There was a time when players and supporters used to get a summer break from football. For fans of other sports that take place during the warmer months it was an opportunity to focus attention elsewhere and, even for those who found the months of June and July interminably dull without football, at least one had the chance to yearn for, and look forward, to the new season.
Today though, football is a huge corporate machine and there is a need to keep the product firmly fixed in the minds of its "customers", even if there are no matches of any real consequence going on. FIFA try to fill summers without World Cups or European Championships with completely pointless international tournaments and the media manage to keep the back pages full with endless transfer speculation.
The conjecture, rumour and gossip that is whipped up each summer when the transfer window is wide open has to be one of the most tedious and odious aspects of modern football. Most of it is drummed up by agents seeking to secure either a move or a better deal for their clients. The rest is cobbled together, or even just made up, by editors who have to sell newspapers when there is no actual football to report on.
Arsenal fans know only too well from Emmanuel Adebayor's behaviour last summer how irritating it is to have agents, with the sanction of the players themselves, feeding the media false trails and hyping up their client's profile and, as with the rumours connected with the arrival of Xabi Alonso, how boring it is when this stuff drags on for weeks on end, more often than not reaching no conclusion.
Thankfully though, this summer Arsene Wenger has broken with his usual habit of leaving any transfer business until five minutes before midnight on deadline day and delivered us a real live new player as early as June – a full four weeks before Arsenal's first pre-season run out against Barnet. On Friday, the Frenchman clinched the signature of Belgium international Thomas Vermaelen from Ajax.
A 23-year-old left-footed central defender who captained the Dutch outfit last season, Vermaelen has experience and is coming into the peak years of his career. Certainly, the addition of some depth and quality at the centre of the defence was something on most Arsenal supporters' wish-lists and, on paper at least, the Belgian does seem to meet the criteria. He also speaks very good English which should help with his swift integration into the squad. With the pre-season programme only a month away, it won't be too long before we get our first proper look at him.
It is heartening that Wenger has taken some early and decisive action in the transfer market and this surely is only the first of several transfer deals to come this summer. Most fans agree that some further steel is definitely required in midfield and, in addition to that, an out-and-out goalscorer would certainly be "nice to have". Whether the manager agrees with that assessment remains to be seen.
There is also the question of players leaving. As yet, no firm offers have been tabled for any existing players but it would seem that the Arsenal futures of Adebayor and Eboue are most in question. Not too many tears would be shed if either of these players left and, if it turns out that they are on their way, then it is just a question of getting as much cash as possible for them in order to bring in further reinforcements.
Whatever happens between now and August, it is essential that Arsene Wenger doesn't make the same mistake as he did last summer by not bringing in enough new blood to replace departing players. Andrei Arshavin was signed in January and now we have Vermaelen. On top of this, it is hoped that both Tomas Rosicky and Eduardo will be back to full fitness ahead of the opening Premier League match up at Everton.
This represents a decent injection of quality compared with where the club was twelve months ago but there needs to be more to come if the Gunners are to have the sort of strength in depth that is required to mount a serious threat in their domestic and European campaigns next term.