Arsenal can right last season’s wrongs after new signings

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Manager Arsene Wenger has recruited the required personnel at the right time after failing to buy a single outfield player last summer

13th March 2016. Arsenal face Watford in an FA Cup quarter-final clash at the Emirates Stadium for a chance to book a place at Wembley. Arsene Wenger has won the showpiece trophy more than any other manager in the club’s history and he was desperate to continue that impressive run of victories against a side led by Quique Flores Sanchez.

It appeared to be written in the stars, but it wasn’t.

Odion Ighalo shocked the hosts by scoring his first goal in 599 minutes to give the Hornets a second-half lead, before Adlene Guedioura struck with the visitors’ second shot on target. It capped off a dismal couple of weeks for Wenger’s side who had already lost two games in quick succession to Swansea and Barcelona.

“Credit to Watford, they created few chances but took them all”, said Wenger after the match.

“It’s sad because we gave everything. The players don’t miss on purpose.”

The story of Arsenal’s 2015/16 campaign, and you could add many others to that, was missed opportunities on and off the pitch. Whether it was the much-talked about failure not to sign an outfield player in the transfer window or the plethora of injuries which continually seem to falter their title aspirations, last season was both underwhelming and unimpressive.

A second placed finish was indeed an upgrade on previous seasons, but it simply papered over the cracks and defensive frailties shown throughout many of the 38 games. The home defeat to Swansea which all but ended Arsenal’s chances of winning a first league title in 12 years and saw them lose back-to-back Premier League matches for the first time since November 2014.

This season, it could be different. While the fans have heard it all before, Arsenal have actually identified and recruited personnel in the positions needed this summer. It took longer than expected due to rejections and wild transfer fees being quotes, but Wenger, Dick Law and Ivan Gazidis have achieved exactly what is expected of them over the past few weeks.

Arsenal desperately needed a centre-back after losing Per Mertesacker and Gabriel to injury. They scoured the market for a player of a reasonable age, experience and cost before coming to the conclusion that Valencia’s Shkodran Mustafi was the man for the job. The 24-year-old is a German international who will undoubtedly strengthen the Gunners’ defence.

Even more urgent was the addition of a centre forward to help Olivier Giroud in attack this season. With Danny Welbeck on the sidelines until December, Theo Walcott announcing that he wants to play on the right wing, Alexis Sanchez’s experiment of playing up top not working and Chuba Akpom’s sheer inexperience, the signing of a goalscorer was absolutely crucial.

Lucas Perez has already been compared to Jamie Vardy due to his similar playing style, something which Wenger says he ‘likes’. The 27-year-old scored 17 La Liga goals last season, making eight assists for his team-mates and impressing for a Deportivo side who he has supported from a young age. It’s a big jump from Spanish football to England, but Wenger believes he can do it.

Those chants of ‘spend some f****** money’ from a large section of Arsenal fans will no longer be heard, until January at least. Many will feel that they put pressure on the Frenchman to splash the cash but in reality he remained confident and in the market for a number of players throughout the summer. The rejection of Vardy came as a huge surprise to Wenger and figures at the club, while the ridiculous asking price for Alexandre Lacazette warned off the 66-year-old from buying his compatriot.

Supporters want value for money and see new signings as providing exactly that. While there can be no question over what Arsenal have required for two seasons now, it is Wenger who has finally ratified the mistakes of last campaign by spending almost £100m on the likes of Granit Xhaka, Mustafi and Perez.

All three have been lauded for their work ethic and passion on the pitch. If the rest of the Arsenal team can match that this season then they are in with more than a shout of tasting success. Wenger has finally assembled his squad and in what could be his final season at the club there will be no better chance to leave a lasting legacy. It’s all about taking opportunities.

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