With the 2014 World Cup in the annals of time, football fans of all nationalities and allegiances find themselves, perhaps begrudgingly, returning to club football, eagerly awaiting its return—and Arsenal fans are no exception.
Yet there is no "begrudgingly" about Arsenal fans and their outlook so far this summer. On the contrary—in a stark contrast to summers past, Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal board are already hard at work securing reinforcements to the Gunners' squad.
The Gunners' summer transfer window exploded into life with a remarkable deal for Chilean international Alexis Sanchez, securing the immensely talented and versatile forward from Barcelona. If conjecture is to be believed, he'll be joined in the arrivals lounge by Colombian international stopper David Ospina (per Jeremy Wilson of The Telegraph), and Newcastle's right-back Mathieu Debuchy will be waiting for him there (via Matthew Celentano, B/R).
It's crucial to highlight exactly why this early transfer activity is so important. With Wenger having purportedly completed, or neared completion of the Sanchez deal whilst on commentary duties for French television in Brazil, Arsenal moved swiftly to secure a hotly contested signature before other clubs could truly react.
That's a pattern Le Professeur is seeking to reuse in his pursuit of Khedira, whose status at the Estadio Bernabeu is on the precipice after the impending arrival of countryman Toni Kroos (Tom Sheen, The Independent) and this being the final year of his contract.
Conducting transfer-related activities just after the World Cup—the ideal stage for players looking for big-money moves to prove they're worth the huge sums of money—gets Arsenal ahead of rival clubs and allows them to strengthen their personnel from a greater pool of players than if they made their moves late in August.
In contrast, Arsenal's last three summers have sorely lacked this new-found organisation and bite in the transfer market.
2011 saw Gervinho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain bought earlier in the window, but a near-total absence of activity up until the close of trade saw Wenger and his cohorts accused of lacking ambition and scraping together late deals. Though two of those were for now-stalwarts Per Mertesacker and Mikel Arteta, one was for a notorious full-back in the marauding Andre Santos.
The following summer saw some improvement, with deals conducted relatively early for the trio of Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla. Yet fans' appetites remained intact, and marred by the loss of Robin van Persie to Manchester United, the squad still lacked championship-calibre quality.
2013 saw a regression once more, as a deal for Gonzalo Higuain fell through and interest in the likes of Luis Suarez and Luiz Gustavo was not cashed in. It was only the latest of late deals, for Mesut Ozil, that likely prevented some sort of mutiny among Arsenal fans.
Yet the atmosphere of this World Cup summer is different. Ambition is almost tangible in Wenger's dealings. For the first time in a long time, Wenger can actively be seen as recruiting world-class players—and if the club's rumoured interest in Edinson Cavani is to be believed (Ibrahim Akkas, Squawka), Arsenal are showing serious intent and ambition.
It's not just big-name transfers that galvanise a club though. Arsenal's current policy is more than that.
These moves, confirmed or purely speculative, would provide Arsenal with players that could seamlessly slot into the starting 11 (absolutely the case with Sanchez, Debuchy and Khedira) or at least compete for their place (Ospina). These moves are not solely about strengthening the squad in general, it's about providing quality in depth—something the Gunners have lacked for years.
This is married with a focus on retention of players, a mainstay of previous transfer windows but now, it would seem, a memory consigned to dusty history books.
As with the aforementioned Van Persie, in addition to Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, Arsenal have lost key players in recent summers, often with no suitable replacement making their way to north London.
With a dual focus on retaining the heart of Arsenal's squad while introducing choice players to the team, Wenger is successfully preparing his side for the new Premier League campaign and simultaneously giving him plenty of different ideas as to how his side will line up on opening day against Crystal Palace.
These activities are all linked to one objective—that is, of course, to secure more silverware to perch alongside the FA Cup. With a bolstered squad, and one replete with quality at that, Wenger's men will be more prepared than ever to topple the likes of Manchester City in domestic competition, as well as challenging on the continental front as well.
Of course, anything can happen in the transfer market—its unpredictability is exactly why they call it the "silly season". But for now, at least, Wenger is trading in the uncertainty of the past for the desire and ambition of the present.
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