Arsenal: Big guns again?

Arsenal: Big guns again?

EPL

The feel-good factor is back with the likes of top guns Oezil and Sanchez in their armoury

garylim@sph.com.sg

A decade ago, Arsenal were walking on air.

They went through the 2003/04 Premiership campaign without a single defeat, clinched the title, and looked set to dominate the English game for years.

Suddenly, the malaise descended, and the club have been gripped by tentacles of doubt since.

The stars left, leaving voids that were often unfilled, either because Arsenal had no money to spend or manager Arsene Wenger didn't see the need to.

Since that historic campaign, the Gunners have won just two major trophies, both in the FA Cup competition.

As for the league, the annual ritual of flattering to deceive continues. This season, the feel-good factor is back.

The arrival of playmaker Mesut Oezil for a club record-transfer fee of £42.5 million ($89m) last term lubricated an engine that had been creaking for years, due to a relative lack of transfer activity.

It smashed the previous record by more than two-and-a-half times, set when they paid £16m to bring attacking midfielder Santi Cazorla to the Emirates Stadium about a year earlier.

When Wenger followed up with a £30m capture of Alexis Sanchez last month, the statement of intent was signed, sealed and delivered.

For the third time in three years, Wenger, known for his reluctance to splash out on big players, has shattered Arsenal's record fee paid for a player.

Last Sunday's 3-0 win over Manchester City in the Community Shield is hardly a breakthrough, given that City were missing a host of stars, but the least the victory will do is to add a spring in their step.

Sanchez caught the eye with his silky touches. Defender Calum Chambers, just 19, put in a steady performance in central defence that belied his youth.

Midfielder Aaron Ramsey picked up where he left off last season.

On the Wembley turf, no one in an Arsenal shirt put a foot wrong.

Theo Walcott will soon return from the knee ligament injury he sustained in early January - the Gunners led the league table at that point - that ruled him out of the remainder of last season and the World Cup in Brazil.

Quietly, Wenger has assembled a superb squad packed with outstanding talents in the final third of the field.

If Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker can continue a solid partnership in the heart of defence, Arsenal won't have that many chinks in their armour.

Of course, an over-reliance on striker Olivier Giroud remains a cause for concern but, with the wealth of attacking power at his disposal, Wenger has a right to feel confident without a proven back-up No. 9.

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