01 June 2015

Arsenal poised to pounce on transfer-targets to make the most of FA Cup success...

At a risk of sounding ingrateful while the confetti's still getting swept up, we had better capitalise on having won the FA Cup again and finishing third in the Prem. With the first achievement, we've made history; with the second, we have to feel like something slipped through our fingers. Then again, a third-place finish should (and had better) pave the way for the club to sign the players we need in order to challenge Chelsea for the Prem title. In past seasons, we've been told by Arsène that we needed to qualify for the Champions League before signing players of a certain calibre. Whether this has been a fig-leaf for other fiduciary concerns is an open question. We know that we have needs to address if we're to be taken seriously as contenders for the Prem title.

It's not as if Arsène is averse to making signings early in the window, but it does seem like he needs extenuating circumstances before reaching for the cheque-book. In the summer of 2012, after all, we signed Podolski in April and Giroud in June.The signing of Santi Cazorla happened in early August, making it seem like we were for once doing our business early—however, we had finished third in 2012 and had to either convince van Persie to stay or find replacements after he left (which he would do a week after Cazorla signed...). In 2013, our only signing of note, Mesut Özil, occured on deadline-day after we had defeated Fenerbahçe to qualify for the Champions League group-stage. In 2014, we saw a splurge similar to but bigger than that of 2012, with Alexis, Chambers, and Debuchy coming in before we had defeated Beşiktaş. Welbeck came in just a few days later.

Aside from (or in addition to) the issue of Champions League qualification, one other constant that seems to tie these signings together is financial pressure. Málaga had to sell in order to balance its books. Real Madrid were looking to "balance" their books as they signed Bale from Tottenham. Barcelona were doing the same as they signed Suarez from Liverpool. Manchester United had to do something similar as they loaned in Falcao. Southampton and Newcastle have had to cope with being feeder-clubs, selling their best assets off year after year (with one of them managing quite a bit better than the other...).

Back to us, we go into the summer flush from the FA Cup triumph and a bit bitter at the third place finish. After all, we had second place in our grasp but let it slip by dropping five points at home in the final weeks—the loss to Swansea and the draw to Sunderland. Still, third place is a far cry from fourth: we won't have to wade through the morass of Champions League qualification, whether the foe be Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, or Udinese. In other words, that fig-leaf has fallen away. We should no longer have to tell ourselves or be told that we have to be assured of qualifying for the group stage before plumping for the likes of Benzema, Vidal, or Schneiderlin.

Of those three, I'd imagine that we'll go for one marquee signing (not that it would be one of them, necessarily), along with the signings of three or four mid-level players, similar to our dealings of a year ago. Schneiderlin emerges as a likely target, what with his ambitions of a season ago thwarted by Southampton and his desire to play in the Champions League. Benzema and Vidal seem like long shots; Real Madrid have in recent years sold di María, Morata, Özil, and Higuaín, among others and seem unlikely to part with Benzema, who works well with Ronaldo. Juventus, of course, have won the Serie A title and will face off against Barcelona for the Champions League crown next weekend; they're unlikely to sell off a key-player like Vidal or Pogba.

Still, anything can happen and frequently does. Witness the Higuaín debacle, when everyone including his own father had him headed for Arsenal only to end up at Napoli; or the Özil orgasm, when no one knew anything of it until it happened.

As much as I hate to rain on the parade, then, we have to capitalise on the momentum that we've generated. Finishing third might feel like a disappointment on its face, but, together with the FA Cup victory, Arsenal looks likes a prime destination for eager players. Let's hope that Arsène makes the most of the moment.

Thanks, as always, for your visit. I hope you'll share your thoughts on our ambitions in the comments-section below!