Omar wrote a great blog earlier about players playing in certain positions, also calling the manager’s (I don’t mean Wenger per se but a manager in a general sense) tactics as a factor in how that player performs, for example Wenger using Eboue as a right-winger when he was a full-back by trade, or Mourinho using Etoó as a winger when he was a striker. There was also a great blog about how Wenger may be using a 4-2-2-2 system similar to the 1982 Brazil World Cup team. Some of these blogs are pretty tough to beat!
So I’m not going to try.
I’m going to highlight something different. I think Arsenal are still at least 2 players short of being able to compete on all fronts this season. I think the Club still needs another centre-back and a defensive midfielder.
We have a decent starting pair in Koscielny and Mertesacker, with one decent but still mostly unproven option in Gabriel on the bench. After that, the position looks slightly uncovered. There is the option of Calum Chambers, a right-back by trade really, but one whom Wenger (and quite a few supporters, including myself) sees as possibly being converted to a centre-back in the Mertesacker mould due to his slight lack of pace. After that, it’s all-hands-on-deck with the height-challenged Mathieu Debuchy and Nacho Monreal, two players who may be able to play centre-back in a pinch but aren’t specialised at that position.
I think we need one more specialist central defender to come in to the Club – I think Samuel Umtiti from Lyon would be a good fit, as we have a number of French-speaking players who could help him settle quickly. The only stumbling block would be the high price tag, but he is still a young player whom Wenger could impress his style upon. There may well be other options that I haven’t looked at, but I feel that finding another defensive midfielder is more important.
The mythical DM, a problem position for us since 2008 when Gilberto Silva left to join Panathinaikos – Mathieu Flamini also left around this time on a free transfer to Milan, so we were really light there at that time. Wenger has tried to shoehorn a replacement in from a number of different players into tha role, including Denilson (“The Crab” due to all that sideways passing), Alex Song (similar to Ramsey in his willingness to bomb forward at every opportunity with reckless abandon and not aid his midfield partner) and even Abou Diaby a few times when he wasn’t injured. We seem to have a good balance now with Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla, with Mikel Arteta an able deputy for Cazorla when we need to retain possession and move the ball from deep (I just wish Arteta would work on his aerial ability) and also Jack Wilshere when we need a more attacking, direct option. The problem is that we have no-one to switch with Coquelin in the unfortunate circumstance of suspension or injury.
There has been some talk about Busquets from Barcelona over the summer but I am certain that one won’t happen – I’d be unhappy if it did as I feel he is a bit too lightweight and would crumble in matches away at tougher venues, like the Britannia or Stamford Bridge. I think there are three decent options we could bring in if the money was available – Maxime Gonalons, Josuha Guilavogui and Asier Illarramendi.
Gonalons has been the Captain at Lyon for some time, having progressed through their youth system and reserve teams and has been in the Lyon first team for a number of years. He has had a chance to show his leadership skills, which are good to say the least. I’d view him as a first choice for us at DM, as Arsenal will need a good Captain to replace Arteta (no longer a first choice in his position) and Mertesacker (seems to me to go missing occasionally) – he’s also a France international and has played before in the Champions League, so has all the experience we could need. He can also play as an emergency centre-back and would be a better option there than Debuchy or Monreal.
I don’t know an awful lot about Guilavogui, having only seen him a little at Wolfsburg last season, but I think his contract is owned by Atletico Madrid. He is quite tall, like Gonalons, although he would be a cheaper option, but he is a defensive midfielder by trade and would not have to be converted to the position. He’s also a France international and would be able to compete with Coquelin ably. The other option is Asier Illarramendi from Real Madrid – he’s a bit shorter than Guilavogui and Gonalons but would also fit in with our Club and possesses a good passing range and is decent in the tackle too, but he isn’t a first choice at Real Madrid due to Luka Modric and he may find it easier to get into the first team at Arsenal. Of course, reader’s comment and debate on this is always welcome! Either way, we’ll all know in ten days or so whether Wenger will stick with what he has (quite likely) or make a signing or two!
I haven’t mentioned Arteta and Flamini much – Flamini is gone at the end of the season in my opinion as I cannot see him starting any matches outside the League Cup or early stages of the F.A. Cup after some poor showings last season and I think he is more of an emergency substitute than anything else. Arteta is just losing his inevitable battle with age, but still has something to offer us this season as a late substitution after Coquelin’s almost inevitable yellow card or as a starter against some of the weaker teams in the league (e.g. Sunderland, Aston Villa, Newcastle). I don’t think Arteta, at 33 years of age, can be considered a long-term option for us – he came to the Club at a time when we really needed him, but the finances, tactics and formation have since shifted and he can’t be considered a starter at Arsenal in major matches anymore in my opinion.
Right, that’s all from me this week. Please comment and share. Thanks!
The first time I saw Dennis Bergkamp play was in 1996 – I started following Arsenal properly in 1998 after the World Cup. When Arsenal then signed Thierry Henry – a player I had seen in that World Cup win by France – as well as already having Vieira and Petit there, plus several English stars like Tony Adams, Martin Keown and David Seaman just cemented Arsenal as the club for me. There was very little football coverage in South Africa during the 1990s as rugby was (and still is) the dominant sport here.
I was not really ushered in any specific direction in terms of which club to support – I chose Arsenal myself. It’s only over the last 3 years that I have been able to watch matches regularly – we get excellent TV coverage of European football now and I try to watch all Arsenal matches live.