After an embarrassing 3-1 defeat at home to Aston Villa, it became truly apparent that Arsenal were short a number of players. In the typical Wenger style, there has been a lot of talk about signing players without any actual signing of players. There is a gazillion pounds worth of money in the Arsenal coffers (according to Wenger and Gazidis), yet so far Arsenal’s only signing of the transfer window has been a 19 year old free transfer (hardly something to set the hearts racing at the Emirates). With less than two weeks now left in the transfer window, the inevitable Wenger rush to sign average players at the last minute is approaching. The question is what positions do Arsenal need to improve?
Szczesny isn’t a bad player, but he is an over rated player. In his first season at Arsenal everyone was banging on about how Arsenal had found their GK of the future, now everybody isn’t so sure. Szczesny has the ability and he has that cockiness that all great keepers have. The problem however is that he has way to much confidence and often finds himself conceding goals which he never should be conceding because he is trying to make a save for the cameras or is rushing out trying to be a sweeper (such as against Villa).
What Szczesny needs is competition, Fabianski isn’t good enough to give that; so what Arsenal need is a keeper who will offer a challenge to keep Szczesny on his toes but won’t necessarily need to play first team. A perfect player for this would have been Mark Schwarzer but he went to Chelsea, but a player of a similar ilk would be perfect (Julio Cesar is available). This isn’t a position of instant need, but the need for a good back up keeper to push Szczesny is required if he is to develop into the keeper Arsenal thought they had 2 years ago.
Bacary Sagna is not a great player, and is constantly found wanting when he comes up against fast wingers or better opposition. His back up Jenkinson isn’t much better but is still only 21 and should push on and take the position from Sagna this season. This is one of the few areas of serious need for Arsenal, although they could do with improving the position at future transfer windows.
Kieran Gibbs is another over rated Arsenal player (feel like I may say that a lot), there is a good chance he is over rated because he is English but he just doesn’t add that much to the team. It isn’t that Gibbs is an awful player (he is not) but he is constantly injured and when he isn’t he doesn’t look good enough to play for Arsenal. Nacho Monreal I imagine will play if he is fit and is a decent player; the major issue with Monreal is that he isn’t a great defender but he is good going forward. Similar to right back, left back isn’t a major area of concern that Arsenal need to solve right now.
The only way to describe the Arsenal centre back set up is complete mess. All three are solid enough players when they are fit, but each has their own flaws. Vermaelen can never stay fit, and hasn’t been the same player he was in his first season since he had all his injuries. Koscielny is a decent player but he is incredibly clumsy and too often has a rush of blood to the head. Mertesacker is just really really slow, and that is totally useless up against anyone who has any pace.
The perfect situation for a club is to have around 5 centre backs, to cover any circumstance (suspension, injury, loss of form). Arsenal has 3, one of which is constantly injured. Against Fenerbache when Koscielny went off injured, Arsenal had to bring on Jenkinson (a slight but tall right back) because they had already run out of centre back; that is after 2 games.
If I was Wenger I would be looking to bring in 2 centre back before the transfer window closes. Arsenal has been linked with Ashley Williams the whole of the summer and he would give them a solid, although not spectacular signing to shore up their defence. Micah Richards would surely be a good pick up and I imagine would be available for a reasonable price (because he surely is looking for first team football before the World Cup). He does have injury problems, but is a physical beast and could Arsenal a bit of nastiness that they lack.
This is a weird one because Arsenal don’t have any real wide players. The only two that could be argued as such are Walcott (who claims to be a striker) and Oxlade-Chamberlain (who often plays in the middle). The only other player that I can see that is a wide man is Ryo Miyaichi who has never played a Premier League game for Arsenal (2 League Cup appearances) and is likely to be loaned out again.
Theo Walcott is an odd player, because he has something but I’m not sure what he has is actually very good, to me he doesn’t seem like a starter. He seems like he is the perfect sub player, the problem here however is that he is one of Arsenal’s most important and best players. There is no doubt he is incredibly quick, and he can score from amazingly tight angles. However Walcott doesn’t have a footballer’s brain; he often struggles to see passes, he doesn’t have the technique required to deliver high quality crosses and when you expect him to score often he doesn’t. He looks like a track star that plays football. Chamberlain looks like a really good young player, but for some reason he struggles to start for Arsenal. It does seem odd (because Arsenal lack wide men) that he doesn’t start more often, but he picked up a bad injury in the game against Villa and could be out for 3 months, which would be a major blow for Arsenal.
This is surely a major problem for Wenger because often against the smaller teams Arsenal struggle to break them down because there is a lack of space, and without width this will allow teams to become even narrower against them. I know that Arsenal are a team that likes to play through the middle, but as Man City found out last season, sometimes you need a bit of width to change a game and to give you something different..
Again if I were Wenger I would be looking to sign two wingers before the transfer window closes. Hatem Ben Arfa is an excellent player who for some reason finds himself at Newcastle (I believe he had attitude problems), I am sure he would jump at a chance to go to Arsenal. He is a talent and has bags of technique and skills that Arsenal is sorely missing. Georgino Wijnaldum is a 22 year old Dutch internationalist that is ready to take that step up to the next level. He has played for both PSV and Feyenord and is an exciting and electric winger who loves to dribble the ball. Both players would add a little bit of electricity to Arsenal and give them the width they are sorely lacking.
Arsenal have lots of central midfielders, the problem is that they don’t have enough quality central midfielders. Tomas Rosicky has never quite hit the heights that Wenger would have hoped when he signed him; also is it me or does Rosicky only seem to turn it on when his contract is running out? Mikel Arteta is a good solid player who I like, but he should be a squad player not the main cog in your central midfield. Jack Wilshere is over rated (yes I said it!), he hasn’t shown nearly enough to be considered as highly as he is. There are also major concerns over his attitude (he’s a wee chav) and his body is made out of glass. If he could stay fit and develop his game he could be a very good player, but at this rate he is destined to be a major disappointment. Aaron Ramsey has never been able to fulfil the potential he showed at Cardiff, and really is a very ordinary player, reminding me of a less talented Arteta. Santi Cazorla is the diamond in a team that is struggling for pure quality, he is it and I am surprised that a bigger club didn’t come in for him in the summer because he showed last season that he is better than where Arsenal currently are (sorry Arsenal fans). Frimpong (33 appearances in 3 seasons) and Diaby (40 games in 3 seasons) are identical to each other because they cannot be relied upon to stay fit.
There isn’t an issue of depth at central midfield at Arsenal, there is however a major issue of quality. The only players worth keeping in this group are Cazorla, Wilshere and Arteta; that would be Cazorla and Wilshere to start and Arteta as a solid squad player. Essentially Arsenal need a holding midfielder, a centre midfielder and an attacking midfielder to create enough all round depth.
There are lots of players available for Wenger to sign here; Geoffrey Kondogbia looks like he may be the next big thing for French football. He has already been capped by the French national side and played an important role in the Sevilla team last season, all at the ripe age of 20. He would give Arsenal some height and toughness that they are sorely lacking in their midfield. Kondogbia has stated that he would like to move to the Premier League, Arsenal should be in for him. Yohan Cabaye is already an established star in the Premier League and has been linked with Arsenal already. He has got everything you want from a central midfielder; he can pass, tackle, score, take set pieces and has a rocket of a shot. He would be a great compliment to Jack Wilshere and would help push him to improve as a player. Finally if I were Wenger I would look at bringing in Fellaini from Everton; much like Cabaye he is a proven Premier League player, and much like Kondogbia he has that toughness and height that Arsenal are sorely lacking. Fellaini can blow a bit hot and cold, but when he is hot he is almost unstoppable and he is ready to take that step up.
Arsenal don’t have enough strikers, it is as simple as that. Olivier Giroud is their main striker currently and if that doesn’t start warning lights I don’t know what does. He just hasn’t been able to recreate his form that he had in Ligue 1, and who knows if he ever will; currently he doesn’t look quick enough or prolific enough to be a successful striker in the Premier League. Lukas Podolski I like, but clearly he has attitude problems and he and Wenger rub each other the wrong way, which is a shame for Podolski and for the league because he is an excellent player when he tries. However as was shown when he was at Bayern, he doesn’t try enough. Yaya Sanogo (only signing so far) I have never seen play but I know he is good in Football Manager, so that must mean something…. The less said about Nicklas Bendtner the better.
They need 2 strikers, but could maybe get away with just signing the one. Arsenal need someone who can score around 20+ goals a season, currently they don’t have that and much like Tottenham (pre-Soldado) it is holding them back.
If I were Wenger I would be going out to sign Benteke, the guy is an absolute beast. He has everything; he is fast, good in the air, strong, has a great shot and is prolific in front of the net. Much like many of the other players that I think Wenger should be trying to sign Benteke would give Arsenal the nastiness and height that they are sorely lacking at the current moment. The other player I think Wenger should go for is Burak Yilmaz. I have seen him play several times for Galatasaray in the Champions League and he is very prolific in front of goal (32 goals in 39 appearances last year). He has never played outside of Turkey though, and could well be another Giroud but it is surely worth a shot for a player who could potentially be a 20+ a season player.
If Wenger were to go out and buy all the players that I think he should then he would have to make 10 signings which is never going to happen. This is however a best case scenario, if Arsenal were able to fix every single position and problem they have. It isn’t surprising that Arsenal have so many holes in their squad, because Wenger has allowed the squad to deteriorate over the past 5 years.
If I were to pick the 5 signings that I think that Arsenal should make over the others I would say Benteke, Kondogbia, Ben Arfa, Williams and Richards should be the main priorities.
It is interesting to note that very little of the squad is made up of Arsenal academy players. What happened to Arsenal’s acclaimed youth system? Only Szczesny, Wilshere and Gibbs are academy products, which isn’t great and there doesn’t seem to be much coming through in the future.
As things stand it looks like it will be a long season for Arsenal fans, as they look at the increasingly likely chances of their arch rivals Spurs finishing above them in the league. The only way this won’t happen is if Arsenal go out and make a number of quality signings to address the weaknesses in their squad.
So let me know what you think about the current Arsenal transfer dealings, or rather lack of them. What players do you think that Arsenal should be trying to sign in the last week and a half of the transfer window? It would be good to hear from Arsenal fans on how they see the situation and their feelings on the current squad and Arsene Wenger. All comments are welcome.