What Arsenal want, what Arsenal need, what’s the difference? by JA
Hey guys, great end to the season it was. I know most of you must have enjoyed it. There’s been much debate on multiple Arsenal forums around the world regarding what transfers Arsenal should make. Case in point, Just Arsenal, the arguments become pretty hot and there seems to be no argument. I’m not really writing this to settle the debate, but rather to, in detail, express my view.
Unlike many, I’m not really clamouring for the signing of every world-class player out there. My reason is simple. Players ain’t born world-class, they grow into it, and secondly, nobody becomes world-class without being given the opportunity to prove themselves.
In view of my stand, I’ll go position by position and see how many players we need to sign—
Well the last season did seem to bring a roar for the manager to sign a world-class goal keeper who never concedes goals following Szczesny messing up. David Ospina stepped in and covered well. Most fans seem to believe Ospina is greater than Szczesny and isn’t as error-prone as the Pole. Personally, I think Ospina isn’t error-prone, but he’s going to concede the same kind of goals all season and it might not change a lot. Not because he can’t learn, but at less than six feet,you are not exactly going to command the 6 yard box in the Premier League when Stoke City start whipping in 500 crosses per game. Take the Pole’s performance in the FA Cup final. Aston villa clearly had watched the previous few Arsenal games and knew that all you had to do was have a striker as big and strong as the Arsenal center backs and keep whipping the ball in at him. The GK is gonna be too small to bail them out when the striker eventually out-jumps them. Having Szczesny, though, nullified that threat as he’s tall and fast and can be really decisive when he comes out. As a result, they started playing crosses further away from the six yard box and in turn, it became easier for Mert and Kos to clear.
What does this mean? It means, with the Pole, that we might suffer less from crosses, but taking into account his poor distribution, we also lose the option of a quick counter-attack from a clearance. This is the point where we move to the Colombian keeper.
Ospina is small and vulnerable to the crossed ball. He, however, is a good shot stopper and distributor. I will not say he’s an excellent shot stopper because I’ve not seen him take the amount of fire that Szczesny has taken in his time at Arsenal. I can’t point to a game that Ospina has won us but I CAN point to games that both have lost us. Weighing up the options, I think you don’t want to be playing the Colombian against a typical route one type team.
Then comes the transfer rumours…
Petr Cech. To start with, I consider him better than both our keepers. He did share the Golden Gloves with our Pole the season before last and I think he still has the juice in him. There’s hearsay out there that we could get Cech and send Szczesny out to Southhampton next season – which I think would be an excellent idea – and i think that’s the way to go, but how long do we do this ?
At their best, I think Szczesny dwarfs Ospina in every aspect of the game but distribution. Considering he’s got pretty good footwork with the ball at his feet (and don’t say you haven’t seen him beat Valbuena and many other players on the dribble and been excited by it), he could improve this, so for me, he would be my Number One. Cech beats both at everything so, for me, that makes Ospina number three. How exactly do we strengthen but give everyone a chance to develop?
I don’t think Szczesny is 2 seasons away from his best. I think Ospina is already at his best but not good enough to be Number One all season, so… Sign Cech on a two year deal. Send Szczesny on loan where he can be Number One and get his footing back and keep Ospina as the cup keeper. Next season, Bring Szczesny back and let Cech run his contract down as we ease the Pole back in.
BTW, we can’t depend on rotation to keep everyone happy here. You don’t just rotate keepers from game to game if you plan to win the league….
Personally I think our defense is sorted for next season. We are well endowed at right and center back, quite light at left back, but good enough to get us there next season. Left back, though light, also offers tactical flexibility that directly affects Alexis Sanchez. If you notice, last season, Alexis was more dangerous with Gibbs at full-back than with Monreal. Personally,I think this was because of differences in the mentalities and physical capabilities of the two.
Gibbs tends to overlap when we have the ball continuing his run down the touchline as if to wait for a through pass that he can whip in a cross from. Despite the fact that most of his crosses are quite bogus, it helps Alexis who depends on drifting inwards onto his stronger right foot. Alexis also likes to target the space between the opposition fullback and the nearest centerback as an entry point into the opposition box, Gibbs making that run makes that space that little bit wider.
Monreal, on the contrary, is more conscious in the way he moves, and tends to postion himself for the easy pass rather than get ready to switch on the after-burners. As a result, he tends to drift inward just like Sanchez thus leaving the Chilean with only the option of sneaking in with the tap in or the surprise attempt since the space he’d have operated in is already occupied by Monreal . Also Sanchez has a lesser pass completion with Monreal on the pitch. This is because, naturally, he tends to expect a fullback to overlap, so he dribbles in the knowledge that if things go south, he can reverse the ball back down the edge of the box for the fullback to cross. With Gibbs, 8/10 of these passes will be successful since he’ll be there. With Monreal, more often than not, the pass finds Ozil or Giroud who wasn’t even expecting it, so we lose the ball almost instantly .
It ain’t broken, don’t fix it. The stuff above also applies to right back with Hector and Debuchy giving you the Gibbs factor while Chambers tends to give the Monreal.
We have three dedicated centerbacks ,one young protege and two veterans who can cover if things go sour in Monreal and Debuchy. I’d say that’s enough centerbacks for a season. Don’t sign anyone Arsene.
Now this is the big one. Most talk is about the defensive mid position. To be honest, like Arsene, I had given up on Coquelin and it was sad for me, because he looked like a good player. Please anyone of you convince me you didn’t have him down in your books as deadwood at the beginning of last season. You can say he got played out of position in the Bundesliga, but couldn’t that have meant that he wasn’t good at what he said he could do? I give all props to the boy for coming back and proving himself because me, you and the manager had already put the export label on him. Fast forward today, and he’s a mainstay in the team that I would feel sad to see relegated to the bench because the Boss signed that 300 million Euro 8ft6in DM weighing 600 pounds that never gets beaten on the dribble or in the air and never fouls and is the top scorer of the league he comes from, single handedly ensuring that his team didn’t concede a goal all season! (If this guy exists, bench le Coq instantly and sign him). Anyway,my point is, I think the young man has bought his starting berth for this season and should be paid his due. I’d be ok with Arsenal signing someone else to help him, but that person is definitely not going to be the starting DM from another team. There is no team around Europe that has two players of the same level playing the same position. The reason is simple. If they are at the same level, none of the two will appreciate letting the other play while he watches from the bench. Secondly, all defensive positions are where you want to be doing the least possible rotation, so getting another DM would either mean getting one that is almost as good as le Coq,or cheating him of his hard work and signing an already made star to bench him.
The other argument is at the flanks. I remember I wrote an article around 2013 or 14 where I argued that not every player deployed on the flanks is a winger. Tactics differ. For instance at Real Madrid, they have their most dangerous striker starting out on the left flank but tucking in as play builds and being covered by a midfielder. The other flank has someone who has a limited licence to drift inwards but most of the typical winger stuff (crossing, harrying, hugging the touchline) is done by the full-backs. At Barca, one winger is actually a striker while the other is a bit of a hybrid attacking mid/center forward. This means they spend more time away from the touchline i.e one looking for a sharp run behind a fullback, the other looking to find that run. Many other top teams have people on the flanks that don’t actually play as wingers but just wide men. The point is, tactical flexibilty dictates, you can change the perception of a position to suit you. I find Aaron Ramsey pretty dangerous when he plays on the right because he can often sneak up to the opponents box unnoticed and pop a surprise. I feel Walcott could play from there as Real do with Ronaldo. With him being the main striker, but being saved the whole hustle and bustle of big CBs only to make the right run and sneak in with a goal when neccesary, only that he doesn’t offer the defensive cover Ramsey would and wouldn’t stretch the opposition anywhere near as much as the Ox would if you need him to keep a fullback busy. Gnabry could do the same. You could actually go audacious and have Rosicky, Cazorla and Ozil in a fluid midfield partnership behind a player like Giroud, which would end up with them taking turns in there to varying levels of destruction.
The same argument applies to the opposite flank so I don’t see cause for alarm there.
You need you de facto defensive mid to play at least 70% of your season and I think le Coq’s body can handle that. I’ve not known him to injure a lot more than his nose really.. The other 30% can be shared among the rest. Without the preassure of 3 games a week,I think Arteta can play a crucial part of that 30% ,especially when it’s a game where we are happy to just keep possession and starve the opposition. Personally, I’ve always been skeptical of Flamini and still don’t trust, him but what the heck, you can throw him on occasionally when you are leading one nil at Chelsea and just don’t have the legs to go at them any more, just to clog up the middle. In extreme cases, we can have Chambers fill in. I watch how he plays and feel he has the intelligence to play there. Then in the worst of cases, where everybody else is maimed by a leftover landmine from World War 2, you can have Ramsey, or Wilshere or both do the job. I don’t really think we need to sign in the middle ….
Giroud and Sanchez combined for more than 30 of Arsenal’s premier league goals and that’s great. They didn’t really have a period where they both flourished which I also think is great. See, I think we can rely on the two even more next season. I think a fully fit Giroud ,can give us about 15-20 goals in the league next season. Sanchez definitely a lot more than that, maybe 23-25, Walcott, if fit for 70% of the season, could get something like 20. Not a bad return really. Goals however are a much needed commodity. This striking line could do with about 10-15 more goals (I’m not looking at you Welbeck I’m sorry). Giroud could also set up 15 or so. So we could have a forward line that can inflict about 60 in the league alone ,before we count on help from the midfielders and defenders.
I personally believe that those 15 extra goals are within this squad itself (I’m pointing at you Ramsey) but I’d be happier if we could get someone in that could just get them guaranteed. A person more to the specs of Messi/Hazard than to Giroud/Cavani/Martinez. Reason is, I think if we stopped depending on Giroud for goals, and stuck more to him being a dummy for others to run around, we’d score more goals than having an out and out striker that waits for chances, rather than makes them for others. I think Walcott will benefit a lot from Giroud’s style of play next season if Wenger goes back to deploying him as a wide forward next season. I doubt he can effectively lead the line consistently all season and would prefer Giroud. My doubt for Walcott’s fitness and consistency also leads me to want another forward in the team. I’d go with Alexander Lacazatte. I think he could bang in 10-15 in his first league season, but then I’d rather let the gaffer decide. One more striker please Arsene!
I’m one of those that has a great belief in this squad. There’s the skill, numbers, potential and competition is near the top, and I think without many injuries, they could go quite the distance. A goal keeper, Cech in particular and no one else but him, and a striker, younger and with more time to learn the ropes but with the goals already flowing, would be to my preference. Too much chopping and changing would take us back to bedding in. And don’t start convincing yourself that pre-season is enough for a player to bed in. Even Alexis only shone because of his individuality, but we can all offer witness that most of his team play still sucks. Goal keepers don’t have much bedding in to do. Strikers and midfielders, a lot!
It’s Joe from Kampala