Countdown To The End Of The Transfer Window

As I write, there are approximately 2 hours left until the time for transfers is officially over. I doubt we’ll see any new faces welcomed into the squad on this last day, but Wenger has surprised me in the past and maybe he’ll do it again. Speaking of our manager, he’s been his usual tight-lipped and furtive self, saying that we’ve “maybe not finished” when it comes to transfers. Yet for fear of giving some Gooners conniptions, he quickly followed that up with: “as it is today, it is finished”. Truly illuminating Arsčne! Anyway, seeing as I think our foray into the player market is over for another six months, I’d thought I’d take a brief look over the ‘Ins’ and the ‘Outs’.
OUT
Fran Mérida
Mérida signed with us in 2007 amongst a storm of controversy regarding his contract and some high-profile teams, including Real Madrid and AC Milan, were after the youngster’s signature. He was, and still is, considered to be an emerging star of the future and Arsčne Wenger gave him a glowing report, describing him as “an absolutely amazing player”. Despite his potential, Mérida struggled to make a name for himself during his period at the Grove and, earlier this summer, declined the new contact we’d offered him. You can’t blame him for leaving us though, Fran made less than a dozen first-team appearances in three years and when you’re in a team awash with so many young, technically-advanced midfielders, it would have been a long wait before he’d broken into the starting eleven. (Stunning goal against Liverpool in the Carling Cup last season though!)
Philippe Senderos
Another highly rated teenager when he signed with us in 2003 from Swiss club Servette, it took Philippe only two years to make an impact on the first-team. When Sol Campbell was out-of-action through injury in 2005, the 20-year-old Swiss stepped in as a more than adequate replacement. This marked the start of a 12 match run without conceding for Senderos, and also saw him named in the winning line-up against Man United in the FA Cup Final. That same year, Philippe was voted 3rd in the Arsenal Fans’ Player of the Season poll and the following year, along with Kolo Touré, broke Champions League records by maintaining 10 clean sheets. Despite his somewhat impressive statistics, Senderos couldn’t break back into the first-team squad for love nor money over the last few seasons, with William Gallas being the preferred choice. He spent time on loan at AC Milan and Everton before signing for Fulham on a free transfer. I always felt sorry for Senderos, if not for his terrible injury record, I thought he may have had a decent career with Arsenal!
Sol Campbell
The first part of Sol’s career with Arsenal doesn’t need covering again, it’s documented well enough on the base of many-a-trophy! But his second stint with us, though important at times, won’t go down in history for any defining moments. After leaving us for Portsmouth, Sol made headlines by signing for League 1 club Notts County – it was quite a shock move at the time, as many still considered him to have more ability than League 1 warranted. They may have been right too, because he promptly left following just one game! After training with us during the winter of 2009, Sol surprised the world yet again by resigning as a Gunner in the January window. Probably inducted back into the squad due to his motivational techniques more than his skills on the pitch, Sol still had to plug a hole in our defence last season when Vermaelen and Gallas were both on the treatment table. I had hoped Campbell would stay with us for another season, just for his experience, but rumour has it his new girlfriend spanked him into submission on a move to Newcastle.
Mikaël Silvestre
When Wenger looks back over his glittering career, when he’s retired and sipping rum on the beaches of the Caribbean – that rum will stick in his throat when he remembers signing Mikaël Silvestre.
Eduardo Da Silva
When Eduardo joined us, he was one of the brightest talents in European football. Wenger had long been searching for that ‘fox-in-the-box’ type striker and many thought he had finally found him when the Croatian signed for £7.5M in 2007. He may have only been playing in the Croatian league, but he averaged more than a goal every two games for Dinamo Zagreb and finished one season with 34 goals in 32 appearances! Stats like that, wherever you’re playing, cannot be scoffed at. Eduardo enjoyed an exciting start to his career as a Gunner, but we all know what happened in February 2008. A horrible double-fracture on his left leg and dislocated ankle saw the striker sidelined for a full year. Eduardo returned to action in February 2009 but appeared to have lost a lot of his spark, probably playing with fear of repeating such a horrific injury, and couldn’t maintain a first-team place. Arsčne Wenger later said that Eduardo would now be better suited to a “less physical league”. That appeared to be the case, as Eduardo joined Shakhtar Donetsk for £6M earlier this summer. He looks to be enjoying another bright start to life with Shakhtar, and I hope we welcome him back in the Champions League group stages this year!
William Gallas
Few players divide opinion with the aplomb of hot-headed Frenchman William (Billy) Gallas. He joined our ranks in 2006 amongst claims from Chelsea that he’d threatened to score own-goals against the club if forced to play, claims which he always denied. So, in a deal that saw us lose our own self-indulged Lothario, Ashley Cole, we secured the signing of this experienced centre-back. Not too long after his arrival at the club, Billy was handed the Captain’s armband by Arsčne Wenger – another move which raised eyebrows among the Gooner nation. One of his most memorable outings as Captain came during the match at Birmingham where Eduardo had his leg broken. After the match, when we had conceded a late penalty to throw away the win, Gallas staged a sit-down protest on the pitch, staying there alone until Wenger came out to console him. Gallas also famously struggled to get along with many members of the squad, Samir Nasri and Robin Van Persie in particular, the latter of which Gallas claimed had ‘shown no respect’ for him. On 24th November 2008, Billy was officially stripped of his Captaincy after being quoted in the ‘Associated Press’ as saying that Arsenal’s young players needed to show more courage before they won anything. But despite all this dressing-room wrangling, most Gooners would struggle to deny Gallas’ contribution on the pitch. He may have argued and sulked but he showed utter commitment when playing and, arguably, had his best season alongside Vermaelen last campaign. After failing to agree terms with us again this summer, he left on a free transfer, only to be picked up by the Cocks of North London. Billy is now a truly hot potato. 
IN
Marouane Chamakh
When it comes to the media sounding their trumpets over new players joining the Premier League, relatively little noise has been made over the acquisition of Marouane Chamakh. I can only think that this has been because he has joined us on a free transfer. The press are known to be dense enough to judge players purely on their transfer fee instead of their ability or potential. But this doesn’t bother me, I’m actually quite glad Chamakh has slipped into our team minus the DPS! Of all our three signings, Marouane excites me the most, he looks like he’ll add some elements to our game that we’ve lacked for quite a while now. He’s not a fast player (unlike the rest of our attackers!) but what he lacks in pace, he replaces with strength and technicality. He leaps after every ball, throws himself into opposition ‘keepers, has some remarkably deft hold-up-play and looks deeply committed. I loved seeing him quell Chris Samba at Ewood Park on Saturday! If he didn’t make headlines when he joined, I have a sneaking suspicion that Chamakh will change that radically in the upcoming seasons. 
Laurent Koscielny
As I’ve written before, I don’t know anything about Laurent other than what I saw at the Emirates Cup and in his two Premiership games so far this season. In fairness to him, I’ve liked what I’ve seen, but it’s still far to early to form a judgement. Wenger and his scouts must have seem something in him though, to decide that a defender who was playing in French Ligue 2 just over a year ago is ready for the Premier League, must signify that he’s got some serious latent skills. Interestingly, Laurent only started playing football properly at the age of 17, and to go from a beginner to a top team like Arsenal in only seven years is highly impressive. Fingers crossed then that Wenger has unearthed another hidden gem, and that we’ll go on to see a sparkling partnership with Thomas Vermaelen at the heart of our defence. 
Sébastien Squillaci
Arsenal needed centre-backs and Arsenal needed experience. Luckily for us, Squillaci checks both those boxes. At the age of 30, Sébastien has evidently been signed up for his ability to read the game and, hopefully, to lead from the back. I can’t imagine he has the pace to outrun Rooney or the strength to outmuscle Drogba, but if a player has the right positional intelligence and the determination, such physical issue should become irrelevant. It’s also a positive factor that Squillaci has experience playing along side Sagna and Clichy in the France national team and, being French, will be able to communicate easily with all the rest of our defence. If I were to make an assumption, I’d say Squillaci will be second choice behind Koscielny, because I think Laurent and Thomas will be our long-term defensive partners. Having said that, I can see Séb’ in the starting eleven for some of our tougher away fixtures this season, especially when it comes to the knock-out phases of the Champions League. Hopefully his continental experience will prove invaluable at the business end of the season.
 

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