Deadline day drama at Arsenal HQ
It was 2100 BST on Wednesday at Arsenal's Highbury House headquarters and club officials were exhausted following the most frenetic few hours in transfer window history.
In the chief executive's office, Ivan Gazidis had spent the day making phone calls to agents and officials at other clubs as he tried desperately to complete the spending spree that the summer sales of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri had enabled and which the humiliating 8-2 defeat by Manchester United had subsequently made a necessity.
A few yards away, club secretary David Miles, chief accountant Stuart Wisely and head lawyer Svenja Geissmar were working furiously, filling out registration documents and ensuring they were emailed to the Premier League. In all, 20 officials from the club's finance and legal departments were working harder than they could remember.
As medicals were completed, the club's communications department, led by Mark Gonnella, were informed and player interviews for Arsenal's official website conducted at the club's London Colney training ground. A hundred yards down the road, news teams from the BBC, ITN and Sky were all broadcasting live updates into deadline day programmes.
Deals for German Per Mertesacker and Brazilian Andre Santos had already been concluded, following Tuesday's acquisition of South Korean Park-Chu Young. But then there were the outgoings. Heading for the exit were Gilles Sunu and Joel Campbell to Lorient in France, while Henri Lansbury joined West Ham, moves that took hours of negotiations to conclude. Nicklas Bendtner's move to Sunderland and Yossi Benayoun's loan from Chelsea were yet to be completed but the signs were positive. Both would eventually be sealed in time.
Yet despite such a frenzied last few hours of the window, the mood inside Highbury House was one of frustration. The marquee midfield signing the club's fans craved had slipped through Arsenal's grasp. Bids of £5m and then £10m for Mikel Arteta had been rejected by Everton. The void left by Fabregas and Nasri would remain unfilled.
But then came hope. Arteta had apparently told Everton manager David Moyes that he wanted to join Arsenal. Everton decided not to stand in his way, so, with the deadline of 2300 BST fast approaching, the move was back on. Would there be time to complete it?
As the administrative team, led by the club's principle deal-maker, former scout Richard Law, leapt back into action, Gazidis rang Arsene Wenger immediately and told him the good news. The Arsenal manager was at a Uefa coaches conference in Switzerland but had been in contact with Gazidis all day. At this stage, neither the club's majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke, nor the club's board members were involved. There was no time for consultation. Decisions had to be taken - and fast. Shortly after 2300 BST, Arsenal announced Arteta's arrival. But how should the club's last-minute scramble to rejuvenate a depleted squad be viewed?
Pete Wood, the man behind the respected fan website Le Grove, believes deadline day was something of a reality check for the club. "On the face of it, Arsenal made great progress considering the self-imposed time restrictions we placed on ourselves," he said. "Yesterday has given me hope that a top-four finish is realistic. But does it feel like a successful summer? No. Does it look or feel like progress? No.
"However, with teams like Manchester City and Chelsea spending hundreds of millions, maybe it's time to accept that competing for the league is no longer a standard Arsenal fan expectation. That doesn't excuse the elephant in the room, though. Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have been negligent this summer. All of the business completed over the last two days could and should have been completed in June."
Tim Payton, of the Arsenal Supporters' Trust, is even more critical. "Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesaker are fine signings, but the truth is that Arsenal missed out on their preferred players in both midfield and defence, Juan Mata and Phil Jagielka," he says. "One puzzle is why the club drove through a 6.5% increase in ticket prices earlier this year, raising £4.5m in net revenues that hasn't been used."
Arsenal fans are certainly entitled to ask why, with Kroenke and Alisher Usmanov, two of the richest men in the world, as their majority shareholders, the club are now failing to compete when it comes to wages and transfers.
Arsenal's deadline day was undeniably exciting, provided a boon for their traumatised fans and has enhanced their squad with the arrival of some fine talents. The combined attacking potential of Arteta, Benayoun, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Robin Van Persie and Theo Walcott is formidable. But ultimately, despite the sterling efforts of the Highbury House team, one senses it is still too little and too late, judging by the expectations of the fans and set against the players the club have lost.