A realistic analysis of Arsenal’s squad for 2015/16 NM
Arsenal have been linked to a number of new signings this summer from Benzema to Vidal (with Johnny Evans along the way), but is there really space in the squad for a score of new arrivals? Playing Football Manager and being a football manager are two completely different things; regular summer squad redesigns are an incredibly fun part of the game, but the upheaval they cause rarely bodes well in the real world- just ask Liverpool and Tottenham. Arsenal fans, and the media, have been crying out for new signings but let us not forget that despite a raft of injuries we have a team that came very close to challenging Chelsea for the league last season and a settled, connected squad can reap more benefits than a disjointed collection of individuals that require time to settle in and gel with each other. With that in mind, if we analyse the current squad it would seem unlikely that Arsenal will make more than one or two new signings, but that information isn’t particularly likely to sell many newspapers, earn new twitter followers or get extra website hits.
First off, it’s important to understand the squad regulations that apply to the Premier League and Champions’ League. Both permit a maximum of 25 players to be registered, 8 of which must be association trained (have spent 3 or more years from the age of 15 to 21 training at a club from the same association as us), and for our Champions’ League squad at least 4 of these players have to have specifically trained at Arsenal. Players aged 21 or younger on the 1st January 2016 do not have to be registered for the Premiership, but need to have been with the club for 2 or more years to be included on the Champions’ League “B-list”: a list of players that can be registered for the competition without taking up one of the 25 permitted births.
So what does this mean for Arsenal? Well, if we look at the players presently on our books it becomes clear that there isn’t particularly a great deal of space for new acquisitions. Some clues may be found in the recently announced Asia trophy squad, as the players missing here are conspicuous in their absence and it would suggest that they are likely to leave, either on loan or permanently. The first team players omitted (that weren’t involved in the Copa America or are presently injured) are; Carl Jenkinson, Isaac Hayden, Kristian Bielik, Yaya Sanogo, Wellington Silva and Joel Campbell, all of whom none of us would be particularly shocked to see leave in the next few weeks. But who’s left? Below is a list of the remaining players likely to make up the Arsenal squad for the upcoming season, numbered in accordance with the slightly more prohibitive regulations for the Champions’ League;
Goalkeepers; 1. Cech, 2. Szczesny (AFC), 3. Ospina, 4. Martinez (AFC)
Defenders; 5. Debuchy, 6. Koscielny, 7.Mertesacker, 8. Gabriel, 9. Chambers (ENG), 10. Gibbs (AFC), 11. Monreal, Bellerin (U21)
Midfielders; 12. Coquelin (AFC), 13. Cazorla, 14. Arteta, 15. Ramsey (AFC), 16. Wilshere (AFC), 17. Ozil, 18. Flamini, 19. Rosicky, Zelalem (U21), Crowley (U21)
Forwards; 20. Alexis, 21. Oxlade-Chamberlain (AFC), 22. Walcott (AFC), 23. Welbeck (ENG), 24. Giroud, 25. Reine-Adelaide, Gnabry (U21), Akpom (U21), Iwobi (U21), Wilcock (U21)
(AFC)- Home-grown Arsenal Player, (ENG)- Home-grown English Player, (U21)- Eligible for UCL B-list
In terms of meeting the “home grown quotas” there’s nothing to worry about, but all 25 spaces are currently occupied. In midfield Rosicky and Flamini would seem most in danger of losing their places, but Wenger has already discussed Rosicky’s fitness in relation to the upcoming season, and if he was going to release Flamini one might expect that he would already have done so when Diaby’s Arsenal career came to an end, indicating that both are probably in his mind for this season. Reine-Adelaide could be left out for the Champions’ League and still be eligible to play in the Premiership by virtue of him being only 17, but early indications are that he is part of Wenger’s plans. Four Goalkeepers, however, is an unnecessary luxury and Ospina is the most likely to depart, meaning that there will probably be one space freed up.
Looking at the balance of the current squad, and with only one space available, a move for a midfielder is highly unlikely. Cazorla, Coquelin, Wilshere and Ramsey are established first team players, Arteta has just signed a new deal, and Flamini and Rosicky will most likely remain for one final year, allowing the likes of Gnabry, Zelalem, Crowley and Bielik time and room to develop. Given Wenger’s tradition of developing young players he is unlikely to want to stunt their chances or disrupt the stability of the squad by signing someone like Vidal. The most probable addition would therefore appear to be a forward.
Pedro, Higuain, Benzema and Lacazette have all been mooted as possibilities, but my money would be on the latter as he would offer direct competition to Giroud and could also fill one of the wide positions if necessary. Pedro, meanwhile, is being courted by half of Europe, Napoli seemingly want a small fortune for Higuain, and there are as yet no indications that Real will be willing to let go of Benzema, who is one of president Perez’s favourites.
Alternatively, with Giroud, Walcott and Welbeck all able to play through the middle there’s a chance that rather than an out and out striker we may see a new wide player come in, particularly if you consider that Oxlade-Chamberlain’s future may well lie in midfield. Lorenzo Insigne could therefore be considered as a possible alternative and outside bet. Importantly, and perhaps tellingly, Insigne appears to be pushing for a move and can play on either wing or centrally, but with two goals in 28 appearances last season compared to Lacazette’s 31 in 38 the Frenchman must surely be considered superior.
During a recent interview, however, Wenger stated his intent to get the current squad fit before looking to add one or two quality additions. At this stage then, and given all that has come before, would anyone really be surprised were no new signings to materialise? And more to the point, do we actually need any?