So with the transfer window shut, and no deals still pending approval for last season’s top three, let’s see how this year’s title contenders have fared in their summer dealings.
- Campbell (11)
- Silvestre (12)
- Gallas (26)
- Eduardo (24), 11 as a substitute
Numbers in brackets represent Premier League appearances.
The transfer dealings were fairly self-explanatory for Arsenal this window. By September last season, we only really had three central defenders as Djourou was out for the season by that point, hence Sol’s arrival in January. With the departures of Gallas and Silvestre, we needed two reliable central defenders, and we certainly seem to have got them in Koscielny, who has been solid so far, and Squillaci who has an excellent record. Djourou’s return from injury covers the departure of Campbell, and he’ll be fourth choice this season.
In terms of quality, we’ve certainly improved the defence overall. A lot of Gunners have been understating Gallas’ quality last season now he’s gone to Spurs, but he really was excellent for us. Some would point to his troubled injury history with us which is valid, though certainly last season with us being so light at the back thanks to Djourou’s freak injury, perhaps we played Gallas at times he perhaps should have been rested, and that contributed to his injury troubles. Either way, he’s gone and we’ve replaced him with Koscielny, who has looked excellent so far. Laurent has big boots to fill, but he certainly seems capable of doing so, and he fits the jigsaw well, what with him being both good on the ball and capable in the air. Both of our first choice defenders have the quality despite barely being in their mid twenties and will only improve with time and further experience.
It originally seemed that Chamakh was coming in to simply offer greater depth up front, but with the departure of Eduardo, numbers wise we’ve simply covered our outgoings. Eduardo’s Arsenal career was a real case of “what might have been” which has been covered many times so I’ll leave that side of the transfer be. In terms of roles however, Chamakh fits into the 433 brilliantly and can function as a traditional target man. I’d certainly argue the attack has improved as a result of this transfer window.
A few question marks remain over the midfield. Seeing Frimpong’s development, Wenger decided not to invest in further competition for Song but then the youngster was hit by a long-term injury. This leaves us a little light in that area of the field, though Craig Eastmond was the man to step in last season. Denilson can play there, but he and Song play the position in different ways. Song offers us height in the middle of the park, and can move back to make it a back three if both fullbacks surge forwards. Denilson can’t do that, he doesn’t have the physical side to his game that the Cameroonian does, so he relies on reading the game, and making interceptions.
An interception, don’t forget is much better than winning a tackle, as you have possession (it could go anywhere from a tackle), and you are in control of the ball. This means you can move the ball quickly to exploit the gaps left as your opponent attempts to get back.
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Against the weaker sides, Denilson’s possession game in the defensive role would work well, especially as most of these type of teams play with limited ambition. If Wenger didn’t want to ask too much of Song, these would be the games where he could rest him. Given all that, the midfield has stayed about where it was last season.
Between the sticks, it was clear we wanted Schwarzer in. Wenger didn’t want to pay more than was necessary, which was expected. Some question why he couldn’t pay an “extra couple of million, just this once” but deal-making doesn’t work like that. Wenger has a reputation as a hard bargainer, that’s how he gets such excellent value (Vermaelen cheaper than Smalling, for example). As soon as he reneges on his principles, he loses that reputation, and everyone demands more money from us in the future. Sure, it is irritating for those who wanted a new goalkeeper in, but we forget the times when this policy has got us absolute bargains that would’ve otherwise been out of our reach at their “true” price, such as Arshavin.
Back to goalkeeping, anyway. We’re neither any better nor any worse off, with Almunia being a good keeper but nothing exceptional. Our cover in this position can be a unreliable, but fortunately Almunia is not especially injury prone.
My overall view of the changes in the quality of the squad by position
- Goalkeeper =
- Defence +
- Midfield =
- Attack +
- Belletti (11)
- Joe Cole 22 (of which roughly half were as a substitute)
- Ballack (32)
- Carvalho (22)
- Deco (19)
As the champions, Chelsea were very much the team to match last season. Looking at their ins and outs I’d be slightly concerned if I was Chelsea fan. John Terry’s has a couple of injury problems going into the season, while Alex and Ivanovic both had their spells out last season. Effectively, they’ve lost a centre back who played a big role for them in Carvalho and haven’t replaced him, while there are doubts over the two remaining centre backs, while one of whom ended up playing right back for a large part of last season.
It’s a little more positive in midfield, where they’ve lost Ballack and Deco who together played a quite a few games, and replaced them with the impressive Brazilian Ramires. Neither of the two departures played exceptionally well last season so Ramires will likely be an improvement, but it is a further thinning of their squad, and they’ve got absolutely no cover for Mikel in the holding role since Ballack’s departure.
There’s not much between Joe Cole and his replacement Benayoun. They’ll get more games out of Benayoun,but it seems unlikely he’ll have a key role in any title bid this season.
Overall, they’ve probably improved on quality slightly, while lost numbers dramatically (cutting wage bill perhaps). It’s easy to say they’ll decline due to the age of some big players, but Lampard hasn’t looked like slowing down, and when you hear Drogba was playing with an injury last season… There’s no reason Chelsea will be any better or worse this season, but even a few injuries could quite easily derail their title bid given the thin squad.
- Goalkeeper =
- Defence –
- Midfield + ( more quality but slightly less depth)
- Attack =
Manchester United arrivals:
- Chris Smalling
- Javier Hernandez
Manchester United departures:
- Ben Foster (9)
Manchester United will certainly be a stronger outfit this season. A big issue last season was one of depth up front, but they seem to have sorted that with the signing of Hernandez. While I think he’s being massively overrated off the back of a fairly good World Cup (Lee Dixon said he could be the next Ronaldo!), he’ll be an option this season, and pace off the bench is never a bad thing to have.
I had half-expected the arrival of Smalling to lead to the departure of Vidic for big money with one eye on the Glazers’ debts, but they’re not quite at the Liverpool stage it seems. The squad is good on the whole, with the only weakness in the first eleven being the right back slot. There is certainly a lack of depth in the middle of the park, with Anderson out injured and under-performing and Hargreaves surely nearing retirement now. Ben Foster wasn’t the greatest of goalkeepers last season, but to replace him with a totally untried academy goalkeeper is certainly trading down.
Overall, they’re probably marginally stronger that they were last season. Again, much will depend on how the injuries fall. Bar a couple of games with a decimated defence, they got through unscathed and unsurprisingly fell apart as soon as Rooney got injured.
- Goalkeepers –
- Defence +
- Midfield =
- Attack +
Having considered all that, I’d certainly say we had the best window out of all the title contenders. While the transfer window wasn’t absolutely perfect (a goalkeeper and a fit Frimpong would’ve made it that) we’ve certainly improved, something the other two teams can’t say as assuredly.
Below is the Arsenal squad list including home grown’s taken from the official Premier League declaration. Keep scrolling down to the under 21 list and just be amazed.
Player (Home Grown, yes or no, after each name)
1 Almunia, Manuel No
2 Arshavin, Andrey No
3 Bendtner, Nicklas Yes
4 Chamakh, Maroune No
5 Clichy, Gael Yes
6 Denilson, Pereka Neves Yes
7 Diaby, Vassiriki Abou No
8 Djourou-Gbadjere, Johan Danon Yes
9 Eboue, Emmanuel No
10 Fabianski, Lukasz No
11 Fabregas Soler, Francesc Yes
12 Koscielny, Laurent No
13 Mannone, Vito Yes
14 Nasri, Samir No
15 Rosicky, Tomas No
16 Sagna, Bacary No
17 Song Bilong, Alexandre Dimitri Yes
18 Van Persie, Robin No
19 Vermaelen, Thomas No
20 Squillaci, Sebastien No
Arsenal – Under 21 players (Contract and Scholars)
Aneke, Chukwuemeka Ademola Amachi
Angha, Martin Yves
Ansah, Zak Andy
Botelho, Pedro Roberto Silva
Campbell, James Andrew
Charles-Cook, Reice Jordan
Cruise, Thomas Daniel
Eastmond, Craig Leon
Ebecilio, Kyle Stephen Joel
Edge, James Michael
Evina, Cedric David
Freeman, Luke Anthony
Frimpong, Emmanuel Yan
Gibbs, Kieran James Ricardo
Glasgow, Benjamin Luke
Henderson, Conor Alan
Hoyte, Gavin Andrew
Lansbury, Henri George
Martinez, Damain Emiliano
Meade, Jernade Ronnel
Monteiro, Elton Almada
Murphy, Rhys Philip Elliot
Oldfield Spence-Neita, Nigel Paul
Ramsey, Aaron James
Rees, Joshua David
Roberts, Philip James
Smith, Steven Robert
Szczesny, Wojciech Tomasz
Vela Garrido, Carlos Alberto
Walcott, Theo James
Watt, Herschel Oulio Sanchez
Webb, Callum Taylor
Wilshere, Jack Andrew
Wynter, Jordan James Cecil
NB: Not listed – Wellington da Silva
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