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October 2016
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Don McMahon

Following on a few articles and posts on UA, I decided to put together a sort of crystal ball, forecast for the short and medium term future of the team. The idea is to see who is getting on in years and will need to be replaced sooner or later and who can replace them, from the bench and reserves. I have put a plus beside the player(s) who I believe could be an improvement when replacing the incumbents, a question mark beside the players who are still in doubt and a minus by those players who, imho, are not an improvement, and I have placed loanees in italics and English players in bold italics, so here goes:

1st team starter positions age Potential replacements
Petr Cech keeper 33 David Ospina (?) 27 Woijech Szcesny (?) 25
Hector Bellerin fullback 20 Mathieu Debuchy (-) 30
Laurent Koscielny CB 30 Gabriel Paulista (+) 24
Per Mertesacker CB 31 Calum Chambers (?) 20
Nacho Monreal fullback 29 Kieran Gibbs (-)26
Francis Coquelin DM 24 Mathieu Flamini (-) 31
Santi Cazorla Midfielder 30 Mikel Arteta (-) 33
Mesut Ozil Midfielder 26 Jack Wilshere (?)23
Aaron Ramsey Midfielder 24 Alex Oxlade-C (+)22 Tomas Rosicky (?) 35
Alexis Sanchez Attacker 26 Olivier Giroud (-) 29 Danny Wellbeck (?)24
Theo Walcott Attacker 26 Joel Campbell (?) 23


Now let me explain my ratings. Ospina and Szcesny (, while 27 & 25) both younger than Cech (33), do not display his coolness and maturity under intense pressure, so far but both have great talent and proven skill sets so they have a great deal of time to prove themselves….therefore out of 10, I would rate our goalkeeping future an 8.

Hector Bellerin is currently irreplaceable and with a 10 year age difference and incredible pace, he is going to be hard to displace. Debuchy, while a talented fullback cannot currently hope to replace Hector. Therefore out of 10, I would rate our left back situation as a 7.

Laurent Koscielny is still our no.1 go to guy as a CB and his pairing with Per has been superb. That said, Gabriel has shown that he can easily cover for Kos and even seems to be improving on Laurent’s already excellent CB play. I rate our CB future as an 8.

Per Mertesacker, while much slower than Kos or Gabriel, still towers above them both in terms of his excellent skills at anticipating play and calming down the defense. Chambers has a lot of potential but lacks maturity and experience and is not an automatic choice to substitute for Per.

I rate our other CB duo as a 6 because of a lack of equivalent replacement for Per. However the variety of options for CB is still excellent and can only get better as Chambers matures.

We now start with the defensive midfield and of course our No.1 go-to-guy, Francis Coquelin. I need say no more about him. As backup we have Mathieu Flamini or Mikel Arteta, both over 30 and imho, nowhere near Francis for defensive abilities and mastery of the Black Arts of defending. I would give this a 5 or maybe 6 but we will need to be ready very soon to bring in someone who can meet Francis’ challenge.

Santi Cazorla is another diamond and after Saturday’s masterful show, absolutely important to find someone who can back him up eventually. As stated before Flamini or Arteta are adequate short-term backup but by next season (or sooner) we will need a more viable alternative, and younger one as well. I would give this a 6.

Mesut Ozil is apparently our most prolific assist creator ever and a one-of-a-kind player. We have Jack coming back soon, and I firmly believe he could eventually match Ozil in many areas, but NOT completely surpass him, even if he stays perfectly healthy….always a doubt. I would give this a 7.

Aaron Ramsey is , like Sanchez and Cazorla, the workhorse and a very important part of the Arsenal engine. With Tomas Rosicky nearing the end of his career, we do have AOC in the background and again, I feel he will be superb backup for Aaron. I give this an 8.

Our own personal Everyready bunny Alexis needs no introduction. Backing him up is our chic and debonair French goalscorer Olivier Giroud. He is one of our most under-rated players and is in the prime of his career so while Alexis is impossible to replace, I feel Giroud is more than adequate cover, and we have Danny Welbeck, whose potential is yet to be adequately felt BUT who, imho, will prove one of Wenger’s best under-the-radar purchases, so a 7 for this one.

Theo is our own personal frustration, and can run hot or cold, depending on the day but he is still one of the deadliest snipers in the EPL. As a substitute we have Joel Campbell, who like Welbeck has loads of promise BUT needs games and opportunities to showcase what he can do. For this situation I give us a 6, but perhaps I am being a bit harsh?

I have not mentioned the youth or loanees, other than Szcesny because the current squad is just too strong to see any of them dropping right in like Coquelin and Bellerin did last year and having a significant impact….I would LOVE to be proven wrong.

So overall, I have come to the conclusion that we are looking very good for the short and medium term(2-4 years), the long-term being too far away to predict anything.




  • Andy Mack

    Only mention of the replacements we have out ‘on loan’ is Szcesny.
    A very good Keeper at Wolves and some excellent talent at Hull, Birmingham and Ipswich.
    Plus Crowley and Zelalem….. Plus Wellington seems to be rated highly at Bolton.

  • Andy Mack

    Damn… sent before I’d finished.
    Should say
    Only mention of the replacements we have out ‘on loan’ is Szcesny.
    We have very good Keeper at Wolves and some excellent talent at Hull, Birmingham and Ipswich. Plus Crowley and Zelalem….. Plus Wellington seems to be rated highly at Bolton.

    I’m not sure we really have a 1st 11 anymore (does any team), more like a 1st 18 with so many competitions & injuries, and many of these youngsters should get some game time with us next year.

    I would add that as Debuchy isn’t getting game time at RB, I can see him being getting CB time in the event of injuries and maybe event in the TinPot Cup. When his legs go (as they do with age) he does seem to have a natural talent for defence that could see him move there.

  • Jerry

    Good write up Don about the Arsenal planning for the present and future. The DM situation looks tough to replace, but potentially Bielik will make that step up in the next year or so. And at RB, looking forward to the competition between Jenkinson and Bellerin next year.

  • Andy Mack

    I was so ‘miffed’ that I’d pressed the send button that I rather lost my chain of thought.

    So, You mention that the kids won’t do a Coquelin or Bellerin, but that’s exactly what happens. I’d happily have Hayden or AMN on our PL bench whilst hoping the starter doesn’t get injured, I’d want these guys to start getting game time (the last 10-20 mins when we’re 3-0 up) but wouldn’t be scared if they had to come on. Most of the others would get TP Cup time and the odd dead rubber, or be on the bench hoping we don’t need them, but they’d be there.
    That’s the reason the talented kids pick us instead of taking the silly money offered by the money clubs.

  • Andy Mack

    Jerry, Hayden is ahead of Bielik.

  • Jerry

    @Andy Mack,

    I agree Hayden is ahead of Bielik, not sure why he slipped my mind. For some reason in my head, I keep considering Hayden as a CB, but you are right, he’s effective equally in both the DM and CB positions.

  • Samrat Jha

    Why is Giroud paired with Alexis, and not with Walcott? Giroud has never played for us on the wings.

  • Samrat Jha

    Why is Giroud paired with Alexis,
    and not with Walcott? Giroud has
    never played for us on the wings.

  • colario

    The Daily Mirror is not my ‘read of the day’. However today I thought I would take a look.
    This is what I found and thought it worth sharing.

  • bjtgooner

    Don an excellent article.

    The squad looks really good just now and from your analysis one could anticipate where AW will look to provide more backup to the first team. With so many talented youngsters in the pipeline it must be likely that some of them will breakthrough into the first team squad – but no doubt AW will, where appropriate, purchase additional quality.

    What we are seeing is part of the ongoing evolution of the team – having come through austerity and the period of desertion by certain money grabbers, AW’s careful building is now coming together – but I suspect he has further team development already planned!

  • Goéland

    thanks for that link, it was a really good read. Their last point should be the final nail in the coffin of those who deride yesterday´s result. More shots on target for the Arsenal (8 to 6), as well as more shots from inside the box (12 to 9).

    As for your predictions, Don, I agree with the gist of it, but there are two things I feel must be said when it comes to Ramsey and Koscielny. You qualified both of their replacements, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gabriel, as potential improvements, and although I am incredibly optimistic about them both, I still think there are question marks regarding the overall performance of the team with both of them in it, particularly the passing. During the game yesterday, Koscielny made at least 3 (that I can think of) long, pinpoint passes that opened up a lot of space for his midfielders and forwards in the opponent´s half. That aspect of his game and the impact it has on our attacking possibilities is underappreciated, in my opinion, and it remains to be seen whether Gabriel can replicate that. As for Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain, the difference between them in that area is even starker. The Ox is in many ways one of the most exciting players in a Gunner shirt, and his pace and dribbling skills mean I´m always very eager to watch him when he plays. But Ramsey´s contributions to the free-flowing, sophisticated Arsenal style of play cannot be overstated, and his brilliant passing abilities take a lot of weight off Santi and Özil in the midfield.
    Which is why Ramsey´s unfortunate injury yesterday will give us a very interesting glimpse into Arsenal´s future with Chambo as a regular starter. I reckon Wenger will leave his tactical set-up intact, simply substituting Aaron with the Ox, but I expect Arsenal´s style to be noticeably different nonetheless. Fascinating times ahead!

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    The attacking players we have in the U21 and U19 squads (essentially) the same group are coming on well this season. Iwobi scored two against Bayern yesterday, the first a rocket that even Nauer would have been hard pressed to stop. I think that when the time comes he along with one or two others will quite likely be able to step up. Of course that group have a major advantage in having Thiery Henry as one of their coaches.

  • nicky

    One of the frustrating things about being an Arsenal supporter is the inability to glean any real information about the progress of our second string players. And in particular, discovering how near they are to using the first team dressing room.
    We hear, via the pages of Untold, glowing reports of reserve games, there is media news of our “loanees” and we actually see our youngsters in the pre-season games and Emirates and Capital Cups.
    And to our excitement, most of them look so good!
    Arsene Wenger is well-known for signing youth players from all over the world but so few seem to make it to the top at Arsenal.
    Someone once said “You don’t win anything with kids”.
    That may be true but the stars of today were once the kids of yesterday who accepted the opportunities they were given.
    Perhaps there are youngsters on Arsenal’s books very close to achieving glory if only they could break into that first team dressing room. 😉

  • WalterBroeckx

    And don’t forget Jeff Reine-Adelaide who impressed in the Emirates cup and is now on the UXX – World cup in Chili I think playing for France

  • nicky

    I was thinking of him in particular. There are a number who appear to we supporters with untrained eyes, to be close to being regular first team squad members. 😉

  • Pat

    Thanks whoever referred us to the Mirror. A great article and 83 wonderful photographs!

  • omgarsenal

    Goeland…………I agree completely! This is all supposition but we ‘ll soon see how well the Ox and Gabriel meet or exceed expectations….happy to have such a dilemma!!!!

  • Laen

    e’re always capable of doing something incredible when it’s either a response to something terrible (losing our first two games) or a response when it doesn’t matter (second leg against Bayern a few seasons back).

    It begs the question, where was this focus when we were playing two very average teams? As one friend said… ‘Zagreb players smoke man. They actually smoke’… and we fucked it.

    It all comes down to hunger. Wenger teams can do it when it’s exciting. They can do it when the pressure is kind of off. They can do it when they’re dead and buried. But they’re not doing it when it’s expected.

    That’s what’s upsetting.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    At right back , I have a feeling that next season it will be Carl Jenkinson vs Bellerin . He has been playing well for the Hammers .
    Another player who has impressed me is Ben Sheaf , who is very consistent in the youth teams . And had a good game against Bayern youngsters .

  • para

    Ox will start for the next times as Ramsey is injured and this gives him some game time.

    Team is strong now. Have been building this team for sometime now and they are becoming The Arsenal more and more week by week.

    Moving on up.

  • omgarsenal

    Laen……….right, but remember that the vast majority of English teams have sucked the past few years so maybe its due to the fact that the big CL teams have amassed a treasure trove of world class players and do not have to deal with EPL officiating. Our players seem to get into a dazed state when they occasionally meet foreign competition and it takes them a swift kick in the family jewels to wake up…..why….your guess is as good as mine or Wenger’s!

  • Vintage Gooner

    Just a quick word on the basic format in what is otherwise an excellent article.

    Where a player has 4 or 5 years on their contact then the assumption should be that the player will give at least 2 or 3 years to a team which seems to have excellent team spirit. To my recollection this means that Bellerin will only face challenge from Jenkinson and even that may be longer than Jenkinson is prepared to wait. Similarly with Sanchez the wait for either Welbeck or the Ox may again be too long for them.

    The other point is that I have sadly expressed severe doubts on the Ox whose talent is not open to challenge but whose application both with his final pass/shot and when called upon to defend has often been woeful. I would so dearly love to be proved wrong in the next 4-6 weeks.