A transfer window that started with the expectation that Arsenal would have to strengthen their attacking options and saw the club linked to such luminaries as Julian Draxler and Diego Costa finally came to a close on Friday with the arrival of a 31-year-old Swedish midfielder on loan from a club in Russia. It fits neatly in a long-existing narrative of Arsenal failing to display the actions befitting of a major club in the transfer market.
There is some truth to that angle, and it is easy to see why Arsenal fan’s will be underwhelmed by their club’s business midway through a season in which they remain well placed to end their decade-long wait for a Premier League title. Yet, it is far from completely black and white.
It was always going to be extremely unlikely that Arsenal, or any club, would be able to bring in a top level striker in this particular window. Neither Diego Costa, Mario Mandzukic, nor Jackson Martinez, with whom the club were also linked, were realistic targets. Alvaro Morata would have been a good solution, one who could make an immediate impact while also promising much for the future, yet Real Madrid insisted throughout that he would not be allowed to leave.
Thus you have the situation of trying to find a player who would be prepared to come, perhaps only for six months, and play second fiddle to Olivier Giroud. On top of that, he had to be better than Nicklas Bendtner. While the Dane has been much maligned, largely because his confidence in himself far exceeds anything he has ever achieved on the pitch, he is far from as useless as the barbs repeatedly made at his expense would suggest.
Bendtner unquestionably has talent and if he has the motivation, something that he appeared to be rediscovering before his recent injury, then he could be useful for Arsenal for the remainder of the campaign. Of course, you would still have to be extremely wary of the prospect of Bendtner, or Lukas Podolski -- who looks far more comfortable on the left -- trying to fire Arsenal to the title should Giroud go down injured. It may be that Wenger ends up regretting not trying harder and earlier to secure Juventus’s Mirko Vucinic or Lazio’s Miroslav Klose, but it is doubtful that either transfer was a possibility.
It is Draxler who will be seen as the main man who got away. Here, it is difficult to look upon Arsenal’s actions so favorably. Having apparently identified the 20-year-old as a player who could be a star for them for many years to come then it seems petit to have made an offer far below what Schalke were ever likely to accept. Had they paid Draxler’s buyout clause of €45 million (£37m), despite it only being active in the summer, then they would surely have got someone who is already a Germany international and in the near future is likely to be seriously pursued by Europe’s elite clubs.
Still, Draxler is an attacking midfielder, a position which Arsenal have an abundance of quality options. Yes, Wenger reportedly planned to convert him into a striker, but that would doubtless have taken time and it is questionable how much of an impact he could have made this season, especially as he is currently injured.
As for the one player Arsenal did bring in, he risks being unfairly maligned as an example of Arsenal’s unspectacular business. Taken on its own merits, signing Kim Kallstrom on loan is a clever piece of business. The former two-time Ligue 1 winner with Lyon has an excellent football brain and is a composed all-round midfielder, who can intercept opposition attacks, is an adept passer and can threaten with his stylish left foot both from long shots and set-pieces. Given the injuries to Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere and suspension of Mathieu Flamini, Kallstrom is arguably is as good a short-term solution as is out there.
However, that commendation now comes with a heavy caveat. If, as has been reported by BBC Sport on Saturday, Kallstrom has a back injury that will rule him out for six games, and is something that Arsenal discovered during the medical, as has been suggested, then it rightly lead to Wenger’s judgment being further called into question.
Having already gambled on Giroud’s fitness and Bendtner’s mind, it now appears Wenger has taken a gamble on a new signing’s injury, when Kallstrom’s prime purpose is to provide cover for the club’s existing injuries. While Wenger is notoriously risk-adverse in the transfer market, he may have taken a risk too far in relying with what he has to get his side over the finish line this season. On that, he can only be judged come the season’s end.