It’s that time of the year again. Though the transfer window will only open in 6 weeks, the transfer mill is already churning out rumours and boasting actual signings. Depay will start next season in United colours after the Red Devils bought him for a ridiculous £31 million and Dybala (our long-rumoured target) should do likewise at Juventus. Oh, and lest I forget: Forza Juventus. Brilliant work on knocking out Real Madrid and reaching the Champions League final. Watching a €200 million front three of Ronaldo, Bale and Rodriguez get knocked out by their academy graduate was priceless. Funnier even than, dare I say, Welbeck’s winning goal at OT.
Back to the summer transfer window, however, and it’s obvious Arsenal needs to get some work done come July. And we will really be better off doing it in July, since August 1st is earmarked for the Community Shield game. The first league game will take place a week later.
For my ramblings about who needs to be brought in so that we could challenge Chelsea next season I’ll adopt the expectation/reality format. The more accurate headings would probably be “what I think needs to be done” and “what Arsene Wenger is likely to do”, but where would the fun be in that?
Anyway, I’ll start with
Expectation: ideally, I’d want Szczesny to come good, wrestle his place back from Ospina (with his performances, not literally) and make a further 400 appearances for us before retiring a Club legend having won every possible trophy.
However, what I just did is take my imagination to new dizzying heights. This scenario has “unreality” written all over it. Let’s move over to more realistic options.
Reality: from where I’m standing, Szczesny is half gone from the Club. He might (or might not, depending on the manager’s decision) have one game to prove he has a future at the Club: the Cup final. You know what I think: the Pole shouldn’t play there. In order to stand the best chance of winning, we need to do what Villa will undoubtedly do: field our strongest XI. It doesn’t include Szczesny.
It’s really hard to tell what Arsene will do. I won’t put it beyond him to play Szczesny in the final and, regardless of his performance and/or outcome of the game, keep him for next season. I don’t think Szczesny’s contract runs out in a year, so we are not pressed to sell him and cash in this summer.
I also cannot say a new ruthless Wenger hasn’t already made up his mind in that he needs a better number 1. This particular quote may shed some light on what is going on in Arsene’s head
“I hope yes (Szczesny has a future at the Club). But, at the moment, it is very difficult to answer that question.”
“It was then put to him that David Ospina had been the reason for the club’s upturn in form. Wenger, quite rightly, quickly pointed out that the difference in 2015 had been the availability of key outfield players, notably Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny, as well as the emergence of Hector Bellerin and Francis Coquelin.” – Jeremy Wilson.
You can read the rest of the article here (link).
Assuming Wenger wants a new goalie, one that would play and Ospina will sit on the bench, who might he bring in? Cech, Begovic, Lloris, Casillas and Handanovic are all possible replacements for Szczesny.
With Cech, the decision will be made by Petr and Roman Abramovich, Mourinho himself confirmed he has no say in the matter. Cech is my personal pick. He’s 32, may have 5-7 years left in him. He’s a winner, with 9 trophies under his belt, so he has that mentality. Finally, he’s a class act who is unlikely to play second fiddle to anyone and he has good reason not to.
Lloris and Begovic are 2nd and 3rd best on my list. Both are great keepers with loads of experience in the Premier League. Both are younger than Cech (28 and 27 respectively). Both aren’t playing for big clubs. Lloris even has a £20 buy-out clause in case Spurs don’t qualify for the CL (which they haven’t already). His ambitions may well match his ability and this ability is far greater than Europa League. Begovic, meanwhile, didn’t play for Stoke in their last game, something that may hint he’s on his way out.
Finally, Casillas and Handanovic are 4th and 5th respectively (on my list). Casillas is 33, and can be likened to Cech in many regards: experienced, winner and doesn’t want to play back-up to Navas. It may not necessarily be the case, but rumours persist De Gea will be bought and Casillas wants to leave the Galacticos anyway.
However, where both Handanovic and Casillas lose to their counterparts is that they have to PL experience. Something that can be crucial to Wenger when/if the Frenchman makes his decision.
Expectation: at another great push of my imagination, I can come up with the scenario in which three defenders can leave us: Debuchy, Mertesacker and Monreal/Gibbs.
Debuchy as a result of falling behind Bellerin and Jenkinson in the pecking order, Mertesacker because of an inconsistent season, Monreal because he’s 30 and has one year left on his contact and Gibbs as a consequence of losing his place to the Spaniard.
In case Debuchy leaves I don’t expect anyone to come in, with Mertesacker I’d demand another CB, though probably back-up to Gabriel and Chambers and with Gibbs/Monreal, I’d demand a quality LB. Like Gaya.
Reality: in reality, I don’t think anyone will, or indeed, should leave. We finally sorted out our defense, have depth and competition in every position and we should keep it this way.
No one said AW doesn’t view Debuchy as a starter when fit; Mertesacker, despite some weak showings is our vice-captain (and de-facto captain), someone who is in top three at Arsenal in terms of minutes played this season, which indicates he has the complete trust of the manager; Monreal has been exceptional and should be kept at all costs and there’s a case to be made for Gibbs. He’s still young for a defender, learning his trade and a couple of indifferent performances do not mean he needs to be sold immediately and not be given another chance. I’ll round up my musings on defenders with what Wenger recently said and what should put to bed all rumours linking us to defenders:
“At the moment I have players who have more experience than he (Chambers) has but in pre-season I will play him there (at CB)”.
“That means we have enough there. Debuchy can play there, Monreal can play there so you can say we are not out to buy a central defender.
“And Gabriel will be a great central defender, believe me. So we have now sorted out the centre backs.”
By saying Debuchy and Monreal can act as emergency CBs, one can assume both will stay next season.
As our full-backs are in complete order and AW won’t reinforce the central area, I’ll move on.
Everything will depend on who and/or how many players will leave. If anyone leaves. If the midfield stays intact, I’d say we might need only another CDM in Coquelin’s mould. One player, no more. I don’t think we should also be worried if Flamini, Diaby and Rosicky are the only ones to leave (and let’s face it, all of them are unlikely to be here come September). We’ll still have Coq, Ramsey, Wilshere, Arteta, Cazorla and Ozil. Difficulties (and the need to act) will arise if this trio is followed out of the door by Arteta and/or Cazorla. Should one (or both) leave, AW will need to get his chequebook out.
Expectation: in which case I’d expect someone like Isco to replace Cazorla. Only he comes to mind as a two-footed capable playmaker from the deep. Also, he’s the only one mooted by the press to join us so far.
As for Arteta, I’ve seen three possible candidates linked: Schneiderlin, Kondogbia and Gündogan.
Morgan has an advantage over Kondogbia in that he’s used to the Premier League, while his ability to stay fit will serve as an edge over Gündogan. His other strength is his passing. Coquelin is the best there is at breaking up play, but he’s often bypassed by his fellow teammates when Arsenal’s quick passing game clicks. Coq is viewed as an obstacle, impediment to our free flowing tika-taka. Arsenal’s Column focuses on that particular drawback in greater detail here (link). Thus, it wouldn’t hurt to buy Morgan whatever.
Reality: I don’t think Arsene will buy ANYONE unless an important cog in his well-oiled machine leaves. That is, if Arteta or Cazorla decide to seek pastures new. With Cazorla I’m not convinced Wenger will buy a replacement, he may be inclined to give Wilshere a real shot, though it’d be risky having one less midfielder capable of making the difference and placing all the trust in an injury-prone Jack. Don’t get me wrong, I love Wilsh, I’m a big believer in his ability and I really, really want him to pin down a regular role next season, but banking on any player staying fit is risky, doing so when a player in question has a long injury record is doubly so.
Arteta, meanwhile, is Arsene’s most trusted lieutenant. If he stays, no one will come in. I’m not even sure Coquelin will still be №1 if Arteta is fit and healthy. However, should the Spaniard leave, I’m more than sure Arsene will buy someone to cover for Coq when necessary. It’s not secret he was interested in signing the aforementioned Morgan Schneiderlin in the summer, I have a feeling this interest will be renewed even if Arteta stays.
The front three
I was watching the return leg of Bayern vs Barcelona the other day and it struck me that both teams had at least three attackers that could create a moment out of nothing. Bayern had Lewandowski, Mueller and Goetze; Barcelona had the deadly trio of Neymar, Suarez and Messi. Moreover, Bayern also had Ribery and Robben injured, while Barca had Pedro tucked away on the bench.
Mind you, both sides have an abundance of midfielders at their disposal, all of whom are more than capable of conjuring up moments for their attackers. Barca boast a midfield of Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets and Rakitic; Bayern have Schweinsteiger and Xavi Martinez. Nonetheless, the creative burden is shared between attack and midfield.
Yes, we are talking about probably two strongest teams in Europe at the moment. Both would likely have made it to the final, had blind fate not pinned them against one another in the semis. And now look at Arsenal.
We have: Ramsey, Wilshere, Cazorla, Ozil and Rosicky. Five midfielders, all have different qualities, all are capable of producing moments of magic for themselves and for their partners. But do we have attackers capable of doing that? Short answer would be “no”.
Of course, if I elaborate, I can say we have Sanchez and (probably) Oxlade-Chamberlain who can create something out of nothing. The others, though? Giroud, Welbeck, Walcott? They cannot. All of them rely on service. No service, no goals, or very few goals.
The issue is not Giroud’s quality as some would have you believe. It’s the fact he’s almost on a one-man mission. Would Benzema manage to be that good without ample support from the flanks or, indeed, a plan “B”? Because Real have options in attack if things don’t go well. We, realistically speaking, do not have such options. Do not have the personnel up front to create on their own (bar Sanchez and the Ox). So here goes.
Expectation: I really want to see either a creative forward or another creative winger come in this summer. You cannot bank on Sanchez and Oxlade staying fit or in-form all season. For starters, Alexis’s season is more than likely to begin later than ours due to his involvement in Copa America. Oxlade, meanwhile, had another injury-ridden season. If one injury means you have to play a central midfielder wide, well, that’s simply not good enough.
Again, the problem is that I’ve seen very few wingers or strikers linked with us. Which hints that we may not be in the market for one. Reus has renewed his contract and will be hard to get for reasonable money, Goetze has seemingly fallen out of favour with Guardiola, but again it’s unlikely he’ll be allowed to leave for peanuts. Dybala is almost a Juve player, odds are Icardi is not for sale. Bale is not realistic at all, so I don’t even want to mention any possibility of him joining us.
In my opinion, if we can get our hands on another world-class striker/winger it’d be grand. My personal pick would be Reus, closely followed by Goetze. Lacazette is the only realistic option I can envisage us getting to play at CF.
Reality: what Arsene chooses to do can vary greatly from what I’d do. And, unlike many others, I’m willing to back the manager, conceding he’s much more qualified in this matter than I am.
What I can say for sure is that Arsene is a fan of Fekir, Lyon’s winger, so his acquisition is not outside the realms of possibility. At a stretch, one can make a case for Lacazette, though I haven’t seen anything to suggest we might be in for him.
Unless it’s a clever ruse, Wenger seems to be willing to give Theo Walcott a shot at CF:
“Being 26 to 32 is the best age as a striker and I wouldn’t like to miss that golden age,”
“He can be transformed. He is naturally gifted to play in this position.”
“I work with him in both situations, as a striker and as a wide player but the quality of the runs is so fantastic with the pace he has,
“When he was younger he was rushing his finishing but he is a good finisher now.”
We also know Wenger is an admirer of Olivier Giroud, while Welbeck and Akpom are waiting in the wings. With all that, I’d be really surprised if we DO buy a CF. Of any kind.
However, the situation on the wings is a bit different. I’d even say it’s VERY different. If we view Welbeck and Walcott as strikers, that’s two less wingers. If Wenger comes good on his promise Oxlade and Gnabry will play in central midfield. That leaves Alexis as our only winger and I vaguely recall Arsene stating he bought the Chilean as a striker.
As you can see, the need for a buy in this area is pretty pressing and I think Arsene also sees it. Unlike the situation with CFs, I’d be hugely surprised should no winger come in.
Some business we need to do, don’t we? The summer should be long and interesting. Bloggers, beware of rumours.
Righto, enough said. Hats off if you stuck with me till the end.