x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Arsene Wenger's pain eased in transfer window

After the frantic last few days of transfer deals, and the international break, for many teams it feels like the season is only just beginning.

Per Mertesacker, the German defender, joined Arsenal from Werder Bremen on the last day of the transfer window. He was one of five signings made by Arsene Wenger after the 8-2 loss to Manchester United.
Per Mertesacker, the German defender, joined Arsenal from Werder Bremen on the last day of the transfer window. He was one of five signings made by Arsene Wenger after the 8-2 loss to Manchester United.

Look at the fixture list and the Premier League season kicked off on August 13.

For some sides, however, it commences in earnest this weekend.

For those who have made a false start or for those with radically reshaped teams, it is effectively a 35-game campaign.

The closing of the transfer window, during the international break, has given them the chance to begin again.

Nowhere is that more evident than at the Emirates Stadium in North London.

Arsene Wenger's uncharacteristic supermarket sweep yielded five recruits and, with Bacary Sagna, Thomas Vermaelen and Emmanuel Frimpong available again for Swansea City's visit this weekend, Arsenal could field as few as three survivors of the 8-2 hammering at the hands of Manchester United.

Should only Wojciech Szczesny, Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie retain their places, there might be a sense of justice: besides them, maybe only Aaron Ramsey could argue he did not deserve to be demoted.

If the knee-jerk reaction is to insist that some do not deserve to play for Arsenal again, the angry will get at least one wish.

Armand Traore's move to Queens Park Rangers was concluded before the left-back had a chance for redemption and was either a declaration of faith by Neil Warnock or proof the Rangers manager had not watched the Old Trafford mauling.

After his rapid recruitment, Warnock could give six debuts.

There is, potentially, three-quarters of a new defence in Traore, Anton Ferdinand and Luke Young, a double change on the flanks with Jason Puncheon and Shaun Wright-Phillips and a one-man publicity storm in the midfield in the shape of Joey Barton.

While, with three points from three games, QPR have actually made the best start of the promoted trio, that could cease to be a guide to their fortunes with the Championship-winning team ripped apart.

It is unlikely to have any bearing on Warnock's selection now that Tony Fernandes, the new owner, has financed an overhaul.

If QPR versus Newcastle United is a contrast in transfer-market techniques, between a club that made six significant signings in a week and one that had seven months to find a forward, to replace Andy Carroll, and failed, Wolverhampton Wanderers against Tottenham Hotspur is another meeting of opposites.

Mick McCarthy concluded his business early and has seven points to show for his planning. Harry Redknapp, seemingly hamstrung by his board, had to wait until the final few days to complete deals for Emmanuel Adebayor and Scott Parker to strengthen the spine of his side.

The striker was ineligible to face his parent club Manchester City last week while, had the midfielder's move from West Ham United been completed in time, the lightweight central-midfield duo of Luka Modric and Niko Kranjcar surely would not have been paired against Roberto Mancini's men. A 5-1 defeat had other causes, but Parker's task is to toughen up Tottenham.

If last year revealed Redknapp's need for a forward, the early-season shortcomings of other clubs have accounted for the arrival of others who could debut this weekend.

Sunderland added Nicklas Bendtner to a squad with more recruits in attack this summer (three, including the Dane) than goals this season (one).

Fulham, with just one strike from their three league games and with Bobby Zamora's injury problems persisting, spent £10.6 million (Dh62,777m) on the Costa Rican Bryan Ruiz. For a club whose home record has tended to be their strength, Blackburn Rovers' visit on Sunday must class as a must-win.

For a Rovers side without a point and with a daunting set of games at Ewood Park, it might take on the same status.

They, too, have an attacking addition in Yakubu and if it can be reductive to reduce matches to shoot-outs between the strikers, the deadline-day business indicates that managers are as guilty as the rest of us of making that assumption.

Then there is the club that has been the exception to the rule.

Everton have found ways of compensating for the absence of any specialist in the forward line, which may prove handy after they dispensed with two professional goalscorers last week.

Their striking options now consist of the oft-injured Louis Saha, the unconvincing Victor Anichebe and the utterly untried Denis Stracqualursi.

Aston Villa's arrival at Goodison Park on Saturday is less intriguing than the giant Argentine's. He has signed for a side whose only goal scorer this season, Mikel Arteta, has taken his leave.

Having made slow starts and fast finishes something of an annual event, Everton's return of three points is comparatively encouraging.

Yet the depression that has engulfed Goodison Park is neither instigated nor alleviated by results alone. A financial cloud has settled over the club.

While others have indulged in retail therapy, Everton have to dig deeper.

For their counterparts elsewhere, money provides the escape route, the promise of something new providing an improvement after an awkward August.

And yet, the abbreviated season leaves the late buyers in a game of catch-up.

Arsenal and Tottenham trail Liverpool, their probable rivals for fourth place, by six and seven points respectively.

Blackburn are seven adrift of Wolves, fellow strugglers last season.

After a wasted month, there is already little margin for error.