By Tony Attwood
In the end it comes down to a simple thought: if Arsenal had bought lots more players in the summer instead of just one first teamer and some junior players, would our position today be better?
|7||West Ham United||15||6||5||4||25||21||4||23|
|Squad member||Played||Goals||Status||Injured||Long term?|
|2. Mathieu Debuchy||12||1|
|3. Kieran Gibbs||118||2||HG||Yes|
|4. Per Mertesacker||135||5|
|5. Gabriel Paulista||13||0|
|6. Laurent Koscielny||160||13||Yes|
|7. Tomas Rosicky||170||19||Yes|
|8. Mikel Arteta||108||14||Yes|
|10. Jack Wilshere||100||6||HG||Yes||Yes|
|11. Mesut Özil||62||11|
|12. Olivier Giroud||112||49|
|13. David Ospina||18||0|
|14. Theo Walcott||217||52||HG||Yes|
|15. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain||90||6||HG||Yes|
|16. Aaron Ramsey||167||25||HG||Yes|
|17. Alexis Sánchez||49||22||Yes|
|18. Nacho Monreal||76||1|
|19. Santiago Cazorla||120||23||Yes|
|20. Mathieu Flamini||158||10|
|21. Callum Chambers||27||1||U21|
|23. Danny Welbeck||25||4||HG||Yes|
|24. Héctor Bellerín||33||2||U21||Yes|
|28. Joel Campbell||9||2||Yes|
|33. Petr Cech||15||0|
|34. Francis Coquelin||55||0||HG||Yes||Yes|
So we can see that the way the Arsenal team develops successfully is mostly not through transfers. Indeed that must be patently obvious to anyone at the moment given that the team includes Héctor Bellerín and Francis Coquelin.
What is interesting here is that when both came into the team last season there were many who dismissed Héctor Bellerín as being not up to scratch, out of his depth, and so on. And when Coquelin came back from his loan spell, Mr Wenger was condemned for panic measures. We don’t hear that much now, and of course it was always nonsense. Untold has been tracking Coquelin from the start, and noting his career and his development.
Which reminds me that the list above does not include any loanees. Of those out on loan the most likely looking to step up are Ainsley Maitland-Niles who has made 14 starts and 5 sub appearances for Ipswich, Emiliano Martinez (15 for Wolverhampton), Jon Toral (11+5 for Birmingham, and four goals), and Gedion Zelalem (12 + 1 for Rangers).
Stated like this it looks like more of a production line than a desperate disaster waiting to happen. Of course I don’t know which of these players could really step up at the moment – if I could see that I’d have spent a life managing football teams instead of writing about them, but my point is simple.
And here’s another thing. There was a comment in the press saying “Arsene Wenger is effectively fielding a shadow team at the moment. Of his first choice front six, only Mesut Ozil is available for Wednesday’s crunch Champions League tie away at Olympiakos.” Maybe so, but that shadow team is doing ok.
So, if you were a top player would you come to Arsenal knowing that
a) the shadow team is doing rather well
b) the injured players will all come back sometime, and if you were replacing one you could lose your place very quickly
c) lurking behind the scenes is the next generation all ready and waiting to move up into the first team squad.
how would you feel?
In one of the Telegraph’s recent about-turn articles they said, “Given the catastrophic failure to maintain his A team, Wenger should be commended for maintaining interest in both the Premier League and Champions League in the face of a gathering medical encyclopedia. Jose Mourinho has no such excuse for his current woebegone failure. But Arsenal are still there. And after stuttering through November’s Premier League programme, they took advantage of the faltering around them this weekend by securing three points against Sunderland.”
Indeed Chelsea are bottom of the injury table with one player injured. It proves once again the injuries are not the cause of success or failure.
And that is the key both to how well Arsenal are doing and whether a top player would want to come to Arsenal.
None of this means that Arsenal won’t buy another player in January; of course I don’t know what is on Mr Wenger’s mind. We might buy a star player. We might buy another youngster or two. We might promote another youngster up from the ranks. We might suddenly be shown that Iwobi can play defensive midfield. Or Callum Chambers. We might actually not buy anyone because… (and do say it very quietly because people can get very upset about such things)…
… because we don’t actually need anyone.
And the anniversary that “sums it all up”
12 December 2014: Francis Coquelin recalled from his loan at Charlton and came on as a sub in the next three games, before taking over as Arsenal’s first choice defensive mid-fielder.