Jose Mourinho, in one of those flashes of eminently quotable brilliance stitched a tale about his rivals at the awards ceremony. He took rather roundabout potshots at all of Manchester City, United and Arsenal.
What he had to say about Arsenal was
‘The third team was almost there. They wanted to play with two goals, scoring some, also conceding some but they were fantastic. They scored really beautiful goals. But they asked the international board to play only between January and April. They were told ‘no chance, you have to play between August and May’
Arsenal finished the season on a good run, it must be said. But a sustained title challenge was never on the cards though, and even the staunches of Arsenal fans would agree. Football being football, there is always the hope that transfer window surgery will address these issues. Wenger’s last two windows have been statements of
their own with Ozil and Sanchez being brought in, unlike the previous years where Arsenal fans had to be content with Kim Kallstrom,
There is no denying however that the squad has settled on a nice balance. There are options in nearly every position, and for the first time in a fair few years they’re all fit. We look at each area of the squad, and try to ascertain where significant improvements could be made.
Arsenal began the season with Sczczesny in goal, who was replaced by the Colombian David Ospina after some rather indifferent performances against the likes of Southampton. It was a long time coming, and many fans were secretly pleased. So as the status quo stands, it is Ospina who holds the first spot down, while Sczczesny has
been demoted to second choice. He did win the FA cup though. Wenger has repeatedly refused to say who is his surefire No.1. Arsenal have been linked with the likes of Petr Cech and it has been established there is concrete interest by authorities such as the BBC and other transfer sources.
Ospina’s record has been good, but question marks remain over his ability under crosses and distribution. Whoscored lists his weaknesses as discipline, and while the extent of that may be questionable there are certain doubts over his ability.
Cech on the other hand belongs in goalkeeping royalty. His record since replacing Carlo Cudicini after arriving from Rennes in 2004 has been exemplary whichever way you choose to look at it. Being superseded by Courtois may have been a cruel twist of fate, but at 32, a CL winner and multiple Premier League winning goalkeeper
available for as little as 10 million seems like a deal that may be too hard to pass up on.
A world class goalkeeper is something Arsenal have been crying out for since the end of Jens Lehmann’s time at the club. And Wenger would certainly be well justified in pursuing Cech. Cech has his own admirers though, and the interested parties are PSG, Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal. Hugo Lloris has also been interesting
United and PSG, simply because an Arsenal move is something Daniel Levy wouldn’t even smirk at. Mourinho has expressed an interest in retaining his faithful servant, but has acknowledged that he is simply too good to play second fiddle. Simply a no-brainer. If Chelsea let it happen.
Arsenal have two good left backs in Monreal and Gibbs. Monreal in particular has stood out with his high quality and consistent performances. The right back position is again stocked well with Bellerin and Debuchy more than capable of taking the team forward. The central defensive pairing of Mertesacker and Koscielny has been
quietly dependable, and the duo of Gabriel Paulista and Callum Chambers await. It is worth noting that Mertesacker’s lack of speed has become even more pronounced and Wenger might be tempted to gradually replace him with Paulista who has seemed quite assured along side Koscielny.
The transfer mill confirms that with Arsenal having barely been linked to any defender of repute. There were rumors linking them with a left back but with Monreal coming out and confirming that he is staying makes it highly unlikely. Another rumor has been of a swap deal with Sterling for Walcott and Gibbs, but the likelihood
of that would seem fairly low.
There would again seem to be an abundance of riches in midfield but there has always been that hole in central midfield. While Cazorla has really come into his own in a scrappy role at the base of midfield, an addition here would be welcome. Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey have both failed to convince all and sundry that central midfield is their best role. Whilst Coquelin has given a fairly good audition, a more polished operator would add more steel to an Arsenal midfield that has improved in big games but as the game against Monaco showed, there is still some room for improvement.
Transfer mills have linked Arturo Vidal and Schneiderlin to the club, and while Wenger has denied a bid for Vidal, Schneiderlin has seemed very open about his desire for a move to a Champions League club. And Wenger is a fan. . Schniederlin’s Whoscored rating has been 7.40 for the season, just behind Matic’s 7.59. Also Coquelin’s is 7.39. Not bad for someone who was thought to have no Arsenal career. For a sum of 25 million or so, this might be a very shrewd acquisition. However, Manchester United have seemingly entered the race and may yet prise him away.
The signing of Alexis Sanchez and the return to fitness for Serge Gnabry and Alex Chamberlain ensures plenty of options for the wide positions but a ground hog day question mark exists over the centre forward position. Walcott, Giroud and Welbeck have all impressed and bring different things to the table. Giroud’s finishing has been suspect whereas his speed is something that has infuriated Arsenal fans for far too long. His expertise in feeding midfield runners though is something that helps provide more structure. Welbeck is quicker but lacks the finishing. Walcott lacks the aerial presence. A replacement must combine all three. There are few strikers in the world that have all these, and while Arsenal have been linked to Benzema and Cavani, the more apt target would probably be Porto’s Jackson Martinez. Martinez gave a fantastic audition against Bayern in the first leg, and brings speed and good finishing. Also, he would be considerably cheaper than Benzema and Cavani. Arsenal have been linked to all three, but Martinez seems to be the one most in Wenger’s mind.
Arsenal really must act now, as City and United are in rebuilding phases and the Gunners boast a cohesion that has not been seen in many years at the Emirates. Whether they can push on may come down to astute acquisitions and a world class goalkeeper, central midfielder and a striker would certainly fit the bill.