Transfers By Max Tomlin
As the blogosphere is filled with gossip and rumour regarding transfers at the minute, I felt I would reflect on the impact of Arsenal’s transfer policy in recent years. This is the first piece I have written since the start of the season when I wrote a segment entitled ‘Moneyball’, which will now, to many, seem irrelevant as the positive season I predicted is currently on the ropes.
However I still believe that the players in the Arsenal squad at the moment are undervalued, and would like to state that although I do believe the Arsenal squad needs some additions, transfers are not always the best answer. I would like to look at two factors that I feel many supporters overlook when they address the current Arsenal squad, and the first of these is the fact that the team at the minute has been predominantly assembled in the last 3 years, undergoing mass changes with some being intentional and some as a result of players losing faith.
As well as bringing in a vast array of players in this time, which include match day squad players like Vemaelen, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho, Jenkinson, Cazorla, Podolski and Giroud (not to mention less notable players like Santos and Chamakh), many have also had to step up to the plate from the lower reaches of the squad; with players like Walcott, Szczęsny, Gibbs and Wilshere. Now as you can see out of these names you can almost put forward a complete 18 man squad, and that is currently what Arsenal do, using these players each match day. But by having such a transition in the squad, it is no wonder that at times Arsenal have lost their edge, and whilst they do occasionally show what they are capable of (the 10 minute period against West Ham provides an ideal example) much of the time Arsenal run a little flat.
This is a relatively young squad however, and this gives them the opportunity to mould into a team that is capable of competing and winning trophies again. Once this team is a little more settled and accustomed to playing with each other, there is a good chance that the inconsistencies can be removed from Arsenal’s play and moments like in the West Ham game may become a lot more frequent.
The second point I would like to make regarding Arsenal’s transfer policy is that it predominantly focuses on picking young talent from other nations. Whilst this is not necessarily a bad thing (I must add that I am pleased Arsenal have a strong core of young British talent) it means that most of the time we must wait for a birthing period, usually a season, in which the players’ find their feet. This is because the physicality and tempo of the Premier League is superior to that of its counterparts, which often take a more tactical approach.
This has been shown most noticeably by the transformations of both Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, from their first to their second seasons. Both looked out of place when they first wore the Red and White of North London, struggling to adapt to the Premier League as they moved from the French and German leagues respectively. But now I believe they are two top quality centre-backs, with Koscielny’s pace and ability to tackle a real asset, whilst Mertesacker’s reading of the game is impeccable (even if he does occasionally get caught for pace).
I predict a similar transformation to the performances of Giroud, Podolski and Cazorla next year. Whilst I am not criticizing their contributions this year (which I believe have been underrated by many) I feel they can bring much more next season. With the squad another year older and more in tune with each other, I feel Arsenal will fare much better. Additions are obviously needed but only two or three are necessary to strengthen the squad as a whole. Too many transfers will again disrupt the harmony of the squad and leave Arsene waiting even longer for his squad to actually become a team.
Remember the team harmony and spirit of the Invincibles? With a group huddle before and after each match? That sort of unity is what helps win titles and purchasing a vast amount of players will only take away from that. So whilst many call for vast changes at Arsenal, I would just like to extend the suggestion that those fans take into consideration these factors and just consider the implications of removing Wenger and making mass changes to the squad. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, just ask Hleb.