Yay, Gooners, the transfer window is open!
Too bad we already finished our business by signing Petr Čech…
Yes, I do believe our squad is complete already: we added a reliable, experienced and the points-winning goalkeeper we have been lacking since David Seaman. The Czech will provide some extra security to our back line and hopefully inspire Wojciech Szczesny to follow his footsteps.
It’s very unfortunate for David Ooooooooospina because he did well but when you have the chance to sign a true world class player like Petr Čech, you simply can’t turn it down.
I don’t think we need to add any additional players – provided no one leaves, obviously – because we currently have a 26-men squad (not including the likes of Martinez, Bielik, Hayden, Zelalem and those on loan), according to the Club’s website; it’s a huge squad already. Arsène Wenger would have some real issues keeping everyone’s happy, hence I don’t see any more players coming in.
The Media keep linking us with midfielders and strikers from all over the world but I’m tempted to class that as rubbish – like the Arturo Vidal stories proved to be.
It seems to me that many of players already at the Club have slipped under the radar or are being underestimated, either young prospects who could make their breakthrough or experienced men willing to win their place back.
Based on the line-up selected by Arsène Wenger towards the end of the season, here is a summary of all options which are already on hand for the manager. Hopefully it will give you an idea of the completeness and varied in skills our squad already is:
Current choice: David Ospina
33-years old Czech international Petr Čech has been signed to be our first-choice goalie, otherwise he wouldn’t have ever left Chelsea; his vast experience and undoubted ability will certainly be an asset for the team and he’s a clear upgrade on all our current goalkeepers.
Wojciech Szczesny will play in both domestic cups and try to make the best of the opportunity to work with a great player and an outstanding professional, up to him to develop into the great keeper he could be and – why not – quickly restore himself as first-choice between the sticks.
Emiliano Martinez will be our third goalkeeper, while David Ospina seems to be on his way to Turkey after a very decent debut season – which sounds a bit unfair to the Colombian.
Current choice: Hector BELLERÍN, Per MERTESACKER, Laurent KOSCIELNY, Nacho MONREAL
Arsène Wenger struggled to put together a solid defensive unit last summer, letting Vermaelen, Sagna and Jenkinson go and bringing in only Calum Chambers and Mathieu Débuchy. Thise decisions did cost us some points early in the season since Mertesacker was horribly out of shape and Koscielny suffered some injuries, leaving us exposed. The problem has been addressed since, with the arrival of Gabriel, but if it wasn’t for Bellerín’s emergence we would have been in trouble again.
Whether it was luck or not, we are now in a very good position as we have two very valid options for each role, each of the players offering something different: Laurent Koscielny is undoubtedly our best defender and first name on the team sheet, while Per Mertesacker looks like the perfect partner for the Frenchman and is likely to keep his status of automatic starter despite the increasing criticism of a part of the supporters. He might be slow, he might be a poor jumper but he’s been reliable as ever since soon as he rediscovered some form and suddenly our defensive line looked solid again, which in my opinion is not a coincidence.
Brazilian centre-back Gabriel looked promising in his outings and offers pace, aggression and aerial force with his impressive jumping. I won’t be surprised to see him getting minutes along the season and become a real threat for the regular starters. Calum Chambers will surely continue his development as centre-back and is seen as the long-term replacement for our Big “Friendly” German, we will see if he can be Arsenal’s happy story of 2016 and follow in the footsteps of Francis Coquelin and Hector Bellerín. Speaking about the young Spaniard, he will have some torrid time keeping a fit Mathieu Débuchy out of the team: he took the chance while the former Newcastle man was out with a damaged shoulder but he will have a real challenger next season – a player who might not be as good offensively but offers a great knowledge and strength defensively.
Same goes for Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs, both equally capable of being our first-choice left-back although very different: depending on the balance of the team, Arsène Wenger could start the Spaniard to be sure he’d have the flank well covered or pick the Englishman to have relentless, continuous overlaps on the left –hand side.
Is a defensive line composed of Débuchy, Chambers, Gabriel and Gibbs really worse than the one we used to see in recent weeks? I don’t think so.
Current choice: Francis COQUELIN, Santi CAZORLA, Mesut ÖZIL
In my humble opinion, our midfield is the best in the league.
Arsène Wenger has a plethora of options available for each position, none of which can really be labelled as second choice; we have Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, and Tomas Rosicky all available for an offensive role in midfield – either central or wide – and at the same time three of them could play a deeper role, in contention with or alongside Francis Coquelin and Mikel Arteta.
As you can see, we’re not shy with options.
It will be hard to find the perfect combination but I would focus on our captain, first: he’s been too soon treated like a liability since Francis Coquelin made his breakthrough, however I feel he still has a lot to offer since his passing ability, vision and touch are far superior than that of the young Frenchman.
Think about the game against Swansea at home, when Francis Coquelin had virtually nothing to do defensively, and imagine what Mikel Arteta could have brought in terms of tempo handling, to increase pressure on opponents; in games like that, having to passers like him and Santi Cazorla could prove to be the difference between a win and a draw or loss. Don’t write off Mikel Arteta just yet, Gooners.
Why would we need to add another defensive midfielder, then? Consider I am ignoring Mathieu Flamini, too, who’s going nowhere this summer…
Moving higher on the pitch, we have so many different skills that I almost find it embarrassing for our opponents: we have technique, vision, speed, trickery and stamina all over the place, the only thing we might be lacking is height but Francis Coquelin (and a certain Claude Makélélé before him) proved you don’t need to be a giant to be an excellent defensive midfielder.
We’re packed with quality and will continuously have solution on the bench, in case games didn’t go as well as Arsène Wenger planned.
Current choice: Alexis SANCHEZ, Aaron RAMSEY, Olivier GIROUD
I’m not the biggest fan of Olivier Giroud but he has shown he has the right attributes to lead our attacking line; he’s strong, he can hold the ball up and keep defenders busy while his teammates dart into the box – and he can score goals, too!
Alongside him, we have that beauty of a player called Alexis Sanchez – who bagged twenty five goals in his first season and has been the signing of the season in the Premier League: his trickery, finishing, acceleration and work rate are unbelievable and will be our main resource in our quest for glory. He will keep running from the left and terrorise defenders, no doubts about it.
Then we have two different profiles, both equally on the verge of having a storming season: Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck.
The former – shall he sign da ting – has shown glimpses of his excellent self against West Brom and Aston Villa, I’m sure Arsène Wenger has plans to play him centrally to make the most of his intelligent runs and cool finishing. He took a lot of time to recover from his knee injury, the preseason could be crucial to build the sharpness and confidence he desperately needs.
Danny he has goals in him – a lot of goals – and I would place an outside bet on him becoming a regular in our XI; the latter had a mixed first season at the Club (not many goals, not many assists but a lot of work for the team) but has all the qualities to become a leading force: he is strong, he is quick and works harder than anyone – except Alexis Sanchez, of course.
He’s not as efficient as he should be in front of goal but this is one of the aspects of the game that can’t be improved, he will benefit from working with Arsène Wenger – who has a record of transforming goals-shy strikers in merciless machines.
I genuinely can’t wait to see how Danny Welbeck develops; he has the potential to be our secret weapon.
Last but not least, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: the right wing role seems to be custom-tailored on him, it’s up to the guy to find consistency and effectiveness; he has pace, directness and skills to break opponents’ lines and create chances, he lacks regularity in his performances but it’s quite usual in young players – and the guy is yet to turn 22!
Fitness is a bit of a concern and will be key to transform him into a great player, this year could definitely be his year – another outside bet for me.
I let you play a game of combinations, taking all the players from our current squad and shape your ideal XI: you’ll be amazed to discover how many of your favourites you’d be forced to leave out of the team!