Arsenal fans know the drill by now. Their team look set to charge towards some form of meaningful silverware and then, come March/April time, the fans stare despondently as their team hit self-destruct. Every summer the board and the manager talk a massive shake-up of the squad and are instead presented with unproven youngsters from mediocre European teams.
This time however the wheels are already in motion to ensure a massive overhaul of this current squad, and hopefully replace with a title winning team.
Here’s a comparison between the possible ins and outs at the Emirates this season.
In: Gianluigi Buffon
Out: Manuel Almunia
Almunia’s seven year tenure at the Gunners seems certain to come to an end this transfer window after another season littered with high impact errors. After patiently waiting in the dugout for several years, the Spaniard was given his chance to replace Jens Lehmann after the German international left for Stuttgart. At first Almunia demonstrated why he deserved to wear the goalkeepers jersey, but has recently fallen behind emerging talents Fabianski and Szczęsny.
Buffon, on the other hand, is one of the most decorated footballers in world football with World Cup, UEFA Cup and Serie A winners medals all to his name. Not only is he the most expensive goalkeeper in the world, but he has consistently proved that the £32.6m splashed on him was money well spent. It is believed that it will take another lofty price to prise Buffon away from Juventus, and the fact that his performances are almost certainly on the decline, Wenger may want to look somewhere else to solve his goalkeeping headache.
The internal option:
If Wenger fails to bring in a shot-stopper, he could always turn to either veteran Lehmann, or youngster James Shea.
In: Gary Cahill
Out: Sébastien Squillaci
Squillaci has endured a difficult first season in England, with many Arsenal fans begging the manager to offload the French international. In Squillaci’s defence, a lot of players tend to struggle in their first season in a new country, and constant injuries meant he never knew if he was playing or who he would be playing with in the heart of Arsenal’s defence. If Wenger does decide to keep him, then he will certainly be hoping for an improvement from an otherwise steady defender.
But if Wenger does lose faith, then the impressive Gary Cahill could be ready to solidify Arsenal’s defensive frailties. The Englishman has been constantly linked with the Gunners and his performances for Bolton this year have also attracted the attention of both Milan clubs as well as Manchester City. He has all the attributes to compliment the composer of Thomas Vermaelen, and together they could form a central partnership that Arsenal fans haven’t seen since the Adams/ Keown partnership of the late 90s.
The internal option:
Ignasi Miquel also showed signs of promise and could provide decent back up if Wenger fails to deliver in terms of his transfer policy.
In: Leighton Baines
Out: Gael Clichy
One of the reasons that Arsène Wenger allowed Ashley Cole to leave for Chelsea in 2006 was that he had a readymade replacement in the Frenchman. The last remaining member of the ‘Invincibles (excluding the temporary signing of Lehmann), has been linked with a move away from the Emirates this season with Liverpool thought to be contemplating a swoop. Despite being one of the best left-backs of this generation, Clichy has been known to let his performances drop over the last few seasons.
Leighton Baines however has enjoyed his greatest season yet in the blue shirt of Everton. The gutsy full-back has unrivalled stamina, and has one of the best crosses in the Premier League, (an attribute that Clichy has become much maligned for). However, with “money bags” Manchester City also knocking firmly on Everton’s door, Arsenal could well find themselves out-bidded for the English international.
The internal option: The return of Armand Traore from his loan spell at Juventus, could also provide Wenger with a younger alternative.
In: Eden Hazard, Ricky Alvarez
Out: Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri
Arguably the two most influential midfielders that Arsenal possess, never mind in the Premier League. However, with captain Fabregas apparently pinning for parent club Barcelona, and Nasri only having 12 months left on his contract, it could be wise to cash on both of these midfield maestros. The combined total could easily fetch around £60-70m which could be re-distributed to other areas of the squad. And with a plethora of midfield talent already in the squad, the loss of these two playmakers may not be as painful as many think.
The likes of Wilshere and Ramsey would be automatic choice to fill the boots of these two players, and could also allow a transition from 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2 that many Arsenal fans are asking for. Therefore instead of bringing in central midfielders much alike to Nasri and Fabregas, it may be worthwhile bringing in a midfielder of the wider variety. Eden Hazard has steered Lille to their first league title in 50 years and has had the giants of European football drooling at the prospect of signing the young him. The Belgian’s preferred destination is rumoured to be the Emirates, so Wenger should do everything in his power to bring the wide-man in, who can also play as a central attacking midfielder to Arsenal.
Whilst almost everyone is now familiar with Hazard, few are still puzzled when presented with Ricky Alvarez, a tricky midfielder whose contract is set to expire at Argentine club Velez Sarsfield. Despite lacking a goal scoring touch, Ricky (real name Ricardo Gabriel Alvarez) has been drawing comparisons to Lionel Messi in his native country due to his dribbling abilities, and could be an absolute bargain for Wenger and his team.
The internal option:
A fully recovered Emmanuel Frimpong and exciting youngster Chuks Aneke could also be fast-tracked into the first team, if these signings don’t materialise.
The Russian is starting to divide opinions more than a tub of marmite. Whilst no-one can doubt his world class ability, Arshavin has become a bit too Arsenal-like in his playing style. Gone are the days that he would shoot from distant as mesmerise opposition with his mazy runs. Instead he has learnt the Arsenal, pass and move style, which has led many to view him as lazy. A return back to his own playing style could revitalise the Russian captain, but if not, a return to his old club seems more likely.
Players from the Ivory Coast seem to be successful in the Premier League. Apart from taking the wrong dietary pills, the Touré brothers have become influential players in Man City’s rise up the league. Additionally, Didier Drogba is now viewed as one of the most lethal strikers in the world. Even Eboué has had his moment for Arsenal.
So, in adding Lille attacker Gervais Yao Kouassi, aka Gervinho, would surely only bring success and excitement to the Premier League. The player who has also been linked with Newcastle and Liverpool, has an impressive tally of 25 league goals in just over 50 league matches for French champions Lille. It could take as little as £10m to prise the player away from France, and his burst of pace and direct approach could be a useful variation for Arsène Wenger’s team.
The internal option:
Young Japanese sensation Ryo Miyaichi is expected to create waves for Arsenal in the next few seasons, so why not see how ready he is now?
In: Karim Benzema
Out: Nicklas Bendtner
You would think that the fans would be distraught if a self-proclaimed “best player in world football” was sold to German giants Bayern Munich. However, in Arsenal’s case, if the big Dane does jump ship to Germany a vast majority of the Arsenal fans will be singing to the heavens.
Bendtner has constantly frustrated the Arsenal faithful with below par performances. Despite contributing with some big goals over the last few seasons, it is Bendtner’s “gift” to fail to convert guilt edge chances that has left Arsène Wenger’s patience thin. A possible £15m would be seen as a good piece of business in Arsenal’s perspective.
Benzema is another striker who has failed to please the fans, this time over in Madrid. However, the French international (constantly linked with a £25m move to Arsenal) still boasts a healthy goal-per-game-ratio for the Spanish giants. Benzema’s killer instinct inside the box could be the missing piece over the past few seasons. The arrival of Benzema would surely signal a change to a 4-4-2 formation, which, if the midfield still creates as many chances, would surely lead to more goals.
The internal option:
Benik Afobe has been in dazzling form for play-off finalists Huddersfield. It could well be his time to make some sort of impact on the Arsenal first team squad.