Arsenal’s Transfer Targets – Who Should Wenger Focus On? by BS
Arsenal have enjoyed a strong few weeks in the Premier League and their recent run of form has seen them jump up to third place in the table. They have won nine of their last ten Premier League games, including an impressive 2-0 win over Manchester City and a 5-0 thumping of Aston Villa. Arsenal are not completely out of the title race yet but it will take a major turnaround for them to overhaul Chelsea, who currently sit seven points clear of them with a game in hand. Had the Gunners not lost crucial games against Southampton, Stoke City and, most painfully, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsene Wenger’s side would be pushing Chelsea all the way. As it is, the best Arsenal can hope for realistically is a second-place finish. Given the strength at the top of the Premier League, that would still be a real achievement.
Whether or not Arsenal can close the gap, they will be hoping to maintain their impressive domestic run in order to set themselves up for a positive start to next season. Despite the fact that there are still eight Premier League games remaining, and that the Gunners have an FA Cup semi-final against Reading to look forward to, it is almost inevitable that attention will begin to shift to the 2015/16 season. That means the media and fans will begin to speculate about who Wenger may look to bring to the Emirates. With the success of last summer’s major signing, Alexis Sanchez, it is no wonder that the Gunners faithful are looking towards the transfer window with excitement. In this article we look at some of the names who have been linked with moves to Arsenal and consider whether or not they would represent wise investments by Wenger. We also consider whether they could push the Gunners up in the betfair odds to win the title next season.
First up is German international Marco Reus. Reus is a versatile attacking talent, capable of playing in an advanced midfield role, as a winger (primarily on the left) or through the middle as a striker. Currently in his third season with Borussia Dortmund, the 25-year-old began his career as a youth player at Dortmund but made his name playing for Rot Weiss Ahlen in Germany’s regional leagues before being snapped up by Borussia Monchengladbach. He impressed during his time with Monchengladbach, scoring 21 goals in his third season with the club and helping them to secure Champions League football.
Having also made his debut for the German national team during 2011-12, Reus’ stock was clearly rising and he attracted attention from a number of top clubs, eventually deciding to return to Dortmund and signing a five-year deal. During his time with the club, Reus has helped Dortmund to two DFL Super Cup wins, two runners-up spots in the Bundesliga and to the final of the 2013 Champions League. Reus missed out on a place at the 2014 World Cup finals through injury but he has not let that disappointment affect him this season and has already scored 11 goals (including three in the Champions League) and been credited with six assists this season.
There is no doubting Marco Reus’ talent and pedigree as an international footballer. He would be a great addition to any side, but Wenger must think carefully about signing him. The first question would be which player would give way if Reus were to come to the Emirates? With Theo Walcott stalling over a new deal, it is possible that he could be a direct replacement for the England man. He could also replace Mesut Ozil, if Wenger loses patience. Whatever happens, Reus will expect first-team football and will not be happy being a bit-part player. If he were not given sufficient opportunities, it is difficult to imagine that Arsenal would ever get the best out of him. Aside from all of this is the fact that Reus recently signed a new deal with Dortmund. If Wenger is to force him away from Jurgen Klopp, then he will need to spend a really significant sum of money. We have all seen how heavily the £42m price tag has weighed on Ozil. It would be a concern that something similar may happen with Reus. The verdict would be, sign Reus if Walcott and/or Ozil leave, and if he can be brought in without breaking the bank.
Manchester United centre-back Chris Smalling is another man who has been linked with a move south in recent weeks. Former Millwall academy man Smalling, who advanced through the non-leagues in traditional fashion before being snapped up by Premier League side Fulham in 2008, has become a regular for Manchester United in recent seasons. Having originally signed for the Red Devils in 2010, Smalling found himself down the pecking order at Old Trafford but he was given the opportunity to learn from Premier League greats such as Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. During his time with United, Smalling has won two Premier League titles and was an unused substitute in the Champions League final in 2011.
Smalling is built in a similar mould to Ferdinand. He is quick and athletic and looks comfortable on the ball when bringing possession out of defence. At 25 years of age, Smalling is coming in to his prime as a defender. Having now played 15 games for England, including making an appearance at the 2014 World Cup, Smalling has the experience to be a real asset. Unfortunately, as any United fan will tell you, the big difference between Smalling and Ferdinand is that the latter rarely made mistakes.
When at his best, Smalling is an extremely accomplished defender but, despite the fact that he has made nearly 100 Premier League appearances for United, he still looks capable of switching off. At times he tries to do too much, gets caught in possession or finds himself inexplicably out of position. If Wenger could get Smalling playing in a regimented, structured system, then he could potentially get the best out of him. It is too early to write Smalling off yet, and he still has the potential to become one of the Premier League’s best. But some are not convinced that he would oust either Per Mertesacker or Laurent Koscielny but he could provide some competition for places and could potentially step up as and when either of them move on. As long as Wenger is not suckered into spending much more than the £12m that has been quoted, Smalling could be a decent buy for the club.
Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech looks likely to be in high demand this summer. Having been the number one choice for several seasons at Stamford Bridge, he has now been ousted by the young Belgian Thibaut Courtois, who enjoyed an impressive spell as Atletico Madrid’s number one in Spain. There are few goalkeepers in the world who could keep Cech out of the first team but Courtois is arguably better than the giant Czech shot-stopper and, at just 22 years of age, he has time on his side.
That is not to say that Cech is past his best. Indeed, when he has come into the Chelsea side this year – in the 2-0 win over Arsenal in October, for instance, he has looked just as good as ever. Arsenal have been crying out for a commanding keeper for a number of years, arguably since the retirement of Jens Lehman. There is no doubt that Wenger has had some real talent between the sticks but no keeper has ever really made the position his own. This year’s battle between David Ospina and Wojciech Szczesny shows just how ‘up for grabs’ the number one spot is.
Szczesny’s off-the-field antics will certainly have played a part in him losing the starting spot to Ospina but it is clear that Wenger does not have complete faith in either of them.
by Ben Sutherland