Sunday, June 24, 2007
Arsenal in for Anelka? The return of the prodigal son
Henry was brought in to take over from Anelka in 1999 and now eight years later Anelka is coming in to replace Henry. At least that is what Antony Kastrinakis of the News of The World is revealing. He further states that Wenger already held preliminary talks with Anelka's people to sound him out about a move to the Emirates!
It is of course imperative that Wenger brings in a forward of proven value to replace the big gap that Henry’s departure has left in the Arsenal squad.
It is also imperative that the Board stop being obstinate and grant Wenger his wish of signing Anelka. We don't want another crisis at the club right now. That's for sure.
It would of course have been timelier if Anelka or anyother forward was brought in before or during Henry’s impending move to Barcelona. In our previous posting “Arsenal need to act quickly to stop the rot” the point was made that it will actually prove more difficult to attract a quality player now that Henry is not there. Or indeed if the potential recruits fear that Wenger may not be there the season after; as Henry has hinted.
Nevertheless apart from Anelka there have been other names mentioned since Henry’s departure of course. These include Michael Owen, Martins, Huntelaar, Babel, Kanoute and Torres. We will not bother mentioning non starters like Diego Forlan (heaven forbid).
For regular visitors to the site it will not come as a surprise that we would of course place at the top of the list Nicolas Anelka. If all these rumors actually become a reality then we will feel very satisfied as having identified him as a must get target as early as March of this year “Anelka for Arsenal” and also in our analysis of “What does Arsenal need to do to challenge for next season?” The reactions from some of the visitors to the site did not so much castigate him for his football abilities but for his character and the way he left Arsenal. Others were all for it.
At the risk of sounding repetitive we believe that Anelka will be a terrific signing for Arsenal as he has all the attributes that this Henryless Arsenal side now more than ever need.
At only 28 years old he now has a blend of relative youthfulness along with maturity and experience that is sorely missing from an experience depleted squad.
His attitude and maturity have been evident on the football pitch both for Bolton and for the France national team. He has received no yellow or red cards.
And he can score goals. He has found the net 11 times for Bolton this past season out of 35 appearances with 5 assists. Compare that to the 17 he scored (out of 35) during his last season at Arsenal during the 1998-1999 season. The goals he scored this season were from a lonesome striker role; in an average, launch them long and high, Bolton side. Imagine how many goals he will score in an Arsenal side that creates scoring opportunities for fun.
He also knows the English Premier League well and therefore does not require any adjustment time as a new raw Wenger recruit would otherwise need.
This is one of the reasons why we would place him above Babel, Huntelaar and Torres. Good forwards they are they will need an adjustment period at a time when this current Arsenal side does not have the luxury of providing. The other reason of course is that Anelka is a more mature player and will bring experience to bear.
Babel in particular has impressed us during the under 21 Championship finals as he looks strong, fast and skillful. A typical Wenger player. He would be a good signing for the other vacancy of the wide midfielder if Wenger cannot find a team to unload Reyes. Otherwise we would be happy to accept Reyes back to the fold in the same way as we hope Anelka will be welcomed back.
Our second very close choice would have been Kanoute but he has already ruled out a move back to the premiership. He would have been an ideal second choice as he possesses most of the attributes that are apparent in Anelka.
Huntelaar looks good and has a very impressive goalscoring record albeit in the Dutch League with 21 goals in 32 league appearances for Ajax or a 65% success rate.
Of the other forwards mentioned, Owen, Martins and Torres, we have our reservations. Owen is a good goal scorer, always will be. But he has lost pace due to injuries and he is not a mobile center forward as Wenger likes his players to be. We think he is near to what in business lingo you would characterize as “burnt out”. He will be a risky signing considering the price asked for in comparison to his age and injury record.
As far as Martins is concerned he has pace and given the opportunities he will get you goals. But we don’t see him as a centre forward. He is more a winger or an inside forward playing off the centre forward. Along with Babel we would place him in contention for the other vacancy at Arsenal Football Club. But he is likely to cost a lot more than Babel.
Torres is promising but he is still young and raw in our opinion and without Premiership experience. And at 27m you might as well forget it. Wenger does not usually splash out the money. Not this much anyway.
So apart form Anelka there are only second and third best options left for Wenger.