London clubs leave it late to buy
ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger underlined his new-found appreciation of experience when he finally completed late deadline day swoops for midfielders Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun last night.
Neither are the superstars that some fans might have hoped for after seeing captain Cesc Fabregas and midfield starlet Samir Nasri sold in recent weeks for a combined total close to £60m.
But both, in common with the other three players Wenger has recruited since the weekend, share years of experience at the top level – something Arsenal’s callow youngsters who were thrashed 8-2 at Manchester United on Sunday lacked.
Benayoun, 31, deemed surplus to requirements by Chelsea but with six seasons in the Premier League under his belt and the captain of Israel, has moved from Stamford Bridge on a season-long loan.
Arteta, 29, who also has half a dozen campaigns in the English top flight to his name, signed a four-year contract at the Emirates Stadium after Everton accepted Arsenal’s £10m offer.
Wenger failed in attempts to sign highly-rated French-based prospects Eden Hazard of Lille and Yann M’Vila of Rennes.
The Gunners had earlier confirmed the arrivals of three more seasoned players in defenders Per Mertsesacker and Andre Santos, just a day after the signing of South Korea captain Chu Young Park.
Mertesacker, who has 75 caps for Germany, called his £8m move from Werder Bremen “a dream” after signing a four-year contract thought to be worth around £80,000 a week.
“Moving to London enables me to fulfil a dream and a further step in my career,” he said. “The Premier League has always represented a great challenge for me.”
Wenger hailed the 6ft 6in centre-back as “vastly experienced”.
He added: “He is good on the floor and in the air. I believe he will be well suited to the Premier League and a tremendous asset to the team.”
Reports in Germany last night suggested Mertesacker, 26, had in fact agreed last week to join Arsenal next summer, but that the Gunners fast-tracked the move after missing out on other defensive targets, including Bolton’s Gary Cahill.
Wenger called left-back Andre Santos “a quality player” and said he “looked forward to him having a big impact for us”.
The 28-year-old, who has 22 caps for Brazil, replaced Roberto Carlos in the Fenerbahce side and scored 10 goals in 52 league appearances in Turkey.
He said: “It was one of my dreams to play for a major European football club and I have accomplished this.”
Wenger’s most high-profile departure was Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner, who joined Sunderland on a season-long loan.