So, Arsenal are one of the most successful teams in English history. Yet it looks that at the start of next season, it’ll be eight years since they last won a trophy. So, what’s wrong? To put it simply, they have a lack of money for two reasons, one much more forgiving than the other: 1) The club injected money into creating one of the country’s greatest stadiums, which is fair enough. 2) Fringe players such as Chamakh, Santos, Squillaci, Djourou, Bendtner and Ju-Young Park take up vast amount of wages, so much so that they are unable to be offloaded in anything more than a loan deal. Thus, Arsenal have recently fallen behind other top flight teams due to being unable to offer high wages to the top players (in the past they have lost out on Mata, Hazard and Bale, amongst others).
However, it appears that Wenger has been given a fair amount of money to spend over summer. So, how should this money be spent? I’ll make this a fairly conservative fix, i.e. I’ll consider the fact that Arsenal may not get the valued 4th Champions League spot that is needed to attract the world’s best. My view is that Arsenal need an experienced, commanding goalkeeper, a no-nonsense center back, a holding midfielder and another striker for those days when Giroud is having a bad one. With the following additions, all at relatively achievable aims considering the amount of money now available, Arsenal could return to being the trophy winning team of a decade ago.
First up is the goalkeeper. To put it bluntly, it looks like Q.P.R. are going down this season. Julio Cesar was quoted as saying he wanted to move to London for his family. But he’s still one of the top five keepers in the world, so the chances of him playing in the Championship are pretty slim. His experience and ability to organise a defence is something Szczesny – although a good shot stopper – is really lacking, and it causes Arsenal to let in a lot of goals. He’s also one of the few big names available that will be able to excite Arsenal fans.
As much as I admire Koscielny, Vermaelen and Mertesacker individually as center backs, none of them work well together. Koscielny has great pace, Vermaelen has impressive determination and Mertesacker holds precise tackling (but a surprisingly poor ariel dominance), but none are good enough all round. This is the position I think Arsenal are lacking in least out of those that needs improving, but Chris Samba is in the same position as Cesar over at Q.P.R. With power, marking ability and ariel presence, there is no doubt that the man is able to play at the highest levels, so if he becomes available come the end of the season, it has to be something Wenger looks into.
Next, is the hole consistently left in the Arsenal team. After Flamini’s departure in 2008 and Song’s exit in 2012, Arsenal have struggled to find a holding defensive midfielder, often fielding three naturally attacking midfielders, leaving the defence open to counter-attacks. Jeremy Toulalan is my next suggestion. Although getting old at the age of 29, Toulalan is still exactly what Arsenal need. Someone who is known for precise tackling and simple passing, Toulalan is still a great asset to his current side, Malaga. It is also worth noting that this experience could greatly aid the side in on-field organisation. Being a Malaga player, he will have close links to both Santi Cazorla and new-signing, Monreal. As a Frenchman, he could easily fit in with Wenger’s chemistry.
Finally, it’s still apparent that Arsenal are lacking an out-and-out goalscorer, a true poacher. Giroud has a fairly lethal long-shot on him and a bit of trickery. Walcott has incredible pace. But no one seems to get themselves really in the right positions to get on the end of crosses. This one is probably the most ambitious of the lot, but Edison Cavani is still seen as available by many clubs across Europe. His mixture of pace, heading ability and general striker’s instinct is something Arsenal have been severely lacking since losing Van Persie. If they are in hope of staying in touch with the best in Europe, a player of his quality has to be signed.
All of this would leave the line-up at the start of next season looking as follows, at a cost of around £40 million, and that’s without the sales of those that would be replaced, e.g. one of the many goalkeepers, Mertesacker/Koscielny, Ramsey (£15 million) and the aforementioned fringe players (£10 million).
Personally, I believe the above team could challenge for either of the domestic cups and even do some real damage in the Champions League. What do you think? Do you think a new manager is needed rather than just new players? Do you think Arsenal will ever reach their heights of ten years ago again? Please let me know via comment or Twitter. Thanks for reading!