Hi folks. It’s been a while again since I posted. Having watched Arsenal’s recent spate of poor performances ruining yet another promising campaign (except the Bayern match – that one was always going to be a pummeling for Arsenal), here’s a few things I’d like to see changed next season.
I know there are a lot of knives out for Wenger, and I have not been the most kind towards the manager, but it really is time for him to go. A consistent lack of realistic title challenge in the Premier League (Arsenal are always out of it by February or March) and abject lack of progress in the Champions League – we have been knocked out in the last 16 for 6 straight seasons now – any other Club, regardless of the manager’s previous exploits, would have sacked Wenger by now. I know, some of you will argue that there is still a 2nd leg to play in the Champions League – no team has ever turned over a 4 goal 1st Leg deficit in the Champions League and we are extremely unlikely to do so. The only one we have a real chance of winning is the F.A. Cup.
So, who to bring in? Massimiliano Allegri would be my first choice, as I feel his style of football would suit most of Arsenal’s current players, far more so than Diego Simeone’s, anyway. What would also be important is which coaches are appointed – a new goalkeeper coach is imperative, as I have been saying for a while now that Gerry Peyton is not of the quality required. Obviously, Allegri would have his own ideas about who to bring in, but Peyton has to go either way – Arsenal’s goalkeepers have been the butt of a lot of jibes and jokes over the last decade and Peyton has been the coach the whole time.
However, as long as Arsenal qualify for the Champions League, nothing will change and Wenger will stay as manager for as long as he wants as Stan Kroenke indirectly makes money off of him.
This definitely needs work if a new manager comes in. Top of the list here though would be a new left-back. Kieran Gibbs cannot be relied upon due to his poor injury record and Nacho Monreal is aging faster than expected and his performances have tailed off sharply this season in my opinion. Valencia’s Jose Luis Gaya, Aston Villa’s Jordan Amavi, Ricardo Rodriguez and West Ham’s Aaron Cresswell should be at the top of the list, while Cohen Bramall will hopefully be able to step up quickly as a reserve.
Mathieu Debuchy will be departing either way at the end of the season, with Carl Jenkinson likely to join him (more at the manager’s discretion than Debuchy though), so a right-back should also be near the top of the list but it might be tough to get a very good player here as we have Hector Bellerin as starter, who is one of the best young right-backs anywhere in Europe.
I think Djibril Sidibe from Monaco might be a great signing, as he can play as a right-back or left-back with near-equal ability – he’d certainly be able to get enough games on either side for us. As far as central defense goes, Gabriel has demonstrated that he is simply not good enough for Arsenal in my opinion, but a replacement may be hard to find. Obviously, there is Rob Holding and Calum Chambers in the mix for places, too. I hope Holding and Chambers get some match minutes though, as it is essential for their development.
This is another area where major surgery is required. Santi Cazorla is 32 now and we have no idea how well he will recover from his current injury or if this will be the first of many recurring injuries. Francis Coquelin has been poor recently, but I blame the manager more for this as he has obviously told Coquelin to push higher up the pitch, which is not his best trait. Coquelin is a decent defensive mid, but that is all that he can do well (i.e. breaking up play and being a spoiler to opponents), so he needs a more creative foil next to him.
Granit Xhaka is still adapting to English football, so I’m giving him more time to hopefully iron the bad tackles out of his game – his lack of pace doesn’t help with this, though. Aaron Ramsey simply has no place in the squad with the current crop of players available – Ramsey and Xhaka makes for one of the slowest midfield pairings in the Premier League and also one of the poorest defensively. Ramsey also cannot play well next to Coquelin and I’m not sure if he can play well next to Santi either – Santi may not be quick but, unlike Xhaka, he can change direction very quickly.
I could see Ramsey being sold to raise funds, as his contract is near expiry. Ramsey’s profligacy around the box, often losing the ball at inopportune moments, makes him unsuitable in the Number 10 role too, in my opinion. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, though, has shown some good potential in midfield, too – he has turned his form around this season and I hope he can continue to improve at a strong rate.
It may be time to give some of the youngsters like Gedion Zelalem and Jon Toral a chance to impress – Toral was excellent at Birmingham City last season and Zelalem had a good loan at Rangers, too. One of them may be able to strike up a partnership with Xhaka, Santi or Coquelin – it’s certainly something that has not been tried up to this point.
Further up the park, Alex Iwobi has been largely impressive in most matches that he has played – he’s willing to take on players and seems to move the ball around well, he only needs to really work on his defensive game. Mesut Ozil has been really poor since the match vs. Ludogorets in the Champions League – any other manager would have dropped him for a while to rest him and maybe re-ignite his mojo, but Wenger just keeps playing him. It’s really strange, as Iwobi or Jeff Reine-Adelaide could play in that position – Reine-Adelaide was very impressive vs. Southampton in the FA Cup in particular.
I think it may be time for Ozil to be moved on – his contract is expiring soon and, in my opinion, it is much more important to keep Alexis Sanchez than Ozil and Arsenal (as well as other Premier League clubs, with the exception of Man City) have some wage limits. Ozil can be brilliant on his day, but I think he is not someone you can start every week in every match and expect him to turn in brilliant performances consistently. Nabil Fekir may be a worthy replacement for Ozil, if Arsenal could put together the huge transfer fee required.
Not a huge amount of tinkering required here. Lucas Perez needs more game time, though, as does Welbeck. It is essential that Alexis’ contract gets renewed at almost any cost, while Olivier Giroud can still be very good on his day. Theo Walcott has tailed off in the last 3 months, which is unfortunate, and it may be time to consider his future, in addition to that of the often-loaned Chuba Akpom, who has shown little signs of breaking into the first team and not being hugely impressive on loan at Hull or Brighton.
Obviously, my choice as a replacement would be Alexandre Lacazette, as he can play across the whole front line – signing his team-mate Nabil Fekir too would also help, as he can also play as a forward and would also bring a pace injection into attack after Walcott is traded.
Honestly though, if Arsene Wenger stays, this whole blog is moot, as he will not change anything because he is unable to see his own failings and thus is unable to adapt.
Come On You Gunners!
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.