Official confirmation of Alexandre Lacazette’s arrival at Arsenal brings our summer signing tally to two, but how far does that move us forward us a squad and do we still need new faces before we can realistically call ourselves title contenders again?
Even the most blinkered of Arsenal fans will concede that we were miles off the pace in 2016/17, even if we ultimately improved on our points tally from the previous season.
Failing to secure Champions League football for the first time in more than a decade was a bitter blow and it almost felt like the end of an era at the club when the realisation set in that we would be plying our trade in the second tier of European football next year.
There was, however, the silver lining of the FA Cup final victory and a pretty strong finish to the campaign, prompted – it seems – by a switch to a three-at-the-back system.
Buoyed by that late fillip, much of the conversation focused on players who were already at the club, as apposed to those who may or may not be arriving. The likes of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain are all entering the final 12 months of their contracts and the focus from fans was, first and foremost, on tying those players down.
Thereafter, the only prerequisite, from what I could gather, was the need for a striker of real calibre – a goal getter of international repute. In Lacazette, it could be argued that we now have that, or something very close to it.
So what of other areas for improvement? Was the signing of Sead Kolasinac key to our hoped-for renaissance in 2017/18?
One thing is for certain, the free transfer of a player who featured in the Bundesliga team of the year last season is not to be sniffed at. His arrival can in no way harm our efforts or, for that matter, our bank balance.
While I’m not convinced it was one of the areas which required urgent and immediate action, it is a welcome and quality addition to the squad which will hopefully boost our defensive options next year. All well and good.
It still feels as though we are missing something, however. A classy left back and a quality striker undoubtedly improve us as a team, but do they bridge the gulf between fifth place and first?
In truth, it is difficult to say.
While some would quite rightly point to our defensive record last year and say ‘we conceded far too many goals’ – and they would be right – you could equally say that was more down to the vulnerability of our system than it was the playing personnel.
On that basis, our two new additions, the retention of our existing stars, and some tweaks to our setup could pave the way for a much-improved showing.
At the same time, this is largely the same squad, and the same manager, who have been in this position time and again over the years and allowed their frailties to catch up with them in the new year, with title challenge after title challenge melting with the winter frost.
Taking that view, you could argue that not amount of money spent on the squad could make a difference, and only a new manager and coaching setup could force the change in mentality needed to turn us from perennial also-rans into champions.
While that may be true, that is clearly not going to happen in the short-term, with Arsene Wenger having signed on for another two seasons.
All we can hope for, therefore, is a compromise, of sorts, on the points raised above.
I have to say I am pretty impressed with our two singings. They seem to be good quality, ready-made players who can adapt quickly to the rigours of football at a high level. One more signing of a similar calibre will turn a fair summer into a good one for the club.
It is also important that we hold on to Chamberlain, Ozil, and Sanchez, however unlikely that may seem. If we don’t find ourselves in a position of having to replace lost talent, that can only be a positive.
If we can achieve those first two, we can then focus on making sure our playing system is fine-tuned and ready for next season. Football moves fast these days, and no system seems to be bullet proof for long. If we can play something like we did during the last 10 games of last season, however, we should put ourselves in a position to at least challenge.
The Premier League is more competitive now than it ever has been and winning the league is, arguably, tougher than at any time since it came into being in the early 1990s. Success should not be taken lightly. At the same time, it is certainly not an impossible feat if we make sure we get everything within our power right.
Our new signings do move us forward as a squad, but their arrival, and any subsequent arrivals this summer, won’t guarantee success. For our club, the path to glory will come down to a combination of factors that must all align in order to make us contenders once again.