As transfer deadline day gets ever closer, so the speculation surrounding clubs gets wilder and the list of rumoured targets gets longer.
For no club is that truer than Arsenal, who have so far underwhelmed—to put it mildly—with their summer transfer business.
Friday afternoon (t-minus three days until the close of the window) saw a number of different reports about the Gunners’ late swoops, with the most prominent suggesting an audacious move for the Real Madrid trio Karim Benzema, Angel Di Maria and Mesut Ozil, as reported by Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail.
All three would upgrade Arsenal’s squad—indeed, signing any one of them would change the dynamic of the squad for the better—but it is not so much the talent of those players that Arsenal need.
They simply need the bodies.
Arsene Wenger has long argued that he does not necessarily need to make big signings this summer. That may or may not be the case, but he is within his rights to believe his current first-choice XI is capable of achieving his aims this season.
Whether he is correct in that assessment is for observers to argue over, and the fullness of time to prove, but either way, he is entitled to the opinion.
But he can be under no illusions that the squad he currently has is simply not deep enough to cope with the rigours of domestic and European campaigns.
The news that Lukas Podolski will miss as much as 10 weeks with a hamstring injury picked up in the recent Champions League qualifier against Fenerbahce should only draw that into sharper focus.
Without Podolski, and with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain already sidelined, Arsenal are currently restricted greatly in attacking areas.
Santi Cazorla can perhaps be moved wide left in the 4-3-3 system Wenger prefers, but that removes the Spaniard from the centre, where he can perhaps be more effective. Podolski’s absence also puts huge pressure on striker Olivier Giroud—an injury to whom would leave Wenger relying on Yaya Sanogo, one of his two summer signings to date, to lead the line
Sanogo, 22, appears raw, however—a talent not yet fully formed or ready for consistent top-flight appearances.
Indeed, Arsenal’s striker shortage is so serious Wenger is apparently prepared to welcome Nicklas Bendtner—a player he has only been trying to offload for the best part of two years—back into the fold.
"The chance for him to leave now is very small,” Wenger said of Bendtner in a press conference on Friday. “If he comes back well and gets fit, I will use him."
And that’s the predominant issue with Arsenal’s first-team squad. When you faze out those players still developing (Ryo Miyaichi) or those that have lost Wenger’s faith (Park Chu-Young), the Gunners only appear to have about 20 senior players to call upon.
That is nowhere near enough to successfully negotiate a full Premier League season, never mind a Champions League campaign made all the tougher by Thursday’s group stage draw (Borussia Dortmund, Napoli and Marseille ... ouch).
"We will not panic buy, you can believe me,” Wenger said of his plans for the next few days. “It is not my strength to panic."
The purchases of Park and Andre Santos (both acquired in similar circumstances to these just two years ago) offer a contradiction to that assertion, but only time will tell if Wenger is being accurate.
I want to leave. I think now is the right moment for me and for the club for me to leave amicably. I have spoken to Carlo Ancelotti and with the club, they all know.
Things are difficult for me now in the team, and the club knows what I want. It's my obligation to work and keep training, but my father is already working to see if something comes up.
I think it's the best thing for me and the club. We can only hope for a solution before this next Monday. My intention is to keep playing in Europe.
The former Ballon d’Or winner would certainly add to Arsenal’s options, albeit with the worry that he really is not the player he once was (something he has had little chance to prove either way in recent times at the Santiago Bernabeu).
Similarly, a return to old club AC Milan may seem more obvious.
As detailed by BBC Sport, the Gunners have also made a bid for Newcastle United’s Yohan Cabaye, who would be a reasonable signing. But a more practical French international to acquire might be Saint-Etienne’s Josuha Guilavogui, a powerful midfielder also capable of slotting in defence.
Saint-Etienne are keen on taking Park off Arsenal’s hands, according to Zarif Rasul's talkSPORT report, but this week failed to qualify for the Europa League. Offering the South Korean in part-exchange for Guilavogui would appear to make some obvious sense.
According to a report from Goal.com's Tim Poole, former captain Tony Adams had this to say on the matter:
They need someone to lock it up when it breaks down and I would be scouring Europe for the next Gilberto [Silva]
I must have been the only person in the country doing somersaults watching Manchester United and Chelsea keeping clean sheets the other night – two fantastic, organised, solid sides giving nothing away.
That wasn’t a boring game for me, because I was wishing Arsenal could do that more often.
Arsenal’s opponents on Sunday, archrivals Tottenham, have enjoyed the polar-opposite summer; strengthening their squad in almost every conceivable area, albeit while losing their star player (something that, as bad as everything else has been, Arsenal have avoided doing for once).
Spurs now seem streets ahead of the Gunners in the race for fourth, with only the experience—borne out of 16 successive years of qualifying for the Champions League—giving Arsenal much hope of keeping them at bay.
But even that won’t count for anything if one injury or suspension to a key player leaves the side with a gaping whole.
Wenger needs bodies, and he needs them very soon.