The Arsenal squad showed it is capable of competing with the best during the second half of the season. What do they need to be legitimate title challengers?
With another summer rolling in, silly season is officially upon us, and the top dogs in the premier league have already begun making their moves. For Arsenal supporters, there is much hope pinned on this transfer window. The stadium debt which has handicapped the club in the short term in terms of spending has reportedly been paid off, and a war chest is reportedly available for Arsene Wenger to spend this summer. While many targets have been identified, which signings would truly enhance the current Arsenal squad?
As with many of the top clubs, a truly world class center forward is needed at the club. Whilst Giroud has had a decent rookie season in the Premier League, it seems he is not quite at the quality of being Arsenal’s main striking option. He is certainly a useful rotational player as well as starter in certain matches, but has yet to show a killer instinct in front of goal, and thus a true finisher up top is needed. Many names have been mentioned, especially that of Fiorentina forward Stefan Jovetic, who many claim is very near a deal with Arsenal. Whilst Jovetic is certainly a quality player, his goal scoring record leaves much to be desired. He is a creative player, capable of game changing moments, but may not be what Arsenal needs: a true finisher. Another name which has been linked recently is that of Gonzalo Higuain. While there have been rumors of Arsene reigniting his long term interest in fellow strike partner Karim Benzema, it seems that Higuain is the one heading out of the Santiago Bernebau, and his signing would certainly be a coup for the club. His fee, around £20 million, is within Arsenal’s range, and the quality he would bring would be immense. He is a complete player, with a proven goal scoring reputation in the Spanish Premier Division and would easily slot into the forward role in Arsene’s current preferred formation of the 4-2-3-1. He would certainly be my preferred option up top, and his signing would bode well amongst the fans, considering Higuain’s star quality. Other names mentioned include Aston Villas Christian Benteke and surprisingly enough, Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney. Benteke may need another stellar year to justify his supposed £40 million price tag, but Rooney is an intriguing option. While I have never been a fan of Rooney, his quality is there to see, as with England’s second goal against Brazil. He is capable of moments like this, and despite his fitness issues, does usually put in a shift when he is on the pitch. Also, better to have him with you than against you, right? After last summer’s transfer of Van Persie to Manchester, it would only be poetic justice for United’s golden boy to come to north London. While the chances of this actually happening seem highly unlikely, it would provide plenty of entertainment.
On the other end of the pitch, a new experienced goalkeeper has been mentioned as a possible recruit. While Szczesny undoubtedly has talent, his form has been erratic this season, and may not yet have the maturity to be Arsenal’s dependable number one. He is the future number one, but may need a few seasons to be completely ready. However, Szczesny may be unhappy at the idea of being dropped after being number one for the past two seasons. There is certainly a risk in bringing in an experienced number one, but if Szczesny is willing to be patient and learn, it could pay dividends in terms of the clubs success and Szczesny future. Julio Cesar’s name has popped up frequently as he would be available for relatively cheap following QPR’s relegation, while Simon Mignolet has had a stellar season in goal for Sunderland. Asmir Begovic would be a quality addition, but would command a fee in the region of £15 million, which may be out of Arsenal’s range for this particular position, considering there are other pressing concerns. Mignolet and Begovic are also younger keepers with their best years ahead of them, so signing either one may signal the end of Szczesnys career in Arsenal colors. Signing someone like Cesar would provide a short term solution as Szczesny smatures, and will add quality to the squad.
The defense has improved throughout the term, and was solid in the last 10 fixtures or so, with Mertesacker and Koscielny establishing themselves as a first choice center back pairing. Thomas Vermaelen has certainly regressed following his injury problems, but I feel may be able to challenge for a starting position, and hopefully return to the form he had when he first arrived at the club. Ashley Williams has been rumored to be in talks of a £10 million move from Swansea City. He has proven himself well over the past two seasons in the Premier League, and would be a challenger for a starting spot. However, it seems unlikely that Williams would be signed if Vermaelen stays, with both expecting ample game time. A fourth choice center back is needed though with Squillaci finally seeing the back door at the club, and Djourou most likely moving on to Hannover where he has had a good spell on loan. Perhaps a new youngster or the possible promotion of Miquel to the first team fold may solve this problem.
In the midfield, an enforcer has been needed since the departure of Song, who himself was never truly a defensive midfielder to shield the back four. Arteta has played well in the deep lying midfield role, but a combative midfielder is needed, especially for games against the more physical sides. Various names have been linked, including Yannes Mvila, Ettiene Capoue, and recently Marouane Fellaini. Fellaini provides an interesting option, with his strength and ability allowing him to play both in a deeper role as well as further up the field. He has been utilized by Everton in this forward role, often as a second striker, to devastating effect at times. This versatility will be useful in an Arsenal midfield which finds itself on the treatment table too often for comfort.
As for the departures Squillaci, Arshavin, and Denilson have already been shown the door. Park, Chamakh, Santos, Bendtner, and Djourou should be sold as well to free up the wage bill. Frimpong and Fabianski are questionable departures depending on who arrives, while rumors have linked Podolski to a move back to Germany with Dortmund, but the player has brushed of rumors of any move away from the Emirates. Gervinho has also been linked away, but if he is able to replicate his end of season form, may be a useful squad player.
For many fans, this summer is critical. Wenger’s contract is running down, Ivan Gazidis recently announced that the club is in a financially stable position and is able to compete with the big spenders, and the trophy drought has gone on far too long. Will Wenger go all out and strengthen in every position, or will he disappoint with a few last minute signings and a couple of youngsters? While asking for Rooney, Fellaini, Williams, and Higuain may be a stretch, a few star signings will go a long way in exciting the fans and preparing the squad for a legitimate title challenge.
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