In a bullish mood on Friday morning, Arsène Wenger strongly quashed rumours that Barcelona have any chance of signing Aaron Ramsey.
“All our players want to stay here at Arsenal this summer. I have no concerns at all.”
Arsenal are in a position to offer players huge wages and can fund the signings of superstars as ambitions grow. The money is there, it can be used however is necessary, and neither clubs nor players will easily bully and outmuscle us in the transfer market for the foreseeable future.
The move to Emirates Stadium saw Arsenal struggling to compete for major honours.
The Invincibles were broken up too quickly and the team-building process was too slow as young players had to be allowed to develop.
We couldn’t buy ready made stars to replace the ones that we were losing.
Not since the Invincibles have we won the league, but we have come far closer three times than any other. All three came when we didn’t lose a first-team player the summer beforehand.
Wenger’s confidence bodes well ahead of the transfer window and season to come.
We can all agree that the Invincibles broke up too early.
First to go were Patrick Vieira and Edu, before we even left Highbury.
The first of two consecutive fourth place finishes in a row came in 2006, with the same league position in 2007 following the departures of Sol Campbell, Lauren, Ashley Cole, Robert Pirès and Dennis Bergkamp.
Freddie Ljungberg and Thierry Henry left in the summer of 2007 but between them had started just 31 of the 76 Premier League games they could have started that season – no loss that wasn’t already being accounted for.
It wasn’t the breaking of the squad but of a leg that curtailed the title charge in 2007/08.
Eduardo da Silva had enjoyed a good start to his Arsenal career. With Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie both injured the Gunners needed the Croatian to carry the goal burden, but his season was ended in February. Arsenal could have gone eight points clear on that fateful day in Birmingham having lost just one of the first 26 games of the season.
Eduardo’s injury damaged an Arsenal side that eventually finished just four points off the top of the table.
A hole emerged in Arsenal’s midfield a year later as Gilberto Silva and Mathieu Flamini both left. The club isn’t spared the blame – the contract situations of both should have been sorted sooner. Alex Hleb went to Barcelona and, a year later, Kolo Touré and Emmanuel Adebayor were wearing the sky blue of Manchester City.
It took until 2010 for Arsenal to build once again. A frugal summer saw no first team players leave while Laurent Koscielny was the only notable addition for a fee – Marouane Chamakh joined for free.
Chamakh netted 10 goals before December in the absence of Robin van Persie but, despite the return of the Dutchman, injuries and a disjointed setup saw crucial points dropped as the season neared it’s end.
A loss in the League Cup Final coupled with injuries to Theo Walcott and Cesc Fàbregas left us vulnerable, and the squad wasn’t good enough to cope. With five games left Arsenal were three points shy of the top, but it wasn’t to be.
Fàbregas then got his move to Barcelona and, crucially, the club also lost Samir Nasri.
“Imagine the worst situation – we lose Fabregas and Nasri – you cannot convince people we are ambitious after that.”
Wenger clearly fancied his chances of convincing Nasri to stay but it didn’t happen. More than ever before Arsenal struggled to cope with the loss of players who had been relied on to create chances and drive the side on the season before.
A hugely disappointing season was followed by a summer where Alex Song and Robin van Persie were next to leave.
In their second year at the club, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud were joined by Mesut Özil. Wenger had replaced almost all of his departed key players and Arsenal were ready.
Injuries to Aaron Ramsey, Özil, and Walcott cost Arsenal a real run at the title. These are the players that everything offensive was built around, with Ramsey having the season of his life and sewing the team together in attack and defence.
The additions of Danny Welbeck and Gabriel have bolstered the squad so that such injury troubles should no longer leave us looking bare – we have the depth to challenge.
And we have challenged in the past. There is an odd myth that we haven’t been in a title race for a while.
We may not have been in with a chance of winning it on the final day, but on three occasions in the last few years we have not been that far away.
We have played the best football, and it has heralded results, for stretches of six or seven months in a season. We haven’t had the money to have a squad big enough to do it over nine or ten.
Keeping the team together is vital before adding any other players to the side. Replacing players leaves you going nowhere.
If Wenger is right, the only players who will leave are the ones he doesn’t want anymore.
Last week he strongly hinted at the extra midfield signing that we need.
“Even if somebody comes in, [Coquelin] will stay here,” said the manager before going on to say that Francis Coquelin’s form:
“Hasn’t changed [my mind about transfers] a lot.”
Wenger will add to the already impressive squad that he has built. This time around he won’t have to do it while replacing a key player.