In the closing stages of our final game of the season against Aston Villa, for the first time in the entire campaign, I felt truly united with all my fellow Arsenal supporters. We sang together and we laughed together as the news of Spurs’ humiliation, at the hands of a relegated Newcastle side, filtered through. The togetherness and camaraderie amongst the clubs fans, however temporary, was back, as a disappointing season, suddenly became a more bearable one.
Some supporters will argue that finishing second, having only hit top form on a handful of occasions, has to be viewed as an unexpected success. Whilst others will consider it to do nothing but paper over the cracks, following a season where didn’t come remotely close to winning the league or any other competition for that matter. Despite this and whatever your view on the season as a whole, surely finishing above Spurs, particularly in the manner that we did, provides some form of consolation.
Finishing above Spurs lifted the mood and ensured that there were no protests on the final day. With many supporters believing the protests not to have made any impact anyway and with Arsene set to at least see out the final year of his contract, perhaps they have a point. What we don’t know at this stage though, is whether they have influenced his decision, in anyway, where signing a contract extension is concerned.
I have to question the logic and mind-set of those supporters who publicly stated that they want Wenger gone, only to sing his name during the Norwich game as soon as banners began to be held up. These supporters may not agree with the banners calling for a change but by singing the managers name, they have effectively given him a public show of support and made themselves look like hypocrites. What other manager could openly blame the clubs supporters for his team’s failings one day and still have his name sung the next? From my perspective, if the public displays of discontent do nothing other than serve as a long awaited and much deserved kick up the proverbial for Arsene, they will still have been worth it.
The Villa game also represented the end of Tomas Rosicky’s ten year association with the club. Tomas is a player who I have always had great respect and admiration for but calling him a legend seems somewhat generous. Having made only one hundred and seventy league appearances for the club over the course of a decade, due to injuries, a David O’Leary, Tony Adams or Dennis Bergkamp, he is not. I wish him the best of luck for the future but perhaps a ‘cult hero’ would be a more fitting description.
It has often been said that players won’t be interested in joining a club where the manager hasn’t committed his long term future but the signing of Granit Xhaka this week should help to dispel that theory. The completion of the transfer before the end of May, gives me a reason to be optimistic and the club deserves credit for getting the deal done early.
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Petr Cech was the only arrival last summer and it is imperative that this is not the case this time around with Xhaka. I would like to see at least two further additions made and consider a centre back and a striker to be essential which ‘ironically’ a similar scenario to last year.
Whilst Granit didn’t impress against England in the qualifiers for the European Championships, from what I have seen of him when playing for his club side, he looks composed on the ball and likes to play long diagonal balls into the channels and in to the space behind the defence. For which we would need a pacy forward or winger to benefit from and sadly Theo Walcott is not the answer.
Standing at over six feet tall, he will also give us extra height and a disciplinary record that reportedly consists of eight red cards and averages a booking every four games, suggests that he will also add much needed steel to the side. In theory he certainly ticks all the right boxes.
I am not one who genuinely allows their hopes to be built up by transfer rumours but if there is any truth in the stories linking the club with a move for Alvaro Morata, I’d be delighted. For a guy of his height, six foot two, he has good pace and the potential to thrive on the service he’d be given by Mesut Ozil and co. Some supporters criticise Alvaro for not having had a prolific season to date but it should not be forgotten that in the season before last, Leicester’s Jamie Vardy, managed to score just five top flight league goals. He followed those up with twenty four last season and in the same way Ranieri did with Vardy, perhaps Wenger could get Morata firing.
With the form of Gabriel unconvincing and Per Mertesacker’s best days behind him, it is evident that a new centre back is required. At the start of last season, I said that Calum Chambers needed be loaned out in order to gain experience by playing regular first team football. This is a view that I still retain and his development has stagnated as a result of a lack of game time during the last campaign.
The signing of Xhaka would also suggest that Wenger has perhaps given up trying to develop Chambers as a defensive midfielder, especially with Francis Coquelin also ahead of him in the pecking order.
Medhi Benatia has been strongly linked with a move after two disappointing seasons at Bayern Munich. Although it is most likely a case of the media putting two and two together, were we to sign Benatia, the challenge for Arsene would be getting him to replicate the form he showed at Roma, which ultimately earned him his move to the German giants. Should Arsene succeed, Medhi would bring pace, a superb reading of the game and at twenty nine, experience.
There are of course alternative options, with those I mentioned, simply being the highest profile names being linked in the media and it would not be unusual for Arsene to sign a player yet to be mentioned. If Wenger makes two or three further signings, it would at least demonstrate that he is looking to find potential solutions for the teams deficiencies.
All supporters ask is that Arsene attempts to make full use of the resources available to him and it is when he appears to ignore the deficiencies, that we become frustrated. Along with a centre back and a forward, I would also like to see us bring in a pacy wide player to give us some width but perhaps that is simply, me being greedy.
Our recent comings and goings amongst the playing personnel suggest that the squad is in the early stages of going through an evolution, out with the old and in with the young. The departures of elder statesmen Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini (?) and Tomas Rosicky have all been confirmed and I would expect Mathieu Debuchy to join them.
Some supporters have said that we need to replace the three departing midfielders, however, an accumulation of the total number of appearances made by Mikel, Mathieu and Tomas last season, barely amounts to that of a single player, so I would be very surprised if Wenger did bring in another midfielder, unless others leave. Rightly or wrongly, I would expect Arsene to take the view that Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka replace Arteta and Flamini, whilst Iwobi replaces Rosicky.
There are a few other players who I wouldn’t be disappointed were they to leave either, David Ospina, Carl Jenkinson and Kieron Gibbs will only ever be squad players at best, whilst Theo Walcott should be the big name casualty. If Arsene can’t consistently get the best out of Theo after ten years then it is unlikely that he ever will and perhaps a parting of ways would be the best option for all involved.
Taking into account their age, natural ability and the injuries suffered by Serge Gnabry and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in recent seasons, it would perhaps be a hasty decision to allow both players to leave. A loan move would at least provide them with a final opportunity to develop and prove they have a future at the club.
I would expect Joel Campbell, who didn’t let us down when called upon last season, to be seriously considering his future too because Wenger doesn’t give him the game time that his performances deserve.
I am sure that regardless of our opinions about Wenger, we all want him to go out on a high as that would mean the club has been successful and like the teams from the first half of his reign, let’s hope he reverts to bringing in players who have pace, power and technique, over to you Arsene……