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Friday August 8, 2014 MYT 10:27:02 AM
Friday August 8, 2014 MYT 10:27:48 AM
by neil maidment
LONDON (Reuters) - Having finally treated their long-empty trophy cabinet to some FA Cup silverware last season, Arsenal have splashed the cash ahead of the new Premier League campaign to improve a squad that could now be capable of pushing for loftier titles.
Rapid forward Alexis Sanchez, a 35 million pound signing from Barcelona, leads a band of new recruits that also includes defenders Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers and goalkeeper David Ospina, for a total bill of over 60 million pounds.
While the FA Cup triumph over Hull City that ended a nine-year trophy drought was keenly celebrated, Arsenal fans were subjected to a familiar painful implosion on other fronts last season, exiting the Champions League at the last 16 and seeing a title tilt again fizzle out having topped the table in January.
Optimism for improving on their eventual fourth place finish comes from coach Arsene Wenger moving to fix two key contributors to their regular demise: Too few striker options and a horrendous injury record.
Sanchez, who scored 39 goals in 88 games for Barcelona, could be the extra firepower needed for an Arsenal side who were the lowest scorers out of the top four last season.
The 25-year-old Chilean's versatility means he could add bite to a plethora of skilful attacking midfielders in behind target man Olivier Giroud, play out wide, or instead provide some much missed pace in a central striker role.
Skilful forward Joel Campbell, an excellent performer for Costa Rica at the 2014 World Cup, is also in the squad for the new campaign having spent the last three seasons out on loan.
Those two add to exciting attacking midfield options of Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski, although the absence of a top defensive midfielder to play alongside Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere could still hurt them.
Wenger has been linked with moves for Real Madrid's Sami Khedira and Sporting's William Carvalho, big-game players who could bring the defensive steel needed to avoid a repeat of embarrassing drubbings last season to Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea.
At the back Colombian Ospina has replaced Lukasz Fabianski as second choice stopper to Wojciech Szczesny, while the right back spot made vacant by Bacary Sagna's move to Manchester City has been filled by Newcastle defender Debuchy, who enjoyed a decent World Cup campaign with France.
Highly-rated 19-year-old Chambers, who joined from Southampton, will provide him with competition and also central defence cover for first choice pairing Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny. More back-up could be needed if club captain Thomas Vermaelen departs, as is widely expected.
An equally important signing, but one that will not be donning the club's red and white shirt, is Shad Forsythe, a fitness expert who has worked for a decade with Germany and has been brought in to fix an all too busy treatment room.
According to a study by physioroom.com, Arsenal players were unavailable for more days last season due to injury than at any other Premier League club.
Alisher Usmanov, the club's second largest shareholder, believes Arsenal can challenge for the Premier League title again after being hamstrung for a decade by repaying the debt on their Emirates Stadium.
"I think we begin a new era for Arsenal where we win trophies," the Russian billionaire said.
(editing by Justin Palmer)
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