By Stanley Katabarwa
When Arsenal completed the signing of the German international Mesut Özil on deadline day, they managed to shock the world as well as add real quality to their squad.
Wenger had been talking about mounting a challenge for the Premier League title this season, but his lack of activity in the transfer market led others to believe otherwise.
But has the signing of Özil strengthened Arsenal enough to challenge for the Premier League title?
Arsenal has some decent attacking options now. Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain, Mesut Özil , Tomas Rosicky and Lukas Podolski can all occupy one of three positions behind the lone striker.
In terms of midfield options, they have players like Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini, a rejuvenated Aaron Ramsey and bit-part options like Abu Diaby and Emmanuel Frimpong. However, their lack of depth in defence and attack (in terms of pure strikers) might be their undoing.
Olivier Giroud has been in flying form so far this season and it’s a good sign for both him and Arsenal that he’s firing in all cylinders. Podolski has looked alright so far this season but the German international is set to be on the sidelines for three months with a hamstring injury. That leaves Wenger with Nicklas Bendtner and Yaya Sanogo as recognised strikers.
Bendtner has Premier League experience but has been a regular at Arsenal; however, his form has always varied from excellent to pathetic. One can never quite be sure when he decides to turn up. And Wenger must see something in Sanogo, but it’s highly unlikely that the French youngster will have it in him to regularly lead the line of a side who, one would assume, would want to compete for trophies.
Arsenal has no problems as far as full-backs are concerned because they have Bacary Sagna, Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson and Nacho Monreal. It’s safe to say they are well taken care of in that department. However, they only have three proper centre-backs in Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker. Sagna can be used as a makeshift centre-back if needed, but it’s better to have four proper centre-backs. The fact that Vermaelen’s form hasn’t been excellent is also a cause for concern.
So to answer the question posed right in the beginning, the signing of Mesut Özil does not make Arsenal title contenders. While one cannot deny that he is an excellent signing, it would have made more sense if Wenger chose to invest in a top striker and a new centre-back instead of a player that cynics would argue was made only to keep the fans happy.
While Arsenal will no doubt be a lot harder to play against this season, their squad isn’t exactly a deep one. Injuries and fatigue will probably catch up to them in the long run. They might be able to finally break their 8-year trophy drought by snapping up one of the domestic cup (Capital One Cup or FA Cup) but given the squad Arsenal currently possess, they are definitely not title contenders.
Contact: Stanley Katabarwa
Phone no. 0772 44 00 12, 0704 44 00 12