Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Arsene’s wish list?
By 1970’s Gooner
And so this is Summer.
Well it feels like summer as it is the end of our season and therefore sparks off, maybe somewhat prematurely, the beginning of the discussions for the summer sale activity to follow.
So where are Arsenal’s squad weaknesses that need to be strengthened?
We need to bring in more experience both as first team choices and to act as back up when injuries and suspensions kick in especially at the latter part of the season.
This is where I think we were short this season. Not bad refereeing decisions or bad luck or even Eduardo’s injury impact.
They all had their part to play (though I don't believe in luck) but lack of quality in squad depth was our undoing in the end.
A lot of the players have hardly had a breather with Wenger resisting to rotate, as the alternatives were on the injury table and their deputies were exciting but unproven youngsters.
If this is corrected with a few additions in the summer transfer window who will add experience and nous I really believe that next season we will be champions.
My first choice would be to keep Lehmann alongside Almunia and Fabiansky.
This does not look like it will happen as the first two hate each other and Lehmann is almost certain to leave.
We need to recruit another goalkeeper who will add (Premiership) experience and would be fighting for a first team place with Almunia.
Kirkland fits the bill quite well.
He has put in some terrific performances for Wigan this season culminating with that awesome display at Stamford Bridge.
Wenger has shown interest in the past.
Others in the picture could be Lyon’s Coupet and PSV’s Brazilian giant, Gomez, with whom we have been connected recently.
But Jussi Jaaskelainen of doomed Bolton (I hope they end up and rot in the fourth Division or whatever they call them these days)would also be ideal and most probably available.
Also Hennessy of Wolves, although young, could also be in the picture (my contacts from the West Midlands tell me that he has been watched by Arsenal). I like him a lot and I think he will be a great goalkeeper.
We need to bolster the options for the defence especially in the central areas and for left back. For right back we have the excellent Sagna and I think it’s about time Eboue was kept in reserve as a right back.
It goes without saying that what is needed is an experienced centre back who will be on an equal standing in the pecking order with the other central defenders.
I feel that, however much I like Senderos as a person, he unfortunately has not improved to the standard that is needed to be effective in this League.
I think Scharner (of Wigan) will be ideal as a central defender but also in midfield as that is also a position he performs well in (he is also an Arsenal supporter).
Thuram (as a central defender) may be an option as he is experienced enough.
But if Wenger goes for youth again then there are others like the 21year old Argentinian Ezequiel Garay who plays for Racing Santander in Spain. He is also notable for his ability in scoring from dead ball situations.
For left back we need adequate cover for Clichy, the premiership’s best in this position.
Admittedly Traore has improved this season and had a very decent game against Liverpool at the Emirates for his Premier league debut. But he will not be able to cope consistently if say Clichy became unavailable for a long period.
Wenger may however decide not to recruit here as he has the option of playing some other defender at left back especially if he has already brought in a decent central defender.
This would give him the option of playing someone like Gallas or another defender there.
If Flamini leaves (and it may look as though it may happen) as well as Gilberto then we desperately need to have more experience brought in.
Diaby, Denilson (if he is with us next season) and Song are to my mind very good players and could excel at that position.
But they have not played that much there. So experience is needed again so as to fill in until these two players are introduced gradually and have time to mature.
That is why I think Scharner with his versatility (or a similar type of player) will be good for Arsenal.
Xabi of Barcelona would fit in well with the Arsenal style.
So would Yaya Toure who should be snapped up if he becomes available (although Wenger had him on trial some time ago and rejected him).
The 24 year old versatile player, Ghilas who plays in Portugal has also attracted Wenger's interest. He can play anywhere from midfield to forward.
First priority however would be to keep Flamini of course and if this happens then we would do well to trust Diaby, Denilson and Song to be the deputies and the rotation alternatives.
I say rotation because this is an area that Wenger should do well to emulate what Ferguson has achieved in keeping his important players fresh.
And we need to give Cesc and Flamini substantial rests this year unlike this season when Wenger worked them to the ground and they run out of steam in the end.
There are two reasons for this. One is to allow other partnerships in this crucial area of the pitch to develop so as to be able to use them if and when first choice players get injured or suspended.
The other is of course to allow the deputies to mature through first team action.
Now this is an area that we have witnessed substantial gaps in the squad.
It was not so apparent until Rosicky, Van Persie and Eduardo got injured which deprived Wenger three of his experienced forwards who could play wide.
Not that Rosicky is a genuine winger of course; he is not but he has technique and dexterity and Arsene likes his full backs to become wide men anyway with the wingers coming infield (like Rosicky and Hleb do).
Now assuming that Rosicky has the operation that is mooted he needs and recovers well for next season then with Walcott, Vela and eventually Eduardo coming back Wenger may feel that he has enough on this front.
Yet I feel that the only genuine wingers amongst that list are two youngsters, Walcott and Vela, who are indeed very exciting but relatively inexperienced nevertheless.
Ribery would be great (even if he is expensive), as is Ben Arfa of Lyon.
But I also particularly like Samir Nasri of Marseille who would also fit Wenger’s recruiting policy as he is young (20), French, blessed with terrific skills and dribbling ability and relatively cheaper than the other two!
Others not so well known that have been considered by Wenger are Mputu of Congo’s TP Mazembe (who is recommended by Arsene’s close friend Roland Scheubel, the same scout who discovered Kolo Toure) and Nicolay Dimitrov of Levski Sofia.
What this season has proved is that the four centre forwards that Arsenal started the season with (RVP, Adebayor, Eduardo and Bendtner) have not been enough.
Injuries decimated the two of the more experienced forwards.
This left us having to rely on the willing Bendtner, who probably needs another season and Adebayor, whose tiredness I would like to think was the main contributor to him giving away the most offsides in the Premiership.
But there is another reason why we need to recruit. RVP is so injury prone and will probably be tired (and hopefully injury free) from the oncoming Euro 2008.
In addition Eduardo will still be recovering as he is not expected back until at least September.
So we need to buy there. I would love Eto'o to come he would really give everyone a lift and he may be available if Barcelona start rebuilding.
Benzema, who is one of Arsene’s favourite forwards, has the directness and strength up front that has been obviously lacking in our squad. I think he will be a great addition to the strikers union at Arsenal.
David Villa of Valencia would be a quality addition to the forward line and his small build (1.75 m) may appeal to Wenger as he may be used in the wide midfield positions too.
But there is Adriano who has shaped up recently since his return to his native Brazil scoring goals again. Wenger was interested in him before and if there is anyone that can get the best out of him it will be Arsene.
We do not need radical surgery. But we do need surgery (mostly prosthetical) to bolster a thin squad with more experienced and battle hardened players.
We need additions in central defence, wide midfield and in attack if no one of note leaves. Otherwise another goalkeeper and midfielder if Lehmann and Flamini do a runner!