If Arsene Wenger has not pushed the panic button yet, then surely his finger is poised over it. A summer that promised so much, has, as it stands, produced so very little.
Come September 2, Arsenal could very well have signed Luis Suarez — but with every passing day, that prospect is looking increasingly unlikely.
The stark reality is that with just 24 hours to go before the start of the season, the Gunners are staring at a full-blown squad crisis.
Failed: Arsene Wenger has brought in only one player and released 17 this summer
Misfit: Inactivity in the market will leave Arsenal relying on the likes of Nicklas Bendtner this weekend
This was supposed to be the summer Arsenal unleashed their financial muscle on the transfer market.
‘We are beginning to see something we’ve been planning for, which is the escalation in our financial firepower,’ said chief executive Ivan Gazidis in June.
‘It’s a progression over the next two seasons. It’s quite significant for the club. It means we can look at some options that weren’t really in our financial capability.
‘It really is time now for us to turn that into sporting success. I know Arsene is focused on that and we are together. This is not some veiled message.’
So, there it was. The promise of a significantly stronger squad for the new season, one good enough to finally end Arsenal’s trophy drought — which has now lasted eight seasons. But in the cold light of day, the squad, going into tomorrow’s clash against Aston Villa, is significantly weaker.
No fewer than 17 players have leftthe Emirates this summer — and so far just one has arrived, little-known French striker Yaya Sanogo, signed from Auxerre on a free transfer.
OK, those who have left — Gervinho, Andrey Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh and Andre Santos among them — were not first-team regulars.
Nevertheless, Wenger goes into Saturday’s visit of Paul Lambert’s men with just 11 fully-fit outfield senior players.
Thomas Vermaelen, Nacho Monreal and Abou Diaby are all confirmed to miss the start of the season through injury.
Wenger’s problems have intensified over the last 48 hours with Bacary Sagna sustaining an ankle injury while on international duty and Mikel Arteta picking up a thigh injury in training.
New boy: Yaya Sanogo is Wenger's only signing of the summer - and even he is injured
Well travelled: Santi Cazorla did a 10,000-mile round trip to play with Spain in Ecuador
Sportsmail understands that Arsenal medical staff fear Arteta, who had a scan on Thursday, could miss up to six weeks, which would rule him out of the vital Champions League qualification clashes against Fenerbahce.
All that means Arsenal’s bench on Saturday is likely to include a string of academy players and outcasts such as Nicklas Bendtner. Arsenal fans are worried — and they have every right to be.
They were promised marquee signings which, for one reason or another, haven’t materialised.
Injury blow: Mikel Arteta will be out for around six weeks with a thigh injury
A deal was virtually completed to sign Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid, but Arsenal’s decision to prioritise Suarez’s capture meant the move fell through.
Wenger was also interested in Stevan Jovetic, but he joined Manchester City. A £14.5m deal for Bayern Munich’s Luis Gustavo also looked to be imminent, but he is on the brink of joining Wolfsburg.
The club had, and to an extent still have, an interest in Wayne Rooney — but their persistent attempts to land Suarez from Liverpool have seen any move for the Manchester United striker sidelined.
Concern: Thomas Vermaelen is one of a number of players with long-term injury troubles
Wenger will this morning hold his first pre-match press briefing of the new season, with the Frenchman sure to be quizzed on the club’s lack of transfer business.
But, in fairness, it hasn’t been for the want of trying. Two bids for Suarez, one in excess of £40m which Arsenal believed would trigger an escape clause, have been turned down by Liverpool.
An improved bid, just short of the £50m asking price, will be tabled in the next few days, despite Liverpool’s insistence that the Uruguayan is not for sale.
Another alternative is Michu, but Swansea made it clear yesterday that they would not entertain bids. Manager Michael Laudrup said that even a ‘ridiculous’ offer will not be enough to land a Spanish striker who was one of the sensations of last season.
Wenger is known to have had Michu, 27, watched on numerous occasions but Laudrup said: ‘This club is economically very good. I know if they came in with a late bid the reaction from the board and chairman will be “No”, even if the money is ridiculous.
‘We would not have time to find a replacement near enough to the same standard. Why be the richest club in the Championship? What is that worth?’
Watched: Michu has been scouted by Arsenal but won't be leaving Swansea for them
Wenger insisted: ‘We are active (in the transfer market). We are in a situation like Manchester United, like Chelsea, where everybody expects signings and at the moment not a lot has happened.
‘There are 18 days to go, so that is a long time in the transfer market and we will be active. I cannot certify what the number (of new signings) will be but we will be active until the end, that is for sure.’
The Arsenal manager’s comments may provide a shred of comfort to the club’s frustrated supporters, who will make their opinions known at the Emirates tomorrow if things do not go their way.
But for some fans the promise of a summer spending spree is one broken promise too far.
And to make matters worse, the other team in north London have spent close to £60m this summer.
Missing out: Arsenal have been linked with a number of leading names (Suarez left, Gustavo right)
Getting stronger: Arch rivals Spurs have invested more than £60m to close the gap