The summer of 1999 saw Arsene Wenger selling his top striker Nicolas Anelka at a profit of 21.8 Million Pounds, having bought the French front man for just £500,000 in 1996. That summer he invested the money on buying one Thierry Henry from Juventus, along with Lauren, Sylvinho and Davor Suker, the last one being a complete ‘steal’.
The story this summer has been quite similar except for the fact that Arsene is yet to find a club who is ready to pay the requisite amount to avail the services of his top striker, Robin van Persie. The Dutchman is still stuck in a perpetual limbo after making that ridiculous announcement about a month back. Meanwhile, Arsene has done some excellent business, having secured the signings of three top-class Internationals in their mid-career. Lucas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla are fantastic acquisitions and means ‘ambition’ right away for this season at Arsenal. With these new signings, Arsene has moved away from his general policy followed in the last few years. These are all seasoned campaigners and have costed Arsenal £36 Million, a staggering transfer window dealing considering that they are yet to sell ‘big’ players to bring the customary balance in transfer business.
First Choice Starting Lineup
The new signings have opened up a new door at Arsenal, one with flexibility on the pitch and competition for places. With almost everybody fit at the club, a highly hypothetical situation though, Arsene can choose from a consortium of attacking players and place them on the pitch in the manner he wants to. If he were to pick the ‘first choice’ team, Podolski, Giroud and Theo will ideally form the top three in a 4-3-3. Spanish ace from Malaga, Santi Cazorla can play attacking midfield, delivering from just behind the frontline.
He will have midfield company in fellow countryman Mikel Arteta and Alex Song; the latter should curb his attacking instincts and sit behind as much as possible. Cazorla, Theo and Podolski can swap positions throughout the game and provide Giroud with all kinds of goal-scoring options; all three are capable of scoring themselves too. Cazorla, an outstanding ambidextrous attacker, will be a step-up from Rosicky as he is capable of playing on wide positions and even scoring goals from anywhere.
Second Choice Starting Lineup
With the decent pre-season form of Gervinho, if the African is to be inserted into the Arsenal starting-lineup, Arsene can choose to play Podolski upfront. Considering last season’s outstanding form of Tomas Rosicky, he can be inducted into the system if Arsene shifts Cazorla to the right wing, resting Theo in the process. In both these formations, Gervinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Cazorla and even Arshavin – should he stay – are wing-options, and are very decent ones. Rosicky, Cazorla, Ramsey and even Abou Diaby can play the attacking midfield role just behind the front-men. Jack Wilshere can play there too, but when fit, Arsene will prefer him playing from the deep alongside Alex Song. Mikel Arteta, will, of course, accompany Song in the absence of the Englishman.
With flexibility in positions, rotation will be easier for Arsene this season, but there can be a dicey situation wherein the manager might find all players fit and vying for the same positions. With so many midfield options, it will be a gargantuan task for Arsene to keep his players happy and motivated all the time. With young players like Coquellin, Frimpong and Lansbury, all quite ready for the big stage, will find it even harder to break into the squad. They will have to satisfy themselves with limited ‘Cup’ action.
With the current injury list, Rosicky, Wilshere out and Ramsey tied with international activity, Arsene will be a little lighter with options as Arsenal start their campaign against Sunderland in two weeks from now. It is better for the manager to have a selection headache than worrying about shortage of options in case of injuries. Healthy competition, enhanced team chemistry and flexibility in the lineup are some encouraging enhancements in this Arsenal setup for the coming season.
As far as defensive options go, Arsenal are not that packed with options as they are in the middle of the park. They have three fantastic Center Backs in Koscielny, Vermaelen and Mertesacker. Djourou, Miquel and highly rated Kyle Bartley are further options for the same position. The Full Back position had been a major worry last season, with all four Full Backs injured at the same time. Many believe Arsenal’s misfortunes came at that period without proper Full Backs.
Vermaelen, Djourou and many others had to play out of their positions during that spell last season, often costing the team points, for which one can’t really blame them. Gibbs and Santos will have a healthy competition at Left Full Back but Arsene is yet to find a proper cover for Bacary Sagna, who incidentally, won’t be starting the season, having suffered a broken fibula during last season. In his absence, Jenkinson will be operating at right full back. The lad is a fantastic crosser of the football, but is still quite raw as far as defensive duties are concerned.
Overall, the flexibility in this Arsenal team brings a certain zing into the setup, a morale-boosting attribute even before the season starts. With the prospect of a few more signings to happen in the middle of the park (yet again), Arsenal are set up for a title challenging season, who knows the long wait might get over, after all.