So, Arsenal are starting another season short-handed. The striker to help Giroud has not been found and AFC are still one centre-back short. Granit Xhaka was brought in immediately after last season ended to ensure season ticket renewals and I don’t think the Club had any concrete plan to fill up the gaps in the squad going forward into this season.
Pre-season seemed to go well for the Club, at least in financial terms, and the win against Manchester City provided a morale boost, even though the match against Viking was, in my opinion, a total waste of time. Losing Per Mertesacker and Gabriel to injury should have forced the Club’s hand into signing an experienced centre-back already, especially with Koscielny likely to miss the first 2 matches due to an extended rest after France’s run to the Final of Euro 2016. Rob Holding may well be an excellent long-term signing for a low fee in today’s transfer market but he has no Premier League experience and will likely have to start on Sunday vs. Liverpool.
The Club should have made more of an effort to move Theo Walcott on to another Club. His fall/dive vs. Palace last season to preserve himself for an England spot that, in the end, became non-existent was farcical and I lost all faith in him as a player. I think the one of the reasons the Club have not moved him on is because there was no real plan to bring in a replacement as Arsene Wenger, for some reason unknown to me or most people, still has faith in him to come good. One of the other reasons is that his wage demands may simply be too high for another Club to purchase him given his recent lack of form and long-standing lack of effort, but this would be mitigated by the huge TV deal that is in place for the next couple of seasons. The final reason, and in my opinion the most important one, is that Theo Walcott still does not have the skills to play anywhere well enough to hold down a consistent place. He does not run around, cross well or defend enough for a winger and is not able to hold on to the ball well enough to play consistently as a striker for Arsenal in the current tactical formation laid out by Wenger.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is another who should have at least gone on loan or possibly been sold. Joel Campbell showed much more productive work rate last season (e.g. not running with his head down but actually looking for team-mates to pass to) even if he didn’t quite have the stamina to last 90 minutes (something I imagine he has worked on in pre-season) and Serge Gnabry is returning to form after a string of injuries (and getting left out consistently by Baseball Cap at West Brom last season while there on loan) with some great performances for Germany at the Rio Olympics. Oxlade-Chamberlain has to improve massively this year, or even the untested Chris Willock may prove to be a better long-term bet for that place.
I had to laugh with so many calling for Aaron Ramsey to start in central midfield. The 4-0 vs. Southampton proved to me (again) that he does not have the discipline to control the match from midfield in the absence of Santi Cazorla and Ramsey’s errors led to at least 2 of the Southampton goals. If I was Wenger, I’d use Ramsey as a striker, since he loves to score goals and does not like to track back. It’s not feasible to use him as a Number 10 due to the superior presence of Mesut Ozil and he does not work hard enough defensively on the right-wing often enough against the bigger teams. However, in games where the talismanic German is absent, such as the opening fixture vs. Liverpool, Ramsey or Cazorla would get the nod.
Arsenal’s need for a striker is great, with the absence of Giroud due to rest. The options are limited, with only Alexis Sanchez, Akpom and the already-mentioned Walcott available. There seemed to be a complete lack of a plan in signing striker reinforcement, something I cannot fathom as the Club have needed one for several seasons now. Arsenal need to stop waiting for other dominoes to fall correctly into place and just pay the money that the selling clubs want. Alexandre Lacazette could have made a huge difference for Arsenal, yet the Club seems unwilling to match Lyon’s high-but-not-ridiculous valuation.
Antoine Griezmann was always a pipe dream due to his performances in the Euros and Atletico Madrid has no need to sell. I think even Jordan Ayew could have made a difference with his speed (and he’s a better option than Walcott in my opinion, as is a concrete bollard, traffic cone or steel cupboard), but, still, no-one was signed. Plenty of players use Arsenal as a stepping stone to a better contract (e.g. Mahrez, Icardi, and Vardy) and this happened because Arsenal did not make the effort to sign anyone in the first place. Fernando Llorente was available too, for free too if my memory serves, but no effort was made to get him and he joined Swansea. Yes, Llorente has similar attributes to Giroud, but he would have been another capable body up top as a stop-gap until another player was signed and it is unlikely that 2 strikers would start in Wenger’s tactical line-up at the moment anyway.
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The only area where Arsenal is well-sorted is in central midfield. Even with Arteta’s retirement and Rosicky and Flamini leaving the Club, Arsenal still have Elneny, Cazorla, Wilshere, Coquelin and, less a centre midfielder but an option anyway in Ramsey and Granit Xhaka has been added to the mix. Arsenal really need to find a central defender and a striker fast. I cannot see them moving Mathieu Debuchy on due to the injury setback to Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs is still required at left-back as back-up to Nacho Monreal.
In short, Arsenal need to make those signings. Prudence is not required as much anymore, unless there are (as I suspect) some intervening orders coming from Stan Kroenke.
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.