Following the cup final there was a general consensus in the ‘commentatorsphere’ that Arsenal would challenge for the Premiership next season, but only if they bought ‘two or three high quality improvements.
This started me thinking about who or what these reinforcements might be. So here is a view of Arsenal’s players and options for next season.
But we must remember that us Gooners are a little bit misled by the Alexis Sanchez experience, which has encouraged us to forget that most big money transfers are a failure (after all there is usually an unspoken reason why the selling club was prepared to let him go). In fact, Sanchez is an exceptional character and an exceptional player. There are not lots more like him sitting on a shelf ready to be plucked.
Debuchy/Bellerin Merts/Gabriel Koscielny Monreal
Le Coq Cazorla
Sanchez Ozil The Ox
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Debuchy/Bellerin Merts/Gabriel Chambers Gibbs
Not included in either: Diaby, Gnabry, Bielik, Akpom, Sanogo, Hayden, Martinez, Toral, Podolski, Flamini, Daniel Crowley, Joel Campbell, Wellington Silva.
There aren’t that many positions where the first choice players are clearly much better than the second choice ones. (Ozil is probably the best no10, Koscielny is better than Chambers, Sanchez is clearly the best winger/AM option and Le Coq is head and shoulders above Arteta).
We can clearly see why pundits think Arsenal have enough ‘depth’ and ‘cover’. This leads to the conclusion that the only real way to improve is to sign some exceptional players. However it is not really obvious which positions these signings could be in either. Lets look at the positions most commonly talked about positions.
GK: This position looks like a weakness for Arsenal, albeit not a terrible one and Petr Cech looks like he might be better than either of our top two.
However, I am always suspicious about players who lose their place in a team. Their supporters work hard to argue that the place is lost due to some ‘view’ held by the manager. In reality, terminal decline is often found to be the true explanation (Arshavin, Podolski).
You certainly can’t trust anything that comes out of the mouth of Mourinho, the man who knows best what is going on with Cech.
Cech is 33, and may well have his best years behind him. Alternatively, he might not (see Pat Jennings). I don’t see any other realistic options. Only Lloris, De Gea and Courtois look better (possibly Casillas), but are unobtainable.
CB: Mertesacker looks under pressure here, but he is still a good player. Remember he had a hard 13/14 season, followed by a long world cup and then played 48 games for us in 14/15. He is entitled to be tired, and looked it when celebrating his goal at Wembley, and in the post-match interview.
We may find he is an improved player next season with a bit of rest and international retirement.
Gabriel looks excellent, apart from a tendency to make over-eager mistakes. I presume these errors are a function of newness, and not a permanent feature of his game. I don’t think any incoming centre back is going to do better than him. Kosciely is obviously excellent.
Chambers is the best no4 choice CB I can remember at Arsenal (Squillaci, Stepanovs, Ceasar). Monreal and Debuchy also appear to be good options. Liverpool and City managed to piss away large sums of money by trying to improve this position last summer, and I don’t think it likely that Wenger will make a similar mistake.
DM: I think the brilliance of Coquelin is killing this debate. I think we all still feel his performances are a bit too good to be true (how can he suddenly be this good? Why didn’t we –including Wenger- ever notice the potential?). [If I may jump in here, there are Untold articles on him going back to 2008, but I’ve referred to that before. Try this one from 2011 – Tony]
However strange it is, we must probably accept that he is a world class player, and is likely to prove this point over the next couple of seasons. I am in awe. At the very least, Wenger is going to give him the chance to prove he is as good as he looks over the next season.
Arteta is not a world-beater, but has done very well for us, and is surely good enough to be no2 in this position. I feel certain that he will be given that chance. Surely Flamini is redundant with Bielik, Wilshere and Chambers available in emergencies?
CF: Neither Giroud nor Walcott are proven world class options here. However, it is perfectly conceivable that one or both will be very good next season. Giroud is massively improved on the player than arrived at Arsenal, and the limit of Walcott’s potential is still unclear (but exciting).
I would probably swap either of them for Suarez, Aguero or Costa, but this is not an option. I’m not sure that any of the available players (Cavani, Falcao, Higuain, Benzema, Ibrahimovic, Martinez, Van Persie, Benteke, Lukaku, Kane) are obviously better (even before we consider a settling in period). As a general rule, it is easy to spend a lot of money on a No 9, and the majority of such transfers fail. There is also an argument that the traditional no9 position is on the way out. Barcelona don’t really play with one at all, and all No 9s are much more involved in general team play than they used to be (Giroud, Van Persie and Walcott are all more integral that Ian Wright ever was). Even Thierry Henry recorded far more assists than was decent for an out-and-out No 9. So could the answer to the no9 question, simply that you don’t need one?
All in all, it is hard to see where these three world class signings could possibly fit in.
Anniversary of the day
14 June 1973: David O’Leary signed for Arsenal. He went on to become Arsenal’s all time record holder for first team appearances. He stayed for 20 years whereupon he transferred to Leeds.
And don’t tweet we forget. No that’s not right. @UntoldArsenal