The summer of 2012; a defining summer for both the direction of the football club, and the destiny of Arsene Wenger.
The club, while learning from last summer, has once again put itself in an unfortunate position of letting yet another star player run his contract down to just one more year.
Although Wenger has stated that Robin Van Persie will stay and run down the last year of his contract, if he is not to sign a new deal, can we take this statement at face value?
This is coming from the same Arsene Wenger who stated that Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri would not be leaving last summer and the same Arsene Wenger who stated that Andrey Arshavin would not be leaving in January.
Undoubtedly this summer has begun with a signal of intent, and has seen Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud join the club for a combined total fee believed to be around £20m. While optimists have used statistics to compliment Wenger for this coup, the pessimists have once again harangued Wenger for taking the cheap options.
Last summer, we went to Lille, decided Eden Hazard was too much and ended up with Gervinho. In January we went to Dortmund and ended up bringing home Thomas Eisfield (not denying he could becoming a good player) instead of Mario Gotze.
Wenger has never been the manager to spend £38m on a Sergio Aguero, he’d much rather lay out £2.75m for a Robin Van Persie at a young age and see him develop into a world class player.
While this has worked on numerous occasions, Wenger has sensed that this transfer strategy is outmoded and has opted for experience, bringing in 26-year-old Podolski and 25-year-old Giroud. Hopefully the optimist will be proven correct and Wenger will have achieved yet another transfer coup.
Podolski at 26 has over 100 caps for Germany and while there is no questioning his talent, question marks have been placed over whether he can perform at a big club, having failed at Bayern Munich, albeit at a young age.
For a 26-year-old to have amounted over 100 caps for the German national side signals his talent and I believe Podolski will add another dimension to our game and prove to be a steal by Wenger.
Giroud, on the other hand, is fairly unproven on the International stage having only gained 9 caps for France and having been largely over looked by Laurent Blanc at Euro 2012. However his goal scoring record cannot be ignored, having scored 39 times in his 86 appearances for Montpellier, propelling them to Ligue 1 glory last season.
His technical ability combined with his strength and height should help him adapt to the Premiership and this should set him apart from the Chamakh comparisons.
However, the transfers should not end there. To challenge for major silverware, Wenger still needs to offload the dead wood while ensuring the squad has enough depth to challenge on all fronts all season.
With Wilshere coming on slowly and expected to miss the start of the season, another centre midfielder should be Wenger’s top priority. Yann M’Vila, Lucas Biglia and Javi Martinez have all been linked and although a move for M’Vila now seems to be off, the apparent need to bolster our midfielding options seems to be key.
Francis Coquelin is coming on nicely and played an important role last season but I largely anticipate him to start the season at right back for us next season, with Bacary Sagna expected to miss the opening months.
Therefore, the need to bring in extra midfield cover is pivotal. If the mummers regarding Alex Song are correct, Wenger will be faced with the tough challenge of finding a suitable replacement whilst not compromising the strength in depth.
The need to strengthen the squad goes further than a midfielder. Another winger should be considered to replace the loss of Yossi Benayoun and to cover for Gervinho, with the latter being incapable of helping the club challenge for major honours.
A defender should be purchased, preferably a versatile defender, someone in the Micah Richards mould, who would feel comfortable at both centre-back and at full-back and a goalkeeper needs to be added to the squad in the light of the potential departure of Lukasz Fabianski, with Hugo Lloris being heavily linked.
Although I may be asking for too much, this squad is still far off challenging for major silverware. With the teams around us expected to strengthen, Wenger is facing his biggest and most defining summer as Arsenal manager.
Can he persuade RVP to believe in his Arsenal project? Can he demonstrate to the fans that the club has title winning ambitions? But most of all, can he prove to himself that he is still a great manager, capable of producing title winning teams?
The clubs motto reads “Victoria Concordia Crescit” or victory through harmony, however with the current running of the club and the perceived financial gains from our negative transfer expenditure and high season ticket prices, the clubs motto will soon read “Victory through Financial Fair Play”.
If Wenger can convince RVP to stay, strengthen the squad and bring silverware to N5, he will have proven to all his critics that he isn’t finished just yet. This summer could define him. His destiny rests solely in his own capable and prodigal hands.
In Wenger We Trust.