So, here we are. Summer transfer window of 2011 is upon us.
Arsenal are still leaking goals, they are still trophy-less but our beloved leader Fabregas is still here. Some, or all of it, might change soon. Let us wait and hope for the best!
Arsenal were on their way towards an unprecedented quadruple and they looked the best bet to beat United to the EPL finishing line, but it all went haywire in February, starting from the Carlin Cup final. In the week that followed, Arsenal were ousted from the FA Cup by a mediocre United side and played off the park by Barcelona in their UCL last 16 knockout match. Bad finishing and inability to defend let precious points slip which meant Arsenal ended up in 4th place.
Now, looking towards the next season, a lot of fans have been crying for a summer of big spending. We all know what is lacking, or at least we think we know; a solid goalkeeper, a beast of a defender, a tough tackling midfielder and an out and out goal-scorer. If Wenger gets these players, Arsenal will be a force to reckon with. But is it all that simple?
When Arsene goes for a player, he has to take care of a lot of things:
- Will the player hit the ground running or will he take time to settle?
If you look at players like Vermaelen and Chamakh, they have performed above expectations in their first season whereas Nasri and to some extent, Koscielny took time to settle.
- Will the player come for his actual value or will it be inflated?
The market has been crazy for some time with a one season wonder Henderson going for 20 million whereas Carroll, who has had half a season in the league, going for 35 million.
- Will the player block someone else’s growth?
Buying a GK and a central midfielder last year would have meant that we wouldnt have seen Szczesny and Wilshere last season.
- Most important thing, will the player stick with Arsenal?
Do we want a RVP who bleeds red and white or do we want a Hleb who gets his head easily turned by other clubs?
Anyways, that is for Wenger to worry! The purpose of this write-up is trying to identify what (kind of) players would Wenger be going for.
Before we begin with the arrivals, let us have a look at the possible departures:
- Denilson and Nicklas Bendtner
Both have been given plenty of first team opportunities but have rarely impressed. Both have publically stated their discontent at the lack of opportunities last season. And fans would love to see both of them going. Besiktas are interested in Nicklas while Shakhtar might take Denilson off our hands.
- Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri
Both have not yet signed an extension which means less than 12 months remaining on their contract. Liverpool and Roma are lurking around Clichy whereas Nasri is rumoured to be heading to the dark side i.e. Old Trafford.
- Carlos Vela and Tomas Rosicky
So much class, yet so little end product! Vela got a lot of opportunities with Arsenal and then with West Brom but was unable to cement a place in either of the first teams. Rosicky, in the absence of Cesc, was handed the role he plays for his country but failed to deliver on a lot of occasions. With new players coming through for both their positions, a loan move looks the most likely solution to their problems.
- Manuel Almunia
His mysterious injuries and the emergency recruitment of Lehmann means that Wenger has no faith left in him. He will certainly leave.
- Cesc Fabregas
Many though he would leave last season but he didn’t. There is still a feeling among Gooners that he has one more season left in him with Arsenal but chances look bleak. He will leave for Spain one day, most likely Barcelona, but it is hard to guess when.
Now, let’s move on to the new signings and let us do it position wise:
Most of the Arsenal fans would agree that we have finally found a long term solution to our goalkeeping woes in Wojciech Szczesny. With Lukas Fabianski finding his feet and Vito Mannone doing wonders at Hull last season, Arsene has two good backups as well. Hence, we understand that Arsene won’t be bringing in anyone for this job.
Verdict: No signing.
Aah, the pickle!
In Bacary Sagna, Arsenal have arguably the best RB in the league and possibly in the world too. In Emmanuel Eboue, he has a decent and versatile understudy, only if he can stop giving away silly penalties in the 101st minute of a crucial game. And even if Eboue leaves, we have our first signing of the summer in Carl Jenkinson who can do the job whenever needed.
As discussed earlier, it looks like Clichy has played his last game in an Arsenal shirt. With Kieran Gibbs still as inconsistent and as injury-prone as ever, Wenger will look to replace the outbound Frenchman. Most likely options include the following:
- Leighton Baines [Everton. Age: 26. Height: 5’7”]
Baines was the best left back in the country last season. He started every league game and notched 11 assists. If Clichy has to go, then Baines might be the best to replace him. A good free kick taker, Baines is very swift and knows the English game. Everton need to cash in and City are also interested which means a bidding war would suit the Toffees. However, that would mean that Wenger might have to look elsewhere as Baines price can go upwards of 15 million.
- Mamadou Sakho [PSG. Age 21. Height: 6’2”]
Sakho has long been linked with a move to Arsenal. He is a versatile defender who can play left back as well as in the centre of defence. Tactically astute, he will also bring the required height and strength to the Arsenal backline. Now a full French international, it would take around 12 million from Arsenal for PSG to part with the youngest ever player to captain any Ligue 1 side.
- Inside man: Pedro Botelho – Due to work permit rejections, Botelho spent the last two seasons in the Spanish Second division and his last loan spell was with FC Cartagena, where he made 32 appearances. Originally a left back, his pace and attacking flair made the manager play him as a left sided midfielder. Also, at 6 ft 2, he would be an asset at defending set pieces.
As far as Centre Backs go, Thomas Vermaelen would be first choice alongside one of Laurent Koscielny and Johan Djourou with Sebastian Squillaci as backup. But, both of them have showed that they still need some time before they can actually replicate the Keown-Adams days. Also, Wenger has expressed his concerns over the average height of his defence and the need to bring in someone with premier league experience. Add to that, the fans have been calling for a no-nonsense English-type defender. I think we will see at least one signing in this area of the pitch.
- Gary Cahill [Bolton. Age 25. Height: 6’2″]
Another player who was linked to Arsenal last season, Cahill enjoyed another successful term at the Reebok Stadium. Wenger has come out and said that he will be looking to increase the team’s height with players from EPL, which means that Cahill fits the bill. Entering the last 12 months of his contract, he can be bought, but with Manchester City in the frame, his value would be around the 17 million mark.
- Christopher Samba [Blackburn Rovers. Age 27. Height: 6’3’’]
Samba mentioned that he was very close to a move to Arsenal in January and with defensive options being the need of the hour, Wenger might return for him. Papers say that we are very close to a 9 million deal for him, but until it appears on the official site, it is hard to conclude anything. Brilliant at set-pieces, he might just be the beast needed to compliment the Verminator’s beauty in the centre of defence for Arsenal.
- Roger Johnson/Scott Dann: [Birmingham City. Age 28/24. Height: 6’2″]
Both the Birmingham boys were the reason that Birmingham were difficult to beat at St. Andrews. And with the side relegated to the Championship, the club might be looking to sell them to cut their losses. Dann is 4 years younger to Johnson but with age, comes experience meaning either of them would make a good buy for Arsenal. Kenny is also lurking around to bring either of them to Anfield meaning it would take at least 8 million for Arsene to get either of them.
- Inside Man: Kyle Bartley – Rangers want him back on loan but Wenger has refused to let him go before the pre-season. With injuries always round the corner, Arsene might want either Bartley or Miqel with the first team this season and who knows, Bartley might take his chance to prove his worth.
Verdict: At least one Centre Back and Clichy’s replacement if he leaves.
Alexander Song is the only recognized DM in the Arsenal first team, and this season, he will be unavailable for the month of January due to his participation in the African Cup of Nations. Surely, this is one area Wenger will be looking to strengthen.
- Scott Parker [West Ham. Age: 31]
Player of the season, he has been consistent for a long time and nobody knows why he is not a regular for England. He can create, he can tackle and he can score as well. At 31, he will bring a lot of experience to the Arsenal team and he might be available for around 8 million. However,Wenger should move quickly before anyone else enters the frame for his signature.
- Alou Diarra [Bordeaux. Age: 29]
Former Liverpool player, Diarra is now at the prime of his career and would be a perfect fit for the Gunners. A DM by trade, he can also slot in as a CB when required and at 6’3’’, he will solve Arsenal’s height problem as well. With UCL football to offer, Arsenal can lure Bordeaux’s club captain, who would cost them in the range of 8-10 million.
- Inside Man: Francis Coquelin – After a successful loan spell with FC Lorient, who want him back, Coquelin might be ready to stake his claim for a first team place in Arsenal.Also, Emanuel Frimpong might be given games this season now that he has recovered from his injury.
Verdict: Maybe one signing might happen.
Here, Arsenal’s transfer strategy might be based on one single development: the future of El Capitan.
If he stays, we will stick to a 4-2-3-1 formation with him, Jack and Song in midfield and Wenger might bring in versatile attacking player(s) to play in the top 4 positions. Also if Nasri leaves, Wenger would most likely bring someone to replace him.
- Eden Hazard [Lille. Age:20]
Currently, the Belgian is the hottest commodity in world football. He is blessed with incredible pace and is a fantastic dribbler. Earmarked by Zidane as a future Galacticos, he helped Lille win the title and has been termed indispensable according to the club. But it is said that Arsene Wenger met with him and Lille officials in January and Arsenal have first refusal right on him. But he will come with a heavy price tag (upwards of 20 million), something that decreases the probability of this deal happening.
- Gervinho [Lille. Age: 24]
The Ivorian’s main position is on the left of the attack but he can also play in the centre, which would mean cover for the world-class-but-made-of-glass VanPersie. He has stated that moving to Arsenal would be a dream coming true. He might cost around 8 million, which by current standards is not that expensive, but AW might face competition from the likes of Liverpool and Newcastle for his signature.
If Fabregas moves, we might see Arsenal shift to a 4-4-2 or a 4-4-1-1. This means Wenger might want to add a striker and a wide player to his ranks.
- Karim Benzema [Age: 23. Real Madrid]
Not a first choice at Real Madrid, Benzema has failed to live up to the big bucks paid for him by Real two seasons ago. But there is no doubting his class. Whenever given the chance, Benzema has shown his class scoring 27 times last season. “Signing him [Benzema] does not seem impossible,” Wenger clarified once. And Theo also mentioned him in his recent interview. The only hindrance to this deal going through would be his price tag, which would be close to 20 million.
- Gonzalo Higuain[Age: 23. Real Madrid]
Same as Benzema, a class player but his chances will be limited at Madrid. He was in tremendous goal scoring form before his injury last season and now that he is fully fit, he will be raring to go. It looks likely that one of Higuain and Benzema might be offloaded to make way for Jose type players and Arsenal can use that to their advantage. His price might be high, but he brings with him at least 20 goals in a season, which might just be what Arsenal need.
- Willian [Age: 22. Shakhtar Donetsk]
Everyone has taken notice of Willian after his displays in last season’s UCL. He is known for his good passing, his efficiency with both feet and for his quick dribbling. He should be a good fit for Arsenal as he can also score a few goals and can play on both sides or through the middle. A deal worth 4 million plus Denilson has been reported which could be a win-win for Arsenal.
- Inside man: Jay Emmuel Thomas – Started the pre-season with the first team and looked set for some action last season, but opportunities were hard to come by. After scoring for fun in the reserves league, he was sent on loan to Cardiff where he did reasonably well scoring twice in his 16 appearances. With the 25 player rule in place and him turning 20, this might be his make or break year.
- Inside man: Aaron Ramsey – Although, he did well at the end of last season, he is yet to reach his pre-Shawcross days. He will be Fab’s understudy this time around and this should be the year when he proves that he is ready to replace our Spain-bound captain.
Verdict: At least one signing.
From what we see of the club’s current tactical issues, a player like Samba is a necessity while it would be great if Baines replaces our only Invincible, Clichy. One of Benzema or Hazard would be a fantastic addition while Bartley, Jenksinon and Coquelin would surely fight for first-team opportunities this season. Henry Lansbury should ideally continue his loan spell at newly promoted Norwich with Miquel given a similar sort of future path. It would be really depressing if Denilson stays and most importantly, and above all, if our captain is sold, it should be with the best possible evaluation of our star midfielder.
A Message to Arsenal Fans –
We have a business model and we have a policy. It might not have fallen in place completely but it has worked to a certain extent. City, United, Spurs, Chelsea and now Liverpool spend heavy money on players whereas we have paid mediocre money and have still stayed competitive. Wenger should have realized some time back that defence needs reinforcements, but he has finally realized and we are looking to bring in the needed players. We just need to keep the faith in our club and in our manager. If there is one man who can lead us to glory, it is Le Prof.
In Arsene, we Trust.
An Article by Guest Author – Vikram Singh Negi