Arsenal – Many minds are drifting towards the next challenges that lie ahead. Well I am.
I am going to pontificate, speculate and try my best to articulate what I feel Arsenal as a club need to do to win the league NEXT season!!
Here are Five Points from Clive.
1) We need a new Keeper:
It now seems obvious – even if only recent speculation quickly turns to almost informed fact that Szczesny has literally burned his bridges at AFC.
The obvious answer is Petr Cech who has the stature, the presence the big game personality to be our number one for 5 years easily. Ospina has brought calmness, a certainty of execution of his work. He simply does what you expect him to do and every now and again he actually does more than you expect. His talent is maybe never doing less than you expect. His ceiling of performance is not as high as Schez but the depths by which his performance can fall is not as low as Schez. Unless we see Schez finally learn to take this game seriously then we have to move forward.
As I’ve said previously, a keeper sometimes is just a feeling. How does he make you feel when in goal? Are you nervous? Ospina has improved my mental state for sure.
Arsenal could due to Ospina’s good form do what they always do and go young. If so we have previously been linked to German Loris Karius (21) who is I understand second best German keeper behind Neuer and previously part of Man City’s academy in 2011. Currently at Mainz and his contract situation is a small deterrent as he has just signed to 2018 but you never know.
2) Improve our Centre Midfield balance:
For those that follow me on twitter (@clivepafc) I’m always banging on about our centre mid, and that was before the rise of Coquelin our saviour of the 2014–2015 season.
Let me discuss some options:
Coquelin – has, as we all know now, been amazing. His ability to engage high and defend deep – also time his tackles and interceptions have transformed our ability not only to protect our defence but enable our attacking transitions by winning the ball and quickly passing it at pace to our creative hubs of Santi and Ozil. We are all on board now – for years we have wanted someone to tackle, compete and offer the recovery pace we lack. Arteta has many attributes but pace is not one and we have been left so open and vulnerable for years with a middle 2 of Arteta and Ramsey and over ambitious tactically immature full backs.
Ramsey – my most discussed player. Now playing on the right and it’s amazing the variation on how people viewed the success of that role and his performance vs. Burnley. My thought is vs LFC it worked. We had a plan to press them high and play in their half. Ramsey held his position wide and stretched their back 3. For me it was his best performance of the season as he did a job for the team and he did not dwell on the ball. He was available and we were able to play through him quickly. As per Sanchez third goal. He managed a 92% passing accuracy and had 2 assists. (Squawka) There is this perception he is good defensively – again I’m not as sure as vs LFC he had a 20% tackle success rate but vs. Burnley he had 0% tackle success rate. I did not feel he was as positionally disciplined and he let Bellerin down by over exposing him to Burnley’s Mee. Let’s be honest it works up to a point but I don’t want to see an Arsenal team with a slow centre mid on the wide right.
I am starting to wonder if the way Chris Coleman uses Ramsey for Wales – which is Bale & Ramsey floating behind Robson-Kanu is not his best role. He can then run where he likes, he has a clear attacking role allowing him to be everywhere but not be the player we try to build structure around centrally. At AFC we need him to be the one closest to our DM but his attacking instinct and penchant for goals leaves us open. This was also a criticism of Gerrard in his pomp.
Cazorla – How I wish he was the same physical stature as say a Ramsey or even better a Diaby. Santi plays the role perfectly next to Coquelin. He is so smart; he recognises what this team needs and tries to provide it. As Henry pointed out after Burnley Santi is always available for when Coquelin wins it. He watches his distances and in turn as he is disciplined he is able to offer a creative platform and link through to Giroud, Ozil and Sanchez. He does not hold it too long but can obviously dribble away from the press when needed. However at 30yrs old and 5 foot 6ins tall I wonder if we can do better and long term this is not the solution. He does have the odd game where he is totally invisible and you wonder where he is but then he returns with a bang.
Wilshere – Talented for sure but he needs to just play for a year and look no further at how Santi is playing the role. Jack is a quick passing heads up player. He can burst and dribble and then pass. He is a true centre mid with variation of pass dribble and smoothly receives the ball. However he plays with too much drama for me. I wish he would be a bit more passive and become the player that is a funnel for others. Jack has a spirit though that refuses to yield. It’s like ‘small man syndrome’ where he has to prove to everyone I can play big. It’s that fearless attitude that is costing him months on the side lines. His lack of stature again means it makes us a bit small but talent wise he could be the big answer.
What do we need – For me we need a player that can play with Coquelin but also replace him. We cannot go back to Arteta/Flamini. It’s been made so clear that we need more athleticism, dynamism engagement and dominance in that role. But at times we may need to go to a ground with 2 more robust tackling passers and we cannot provide that option today. Just from this season my preferred options to bring in and I do think we have to bring in this player are as below:
- Morgan Schneiderlin
- Victor Wanyama
- Geoffrey Kondogbia
Schneiderlin – He is the favoured by many as the new DM. If you look more closely at his game he is basically a number 8 who plays with a DM. At Southampton he plays with Cork (now moved on) and Wanyama who generally sit behind him allowing him to dictate the game more in the style of Arteta and Ramsey than a Coquelin. But for France he has been used as a DM with Sissoko and Pogba providing the go forward. I like the variation to his game and the fact he can complement and play instead of Coquelin.
Wanyama – Kenyan born monster defensive midfielder and has massive presence. I’m not sure he is a Wenger buy but for some that like a big presence he is surely along with Matic the best there is in the BPL. He made his name at Celtic and transferred to Southampton for £12m. Right footed with an aggressive game that mirrors Coquelin but he is obviously more comfortable man on man using his extra weight and size in the challenge.
Kondogbia – French left footed tall centre mid currently at Monaco. A target for LFC also especially after he schooled Santi and Coquelin in the home game recently at the Emirates. 22 years of age but has well over 100 league appearances. He is 6’2” and part of the young French dream team centre mid with Paul Pogba that won the Under 20 World Cup in 2013. I like his style and feel that maybe the Schneiderlin ship has sailed. Neither is no secret but maybe Kondogbia has a greater ceiling and potential to be a great. He would be my pick.
What Coquelin has added is an aggression to balance the silky runners of Ox, Ozil, Sanchez and Welbeck. When we are thinking what to add for me it’s a taller as aggressive player that would unlock some of our smaller talents like Jack. It’s all about balance and any of the three I mention would provide the presence aggression size and ability on the ball we need to thrive in the English Premier League.
3) Add a Fast Wide Man
Last season we all feared for Giroud and the fact he played nearly every minute of the season. We had no cover of note only Sonogo. Adding Welbeck when Giroud got injured for me has been a masterstroke even though I do wonder would we of bought Welbeck if Giroud had not got injured. With Welbeck I can see his game developing. His ability to play wide and central, combine pass and move proactively and connect us offensively has improved. Also his dribbling ability on the right has also developed to a point where we no longer yearn for Walcott and many would not mind if Theo was sold.
When I look at the balance of the squad we have most of what we need but maybe what is missing is a wide man inside forward preferably with a left foot. A speedster who wants to penetrate and shoot. We have Gnabry on the horizon but as he has been out for a year he will need 6 months to find his feet and get match fit. I know we have been linked with Dybala and whether we believe that or not he has the profile of player we could do with especially if we sell Podolski and Walcott.
Another option is Douglas Costa (Shaktar Donetsk) who has a similar profile. He is stronger in his body and right side player with a strong left foot. His inflated fee of £25m could be a turn off but at 24yrs old he could be a shrewd investment.
4) Get Gabriel in the Gym
What we have all seen is Gabriel can defend. He likes defending. He seems to have adapted well to the intensity and physicality of the BPL and reminds me very much of Kos when he arrived. Quick lithe agile fast tackling aggressive defender. Arsenal developed Kos very well physically. He bulked up as was more able to dominate in duels and not just with his pace.
Gabriel for me is key for next season. I worry about what I call the “BFG bingo” – Arsenal playing high with a defender that cannot run.
BFG is great when we play deep and has discovered his form once more but he is always susceptible in an Arsenal team that takes risks defensively to ensure we overload offensively. Gabriel will allow us to play high with comfort and added to our new aggressive play of Coquelin Welbeck, Sanchez, Ox and Giroud we can press teams without fear. This for me is the next developmental step in our team play.
Today’s football almost demands pressing. This is the best way to dispossess teams high up and crack organised defences. Defensive coaching is improving so much that you can stop teams and it’s now becoming more obvious that teams are most disorganised when they actually have the ball. Gabriel will unlock this game plan for Arsenal when paired with Kos. In my opinion he will unlock the true potential of this team. Having defenders happy in all areas of the pitch allow Arsenal to press high but also defend deep. Best example of this was Man City away.
I think we have the new Campbell and Toure combination for at least 3 years developing in front of us with Gabriel and Kos.
5) Mental Preparation – Set High Goals
I’ve touched on the obvious around playing style that can be improved but for me the most important step for this team to make is mental preparation and solid belief that they are contenders. There are already rumblings that our current winning run is typical Arsenal – they turn up and deliver when the pressure is off. I don’t fully agree this time as I see a team that is balanced and with a work ethic on and off the ball that has real sustainable repeatable potential.
What we can do is prepare better and even in this we are developing. If you compare last season the slack way we approached LFC away, Everton away and the games at CFC and most frustratingly this season Monaco at home the mental approach was bordering on unprofessional. However the highlights for me this season have been City and MUFC away and finally Liverpool at home. In all those games we have looked from minute one that we are focussed and have a plan and importantly we have all round talents to execute on that plan.
As a club we need to elevate our thinking, set higher goals.
We need to come out and say we are building a team to Win the Champions League – It’s all about positioning your club at a level where you set and accept new challenges. Arsenal have to accept that if you set high goals failure is a possibility but if you don’t set high goals you don’t really try, you don’t take the risk.
Football is for me about emotion and how the team make you feel. Take away the emotion the fact that most of us are dreamers then you limit your ambition and in the end you risk derailing and taking backward steps.
Wenger has 2 years left and Arsenal are reaching the next stage of their development. Increased TV money from the BPL and the CL will transform our revenue structure. As a club we have to set higher goals to ensure we are ahead of others that can now fund their own similar ambitions. Arsenal must position themselves as the place to play. Gazidis knows this as his comments suggested this week.
The focus has to be Europe – it’s the gateway to global expansion. Arsenal have consistently been under achievers in Europe and it’s a black spot on our history. By positioning your ambitions higher you stand more chance of reaching goals like winning the league.
That is what we all want and next season will be about dealing with that expectation.
Thanks for reading