so many missed opportunities.

Anyway, that wasn't to be. We have Arteta now, and I freely admit that there will be games where he just DESTROYS teams. He can still pick out a pass, and if memory serves he'll bomb them in from long range every now and again. Great. But, he's coming up on 30, injury-prone, and has never been one to relish the big occasions or the blood-and-thunder epics that the Premier League throws at you from time to time. He's extremely light-weight, in other words. So, while there will be times where he links up to devastating effect with Gervinho and the striker, and while he perhaps may finally spark Arshavin back to life, the flip side is that he will (like the Russian) ghost his way through games at times. Also, I have very little confidence that he'll go the whole season without missing significant time along the way.

That brings me to Benayoun. I don't have quite the same level of venom for the signing as the lads at the Arseblog forums do, but I'm thoroughly unimpressed at the same time. Have we honestly learned nothing from the Mikael Silvestre debacle? Look, I'm not saying Yossi is anywhere near as painfully terrible as the Frenchman was, but it comes down to one basic principle for me:

If one of your direct competitors is willing to give you one of their current first-team players, the odds are overwhelming that there is a reason why they're letting you have them.

I can't stress that enough. Sure, there's the chance that Benayoun just insulted the wrong guy's mother or something and will be perfectly fine for us. In that case, Chelsea won't have any intention of letting him stay once his loan period is up. It's just a baffling signing to me that absolutely reeks of last-second desperation.

Walcott and Rosicky are known quantities - Theo is a maddening talent that will every so often remember how to finish, while Rosicky just takes up space. He's had some decent appearances in the last few times out, but do you really want him playing 40 games? He has all of the end product of a broken assembly line. Whatever you think about Arteta and Benayoun, it at least pushes the Czech man to the margins.

Now, we come to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and this is where I want to go Jules Winfield on the nearest person. Riddle me this, Batman...why is it that we're willing to spend TWELVE TO FIFTEEN MILLION EUROS on an 18-year old from the third tier who has accomplished the square root of fuck all, but we let a reserve clause of only perhaps 5 million more slip away for Juan Manuel Mata...who is not only a top-level talent, but we let him get away to bloody Chelski on top of it?

Please...if this doesn't make blood vessels in your brain burst with rage, please leave a comment below and tell me how the club can justify this.

Grade: C- A real marquee signing here would have made us a lot more dangerous, and the Oxlade-Chamberlain thing is completely and utterly indefensible. That said, the stopgap signings we did make will at least stanch some of the bleeding.


Last season: Robin van Persie, Marouane Chamakh, Nicklas Bendtner
This season: Robin van Persie, Marouane Chamakh, Park Chu-Young, Ryo Miyaichi

Please, Robin...don't get hurt. Please.

Last season, Chamakh's torrid first half of the season gave us just enough goals to get by until van Persie recovered from injury and found a purple patch of his own. Whereas Chamakh quickly disintegrated into a empty shell devoid of confidence or ability, van Persie scored the goals that kept us in the Champions League. The only ray of light in the pitch darkness of last season's denouement is the idea that it would have been infinitely worse without the Dutchman.

We find ourselves yet again in a position where we overly rely on RVP, who a cynic may say is playing the part of Cesc Fabregas this season. His contract is running out too, and with the current state of affairs, would YOU stay in his shoes? We're supporters, we love this club deep in our bones so of course we would answer one way. But if you're a player with only X amount of years in this game and a desire to win things and a hard cap on the top end of the wage structure, what keeps you here right now? It's a sobering bloody thought, I don't mind saying.

Any time he gets hurt or suspended, we're left with the faltering Chamakh as the fallback option, and that's about it. Miyaichi had a decent season in the Dutch league on loan with Feyenoord, but he hasn't proven a damn thing in the Premier League. As far as I'm concerned, he's a League Cup squad member at best until proven otherwise.

Park Chu-Young, on the other hand, is at least a slightly better gamble. He was relegated with Monaco last season, but he did score some goals and he has a shit-ton of caps for South Korea (not a World Cup-winning side or anything, but clearly the best team in Asia). I actually looked at his scoring record for his country, and I noticed that damn near all of his goals tied a game or gave his team the lead. That's at least one bright spot. The caveat, of course, is that this a cut-price signing from the French know, kind of like Marouane Chamakh. Oh, and he has to go back home to Korea in a year or two to do his military service. I mean, are you kidding me with this? C'MON, SON.

Again, this is a position that was crying out for some established, veteran help...and is another position where what we have is essentially a roll of quarters and a bus ticket to Atlantic City (when Robin misses games, that is).

We are one interlull injury to our new talisman away from being in serious, serious trouble until January.

Grade: D I am absolutely willing to be proven wrong with our Southeast Asian contingent, but they have to prove it on the field.

All in all, at best we have taken sideways steps in a season where our rivals have largely improved. The squad has been improved enough where 4th place is a legitimate goal again, but that's coming off a season where we were in 4 competitions (and had given Barcelona a much tougher fight than the esteemed champions up in Surrey did) right up until the League Cup disaster.

Honestly - can you see this lot troubling Barcelona (now with 100% more Cesc)? Can you see this team seriously troubling Chelsea for third place?

It doesn't look good in my eyes. If you disagree, shoot us a comment here, on Twitter or on Facebook and tell us why.

Overall Grade: D