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Grading Arsenal on Their 2015 Summer Transfer Window Dealings

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistSeptember 1, 2015

Arsenal's goalkeeper Petr Cech ahead of their English Premier League soccer match between Newcastle United and Arsenal at St James' Park, Newcastle, England, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
Scott Heppell/Associated Press

The transfer window is closed, and Arsenal’s squad will remain the same—at least until January. At the end of the transfer period, it seems appropriate to analyse Arsenal’s activity in the market.

It was not the busiest of windows for Arsene Wenger. A year ago, he added five new players to the squad, recruiting Mathieu Debuchy, Alexis Sanchez, David Ospina, Calum Chambers and—on deadline day itself—Danny Welbeck. However, this summer he has signed just one senior player: goalkeeper Petr Cech. There have not been many departures either, with only one player leaving the club for a recognised fee.

In this piece, we'll take a look at Arsenal’s business before attempting to establish an overall grade. 

Signings

Cech was the only major arrival at Arsenal this summer. He is undoubtedly a good addition and an upgrade on the Gunners’ previous goalkeepers. Since the departure of Jens Lehmann, Wenger has struggled to identify a credible No. 1. By signing a multiple Premier League champion, he has effectively brought with him a guarantee of quality.

A mooted fee of £10 million seems very reasonable for a player with Cech’s credentials. Even at the age of 33, he still has plenty of years left at the top. The success of Edwin van der Sar, who continued to impress for Manchester United into his 40th year, will inspire Cech to prolong his already remarkable career.

The only other additions to the squad were on the academy side. Based on his performances in the Emirates Cup, Jeff Reine-Adelaide is a tremendous prospect and certainly one to watch. However, it will be some time before his impact is felt on the first team. The best he can hope for this season is the odd cameo in the Capital One Cup.

Despite the astute addition of Cech, most Arsenal fans were hoping for more signings on deadline day. There are two major areas of the squad that could do with reinforcement.

The first is in defensive midfield, where there is no satisfying alternative to the combative Francis Coquelin. Mathieu Flamini appears to have fallen out of favour, while Mikel Arteta is increasingly seen as too frail to thrive in the war zone of the midfield. The acquisition of a tough-tackling ball-winner would not have gone amiss.

Then there’s the attacking situation to consider. Arsenal have struggled for goals in the early part of the season, and there is a lingering suspicion that they need a world-class centre-forward to become true title contenders.

Despite continual speculation about a potential move for Karim Benzema—Thierry Henry even went as far as to tell SkySports that he felt his fellow Frenchman could make Arsenal champions again—no move was forthcoming.

Manchester United’s exorbitant bid to land Anthony Martial shows just how hard it is to unearth an elite striker in today’s market. Wenger could not find any value and so decided to stick with what he has. Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck will be charged with scoring the goals to keep Arsenal in contention for silverware.

That will frustrate many Arsenal fans. When you look at what the other big clubs in the Premier League have spent this season, Arsenal’s outlay of £10 million looks comparatively meagre. Wenger will point to the collective outlay over the last 12 months, but with their rivals aggressively recruiting new talent, there is a danger Arsenal may not keep pace with their competition.

At the end of each window, fans want to feel their club has done all it can to ensure it has a chance of success in the coming season. Wenger has effectively declared he could not find a defensive midfielder superior to Flamini or a striker of greater calibre than the current trio on his books.

That will be difficult for many supporters to swallow, and there will be an understandable fear that Arsenal’s relative inactivity could come back to bite them later in the season.

Outgoings

Arsenal’s lack of signings is in part explained by the decision to keep most of their squad intact. Lukas Podolski was the only player sold for a fee, and he had already spent half of last season on loan at Inter Milan.

Daniel Ochoa de Olza/Associated Press

Abou Diaby was another to go, having been released from his contract. It must have been a painful decision for Wenger, who has kept faith with the midfielder through a succession of injury problems. However, in the end he had little choice: It has been some time since Diaby was able to make a regular and reliable contribution to the Arsenal squad.

He has subsequently joined Marseille, and most Arsenal fans are united in wishing him all the best with his new club.

Ryo Miyaichi, another player dogged by injuries, was also allowed to move on a free transfer. Despite the high hopes which were held for him as a youngster, his release felt justifiable and appropriate. 

Most of the departures from Arsenal this summer were on loan. The arrival of Cech forced Wojciech Szczesny into a temporary move to Roma, although it would be something of a surprise if he ever returned to north London.

Carl Jenkinson extended his loan deal with West Ham, albeit with an extension to his Arsenal contract as recompense. A trio of young attackers consisting of Yaya Sanogo, Chuba Akpom and Serge Gnabry was also afforded the chance to move elsewhere in search of regular first-team football.

Mel Evans/Associated Press

There were a couple of players who surprisingly stayed. Flamini seems to now be surplus to requirements, while it was also a bit of a shock to see Joel Campbell remain with the club. After an unimpressive loan spell with Villarreal, it’s difficult to see how he will contribute to the first team.

The positive side of Arsenal’s outgoing business is that they did not lose any key players. The contracts of Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott were extended, and Wenger kept the bulk of his squad together.

Conclusion

The addition of Cech is a big step forward for Arsenal. However, it’s merely one step at a time when the Gunners still seem some way short of being true title challengers.

Retaining stability in the squad is a positive, but in order to give himself the best possible chance of lifting the Premier League trophy in May, Wenger ought to have pressed ahead and made further signings. Arsenal may be left ruing their relative inactivity come the end of the season. 

Grade: B

James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and is following the club from a London base throughout 2015/16. Follow him on Twitter here.

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