For the first half of last season Arsenal were on fire. A metaphorical fire, not a real fire where they needed to flail about amusingly to put it out. The flailing about amusingly was saved almost entirely for their defensive efforts at the back end of the season.
At the time, they were in the top two and Mesut Ozil was looking like the signing of the season. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny were playing like a dream at the back so much so that someone invented the not at all cringe-worthy name of ‘Mertescielny’ to capture the bromance.
But, not long into the new year, it all collapsed like Luis Suarez in the penalty area. This season it’s different, the chequebook has been taken out of solitary confinement and the right type of players have been brought in.
1. Alexis Sánchez £35m
Arsenal fans will have been in dreamland when it was announced that they had signed Alexis Sánchez for £35 million. But, that he won’t turn out to be a complete waste of space while on the pitch (cough Mesut Ozil cough). Sánchez will have a lot of expectation on his shoulders after scoring 19 goals and setting up 12 without being a regular starter at Barcelona in 34 league games. His strike conversation of 31% shows that he has a knack for finding the back of the net.
In the couple of pre-season games that he has played Wenger seems to want to play him down the middle. He has done it before with Thierry Henry and with Robin Van Persie. Turning them from wingers to out and out strikers. If he can Sánchez could be a shrewd bet for this year’s top scorer. He has the ability to be able to fire Arsenal back to the summit of English football, but it will take him time to adjust to the league.
2. Mathieu Debuchy £12m
For the last seven years Bacary Sagna has been a mainstay at right back for Arsenal. When he left for the Man City at the end of the season there was a lot of talk about possible replacements. Almost immediately Debuchy was linked with the London club. A strange feeling for Newcastle fans, a French player going out the door.
He averages 2.5 tackles a game compared to Sagna’s 1.32 and isn’t afraid to put himself about. He made an average of five blocks a game and two interceptions a game, Sagna could only make two blocks a game and one interception. His disciplinary record is something that will worry Arsene Wenger. Eight yellows and one red in the league is a cause for worry. Except to see him in the thick of the action come the North London derby. He should be the prefect replacement for Sagna.
3. Calum Chambers £16m
Calum Chambers is already looking like a good signing. He did well in the Community Shield final after a solid season last year. Chambers made 22 appearances for the Saints last season when they still had players and was a vital cog in their back four. He will suit Arsenal’s style down to the ground with a 79% pass accuracy and he created 12 chances last season. Both Mertresacker and Koscienly had a much better pass completion of 93%, but could only create two and three chances respectively.
Wenger played him in the centre of defense for the Community Shield game and he had a brilliant game on Edin Dezko. Chambers would compliment Mertesacker and Koscielny well especially after the departure of Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona. with Ospina behind them. Arsenal’s defensive problems seem to be a thing of the past.
4. David Ospina £3m
David Ospina could well turn out to be the best buy of all the players that Arsenal have brought in this summer. The cheapest signing by about nine million pounds and possibly the most important. Last season he conceded less than a goal a game for a very average Nice side. Fair enough it’s League 1, but their was still the self proclaimed God among men Zlatan Ibrahimovic, James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao and Alexandre Lacazette.
In every area he had better stats than Szczesny. An average of nearly three saves per game, a claim rate of 98% and an average of over three saves per goal. Not to mention his 12 clean sheets in 28 games. Szczesny could only manage just under two saves per game, a goal a game conceded and 16 clean sheets in 36 games. Arsenal had serious problems at the back last year, getting torn apart by City and Liverpool like a bunch of rabid dogs fighting over a badger. Ospina could be the answer.