August update: Window closes, Season starts
We made a few important transfer dealings during my first transfer window here at Arsenal; the club spent £131m on 5 players, whilst saying permanent goodbyes to 5 players for a total of £47m. Coming into the club, we started with trying to improve one of our weakest spots in the team: left-back. Nacho Monreal departed for a healthy £9m, and the arrival of Fulham youngster Ryan Sessegnon means that Kieran Gibbs will start, with Sessegnon providing adequate cover on the left. He will hopefully get a chance to develop during cup matches, with a view to be bringing him into the first team within the next couple of years.
The next incoming transfer was another future prospect, and again working on a swap deal; David Ospina left the club on a season-long loan to Lyon, and Predrag Rajkovic was bought in from Maccabi Tel-Aviv for £5.25m. The Serb will play in cup games and some European games this season, and will be seen as the long-term successor to the ageing Petr Cech.
The next area of focus was again in defence, with more ins and outs happening in this department. Mathieu Debuchy left for Everton for £3.8m, as did Gabriel Paulista, who moved for £12m. We also said goodbye to Per Mertesacker, who has joined Valencia for £6m, whilst Carl Jenkinson will spend the season in Bulgaria playing for Ludogorets. The first man bought in as a replacement was in the 2014 World Cup Winning defence alongside Mustafi; Benedikt Howedes has joined for £15.5m after his release clause was activated. Joining him at the back is the versatile and technical Javi Martinez, who was signed from Bayern Munich for £50m. Martinez definitely seems to be worth the money, and will be able to play a role in defence or in the midfield; I feel he fits our style of play very nicely.
Our final dealings were in Arsenal’s problem area up top – the club has struggled to replace Van Persie in the past few years, and I have decided to bring in someone who will not be accused of not putting the effort in up top. We decided to pull off a huge cross-capital move for Diego Costa, who joins us for a huge £58m. I feel as though the combative striker is the perfect man to spearhead our attack and keep us going up top. Going out was Olivier Giroud, who has joined PSG for £15m. Yaya Sanogo has also joined Dijon on loan for the season.
Moving on to our first matches of the season; we kicked off with an away trip to Stoke, one of Arsenal’s bogey teams in recent years, especially at their ground. However, we laid down a marker for change, dominating them throughout the first half. Sanchez bagged two before the break, and Cazorla also had a penalty saved before half-time which would have further shown our dominance. However, Sanchez was able to score again and bag a hat-trick in the first match of the season.
Our next game saw us battle out a fierce North London Derby. Whilst the football may not have been incredible - there were 12 yellow cards – we did prevail and beat our rivals. The goal came when Iwobi was played in on goal shortly before half time, and with the ball running away from goal, he clipped over Lloris’ head and into the far corner to get the goal and guarantee us another win.
Our third game this August saw us face the Premier League holders at the King Power Stadium. This match would see Diego Costa make his first appearance for Arsenal, although it wouldn’t last long. However, he was able to provide the assist for the first goal, laying off to Santi Cazorla to bend one in off the post from 25 yards to give us the lead. Then came Costa’s red; an awful tackle lunging in on Jamie Vardy, and that was it for Costa, who will face a 3-match ban. We battled on with 10 men, and came under real pressure from Leicester, however, with time running out, Alexis Sanchez was able to slide the ball past Schmeichel after a swift counter-attack and gurantee the three points.
Our run currently leaves us top of the league heading into next month, where we will face 3 more league matches, as well as Champions League and EFL Cup fixtures.