Arsenal might have failed to bring in the blockbuster signing their fans were craving before the close of the transfer window but Arsene Wenger’s deadline day dealings appear, on the surface, to have papered over the cracks caused by a disastrous summer.
Following the departures of Gael Clichy, Cesc Fabregas, Emmanuel Eboue, Samir Nasri, Armand Traore and Nicklas Bendtner, Wenger was under serious pressure to add bodies to his depleted squad.
While the likes of Eden Hazard and Mario Gotze were linked with big-money moves to the Emirates, the Frenchman instead went for the less-glamorous quintet of Mikel Arteta, Yossi Benayoun, Per Mertesacker, Park Chu-Young and Andre Santos, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho and Carl Jenkinson having arrived earlier in the summer.
The arrival of a Hazard or Gotze would have given the club a significant boost, not just in terms of quality on the pitch but also as a statement of intent.
However, Wenger’s efforts could yet be enough to hold off the challenge of a resurgent Liverpool and claim an all-important spot in the top four.
There is no doubting that, after the loss of Fabregas and Nasri in particular, Arsenal’s first team is weaker now than it was at the end of last season.
For all their abilities, Arteta and Benayoun are not in the same bracket as their two aforementioned predecessors and this is reflected in bwin’s title betting market.
The Gunners were 6/1 to win their first league crown since 2004 when bwin’s odds were first announced in June but the departure of their two star midfielders, coupled with a poor start to the season, means they are now 25/1 to finish the season in first.
Crucially, though, Wenger has used the funds at his disposal to ensure the squad, if not the first team, is at least as competitive now as it was at the end of last season.
The arrivals of Santos and Mertesacker will keep the likes of Kieran Gibbs and Laurent Koscielny on their toes, with Santos’ addition particularly important given the lack of cover at left-back and the susceptibility of Gibbs to injury.
Crucially, Santos’ arrival also means that Wenger will be able to deploy Thomas Vermaelen at centre-back rather than as a make-shift left-back in the absence of Gibbs.
In midfield, Arteta and Benayoun will take the pressure off Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey and Arsenal look well covered on the flanks following the additions of Gervinho and Chamberlain.
Up front, Park will surely provide more effective cover for Robin van Persie than Bendtner, while Ryo Miyaichi could prove to be an attacking wildcard as the season progresses.
While this may not be enough for Arsenal to challenge for the title, their odds of 3/2 make them attractive bets to finish in the top four following Wenger’s rebuilding programme.
This price makes them fifth-favourites, although with Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool all odds-on to finish in the Champions League qualification spots, those willing to back Arsenal stand to win much more if the Gunners provide a football betting upset.
Liverpool are the most vulnerable to a challenge from a rejuvenated and strengthened Arsenal, and although Kenny Dalglish’s men have started the season well they have yet to demonstrate they can maintain their form over a prolonged period.
With this in mind, a successful £25 free bet on Arsenal to finish in the top four, available to new customers who sign up for a bwin account, would return £62.50.
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