December 01, 2014

The pressure to spend money is finally off the shoulders of Arsene Wenger.

The pressure to win the Premier League title, however, grows ever more.

Armed with his two new signings, perhaps the faithful at The Emirates will at last be satisfied with the team heading into Saturday's contest versus Southampton.

Over the past few seasons, Wenger has been assailed for failing to use all of Arsenal's financial war chest to bolster his side, with cries of "Wenger out!" occasionally spilling forth in London. The Frenchman has been notoriously spendthrift at times, railing against the need to spend money for the sake of spending it and all but refusing to spend it on aging veterans.

But Arsenal (1-1-1) again got off to a slow start, losing to Liverpool and drawing at reigning champions Leicester City while failing to address glaring holes in the central defence and on the attack. The fan base - now in a seemingly constant state of unrest without a Premier League title since 2004 - once more made their opinions known.

Despite what appears to be a promising signing in midfielder Granit Xhaka earlier this summer, supporters wanted more. And they finally got them before the close of the transfer window as the team spent a reported £52 million in landing Shkrodan Mustafi to marshal the defence and Lucas Perez as another option going forward.

The pair had been playing in La Liga for Valencia and Deportivo La Coruna. While the late press to sign the duo may have cost Arsenal a few more pounds, Wenger is confident both will make an immediate impact.

"He is the right age. He has good experience," Wenger told Arsenal's website about the 24-year-old Mustafi, who helped Germany to the 2014 World Cup title. "He is a very focused player who can play with the ball as well. We have taken a great player but have prepared well for the future."

Nacho Monreal has already noticed Perez's pace at practice, something that makes the Spaniard "different to the rest of the players in the squad," according to the defender. Perez scored 24 goals in 58 matches for Deportivo after being loaned out by Greek side PAOK.

"I think I'm a pacy player," said Perez, who has the potential to form a dangerous attacking tandem with playmaker Mesut Ozil. "I like to link up and combine with my teammates, playing one-twos to work a shot. I don't want to put myself in a box. I hope that Arsenal fans can see for themselves and enjoy watching me."

The addition of Perez made talented but oft-injured midfielder Jack Wilshire surplus to goods, and he transferred to Bournemouth.

Southampton (0-2-1) have yet to give new manager Claude Puel - a former player under Wenger at French side AS Monaco - his first Premier League victory as they adjust to the Frenchman's midfield diamond.

Despite holding a majority of possession in all three matches - the Saints rank third in the Premier League in percentage - they have only two goals to show for it thus far. Jay Rodriguez's late marker sent Southampton into the break on a positive note as they drew 1-1 with Sunderland on Aug. 27.

Puel is hoping the addition of Lille winger and Morocco international Sofiane Bufal, signed for a club-record £16 million before last week's transfer window close, will be able to partner with Shane Long and Charlie Austin to end the side's goal-scoring woes.

"He can make the difference," Puel told Southampton's YouTube channel of the 22-year old. "He can beat two or three players in small spaces. This is important.

"We have a good collective, and he has good qualities at dribbling and he can score also and give assists."

Puel is also excited to face his Wenger, who coached the Southampton gaffer for nearly half of his 17-year playing career at Monaco.

"Arsene was my trainer during seven years at Monaco and it will be a pleasure to see him on the other bench. He was a very important person for me and he's a great manager," Puel said. "People don't sometimes realise how good his work with Arsenal has been, and I really think he is a good example for all the other trainers."

Southampton took four of six points from the teams last season, flattening Arsenal 4-0 on Boxing Day at home before grinding out a scoreless draw at The Emirates. Despite not scoring in their last 315 minutes on the London grounds, the Saints are 2-2-1 in their last five league matches versus the Gunners and are confident they can get a result.

"It's a resilience that we've built up and thoroughly earned over the last couple of seasons, which has seen us go to the so-called big four clubs and get results," Ryan Bertrand said. "It's a perfect opportunity for us. We've dropped a few points, but this is a great chance to go and win against a big team and get our season up and running."

You May Like

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)