The soundbite from earlier in the summer lost on many Arsenal fans was Arsene Wenger’s admission on the number of signings he wished to make this summer.
“Between a maximum of two or three,” he told beIN Sport back in June.
“We cannot spend as much as many other clubs because some clubs have external resources that allow them to be basically unlimited.
“We can spend money because we have managed the club well. Let’s not forget the amount of money spent is not a guarantee of success.
“We have to be clear what we understand as a big signing. Is [Rob] Holding a big signing for you or not?
“When you buy a player for £40m, everybody will have at the start a positive judgement. When you buy him for £2m, he can’t be good?
“That means a big signing is not necessarily linked with the amount of money spent.”
With two signings secured, there is still hope one more could arrive in the remaining nine days of the transfer window.
Business for Sead Kolasinac on a free transfer and Alexandre Lacazette in a club-record deal were concluded swiftly but since then a deal for Thomas Lemar from Monaco has stalled and there have been few other concrete links.
The manager has solved two problem positions in his 3-4-2-1 system but defeat at Stoke City has led to a clamour from fans for more reinforcements if the Gunners are to mount any sort of title challenge.
Arsenal looked weak defensively at Stoke, but that was due as much to Wenger’s baffling selection of Kolasinac in the central defensive trio as it was down to transfers.
Per Mertesacker should have started, Laurent Koscielny will return and Nacho Monreal will hopefully never be selected as the most central player ever again.
Speculation throughout the summer over Lemar has excited fans but they have also risked potentially neglecting the one considerable void in this team – a ball-winning central midfielder.
Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka formed an excellent partnership towards the tail end of 2015/16 and both players offer differing qualities to the Arsenal central midfield but neither provide them with the kind of authority required for the position defensively.
That much was evident for Jese’s goal on Saturday as Saido Berahino strode through midfield unopposed and with Jean Seri nearing a move to Barcelona, Arsenal’s targets in that area are fast diminishing.
Wenger won’t be rushed – he never is – but Sunday’s trip to Liverpool all of a sudden takes on more significance after such a sloppy defeat and it’s difficult to envisage a frontline of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah being daunted by the prospect of facing that defence and midfield.
The manager has not pushed for more signings and would be content with what he currently has at his disposal if the transfer window were to close tomorrow – but a third signing would fill the quota of new players he targeted.
Lemar or a move for PSG’s seemingly out of favour Julian Draxler would appear the most obvious bet at this rate, yet neither particularly provide Arsenal with what they desperately require and would arguably be longer-term Alexis Sanchez replacements.
We’ve been here before with Wenger, who has frequently been at pains to stress how a squad can become destabilised by too many arrivals.
In both the summers of 2014 and 2016 he has commented on the need for “stability”, though signed five and four players respectively in those windows – and he made a similar remark ahead of the January window in 2016 too.
“It will be busy, but the main thing for us will be to keep the stability because we feel we are close,” he said three years ago.
“We want to add something that makes us even stronger. But number wise it will not be massive.”
It’s a comment which echoes through to today and despite addressing some of his squad’s deepest flaws, there remain central defensive and midfield problems which have been largely unattended.
This year he has had the opposite problem, with the priority at Arsenal being the need to ship out several fringe players with no long-term futures.
Arsenal have been taken advantage of in the transfer window by Juventus’ lowball tactics in luring Wojciech Szczesny away while Arsenal will have made a marginal profit on Gabriel’s return to Spain with Valencia.
The Brazilian’s departure may now lead to Calum Chambers staying put, despite not featuring in either of the Gunners’ opening two matchday squads, while Mathieu Debuchy, Jack Wilshere and Lucas Perez are all considered largely surplus to requirements.
Their failure to offload has directly impacted on their ability to bring any more in, with Wenger openly lamenting what he described as an ‘unmanageable’ squad size after the Stoke game.
Wenger has only become involved in the deadline-day madness sparingly during his tenure and may be tempted to wait until January to add any missing pieces to his squad, though he’s not a particular fan of the winter window either.
But it may well be too late by then – he needs one more signing now.