Move for Bernd Leno shows Arsenal mean business under Unai Emery
As the old saying goes, start as you mean to go on. Under Unai Emery, Arsenal are certainly putting their best foot forward.
For years, stagnancy was the main criticism levelled at Arsene Wenger. A ball hasn't been kicked under their new Spanish leader, yet the North London club are already making huge strides, it's brilliant to see. Somewhere, in France, Le Prof will be muttering profanities under his breath.
Stephan Lichsteiner was brought in on a free transfer. Shortly after, a deal for Sokratis Papastathopoulos followed. The Swiss full-back will be coming in as nothing more than a squad player, he'll bring some much-needed experience into the mix. Their new Greek centre-half could prove to be an astute signing, but it's not one that leaps off the page (although ironically, it takes a fair amount of paper to fit his name on).
Then, there's Lucas Torreira; a young man who'll immediately prove to be a game-changer. Arsenal haven't had that midfield enforcer for years. Although the Uruguayan is only 22, he's a marked upgrade on what was already available.
However, it was the latest deal that made me take note. A move for Bernd Leno sends out a real statement, The Gunners will no longer sit back and watch. They want to be back amongst the Premier League elite. For Emery, he's building from the back.
Replacing a Premier League icon like Petr Cech without so much as the batting of an eyelid is Jose Mourinho-esque. There is no room for sentiment in football. Emery's taking no prisoners with the players at his disposal, just imagine what his attitude towards his opponents will be like...
When the move for Cech was initially made by Wenger, Gunners fans were expecting the Czech Republic international to save them fifteen points a season, instead, it's largely gone the other way. It would have been easy for Emery to give the veteran another year. The cut-throat acquisition of Leno sends out an important message to the squad. They'll have to fight for their places, earning their spot certainly won't be easy.
Leno, 26 will bring that good ol' German efficiency in abundance. He's cool, calm, collected, an excellent shot-stopper, too. Although he's young, the former Bayer Leverkusen man has experience aplenty. He'll also have no problem in barking out orders at his defenders; which is something Arsenal have lacked. To play in Emery's attractive style, a ball-playing goalkeeper is a necessity. You'll be pleased to know their new #1 is excellent off either foot.
What's scary is that there is still time for Emery to secure a few more signings. Another world-class defensive addition would be ideal, plus a top-level wide-man to play alongside the brilliant Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan wouldn't go amiss.
For years, Arsenal were living off Wenger's former glories. With Emery, they have their man who's living in the here and now. Three consecutive Europa League trophies between 2013-16 is nothing short of sensational. You'd be crazy to back against the 46-year-old winning it for the fourth time in six seasons...
Those times of Arsenal purely competing for a spot in the top four could well be over. The Gunners are on the rise again folks, all that's left is for them to show it on the pitch...