Wise or knee-jerk buys by Wenger?
Mustafi and Perez must prove their worth to Arsenal
WATFORD v ARSENAL
(Tonight, 10pm, Singtel TV Ch 103 & StarHub TV Ch 228 - Eleven Plus HD)
Arsene Wenger is back in the game.
Just as he's about to be written off, the club are set to issue a couple of cheques to buy him some time. But it's not a bulletproof vest. Not yet.
Apoplectic Gunners demanded a centre back and a striker or they vowed to bring out the banners at Watford tonight.
So Wenger finally went to market and bought a centre back and a striker.
Barring the usual last-minute haggling from salivating agents, Arsenal should have completed a £50 million ($89.4m) double deal for Deportivo La Coruna striker Lucas Perez and Valencia centre back Shkodran Mustafi by the time you finish this sentence.
The dramatic manner of the transfers and the players involved, not to mention the combined fee, smack of the last-minute scrambling typically associated with Wenger at this time of the year.
While his rivals work with settled squads, the Frenchman continues to morph into a managerial Indiana Jones, saving his skin and pulling his Fedora hat free just before the door slams shut in the latest house of horrors.
At face value, the £35m fee for Germany international Mustafi represents reasonable business in a market gone mad.
A technically accomplished defender, Mustafi is equally adept at right back. At 24, his playing peak remains ahead of him.
But he is not a natural leader, the rare quality that is in such short supply in the Gunners' line-up, particularly in their back four.
Playing in the shadow of Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and even Per Mertesacker hasn't yet allowed Mustafi to come out of his shell on the international stage. There's still plenty of time of course.
The purchase of Perez has a whiff of panic-buy. More than Mustafi perhaps, the Spaniard must work to win over a sceptical crowd.
At 27, he's already had more clubs than Rory McIllroy and arrives as the definitive journeyman, at least on paper.
A late bloomer, Perez left Spain for Ukraine and Greece before returning to his homeland in search of a regular place and sustained performance.
He only really achieved both at Deportivo last season, scoring seven goals in seven games, before reaching a tally of 24 goals in 58 league appearances across two campaigns.
His goals-to-games ratio is solid rather than scintillating in a lopsided La Liga, which is why his release clause is only £16.9m.
Perez led the line for Deportivo last season, but he doesn't fit the mould of the conventional English Premier League striker who typically leads the goalscoring charts on the way to a title triumph.
His attacking instincts are to drift to the left, towards a position usually occupied by Alexis Sanchez.
Unless he develops a very different game, Perez may join Arsenal's queue of nimble artists all jostling for that coveted lone striker's role.
In other words, the Spaniard could conceivably play back up to Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck.
In the current market, £16.9m generally buys a substitute, rather than a superior upgrade. Only Perez can prove otherwise, for Wenger's sake.
With £35m already lavished on Granit Xhaka and almost £10m spent on squad reinforcements, Arsenal's outlay is suddenly tiptoeing towards £100m.
Wenger needs a quick return on his investment.
Perez and, to a lesser extent, Mustafi must demonstrate that they are talented additions to a title-challenging squad, rather than the panic buys of a desperate manager.