Mesut Özil is a wonderful signing but…
Suffice to say the words on most Arsenal fans’ lips all summer were “Spend some money”. Well they did and while buying Mesut Özil may pacify some fans, it really isn’t quite that simple. In my opinion the priority was to strengthen the squad in other positions. As Wenger reiterated, it is all about making the correct signings and at the right prices. Whilst this is an admirable endeavour Le Boss is only half right, it is simply far too difficult to achieve this feat in today’s transfer market. Staunchly adhering to this philosophy will be nothing but detrimental to Arsenal’s supposed ambition.
Clubs with wealthy investors will consistently pick up the best players and some not so good ones for over inflated prices. Having said that it isn’t impossible to find the odd gem at a very reasonable price, Santi Cazorla for example was an absolute steal at 12 million. However you have to rely on one or more unlikely factors such as a cash strapped club as in Cazorla’s case. With such extensive scouting networks at every top flight club, more clubs are interested in the same players driving up the transfer fees. Wenger may have thought that the likes of Soldado, Wanyama and Higuain were priced higher than they are worth but the fact is that Arsenal will have to pay over the odds to keep up with their rivals or risk falling further and further behind.
Profit is a direct result of success and that only comes from shrewd investment into the squad as a whole not just one marquee signing. Currently the squad is simply too light, Arsenal have a very good first team, a few reliable subs and little else. As injuries inevitably continue to mount they may find themselves truly up the proverbial creek without proven players in key positions.
I don’t care to speculate too much on which players Arsenal should have bought but it is clear to me that we needed at least one more defender. Squillaci simply wasn’t up to the task in any competition but I considered Djourou and Miquel to be capable centre halves who could have provided cover and allowed others to have a rest, particularly during the early stages of the cups. Instead they were sent on loan expecting Sagna to fill in at centre half which I really don’t think is the solution. It is good to see Flamini back at the club, hopefully he can provide that tenacity and defensive discipline Arsenal so badly need but I fear he will only be used as a utility player. There is plenty of creative talent in the middle of the park with the Ox, Wilshere, Cazorla, Ramsey, Arteta and Rosicky but none of them should be tasked with having to shield the back four or consistently track back. Attack is the best form of defence but even Barcelona have Busquets to release some of the defensive burden from the more creative players.
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Szczęsny will benefit from having an older pro in Viviano to challenge him and help mould him into a reliable number one. The matter of striking options is a bit trickier, while it would be extremely beneficial having a proven goal scorer who can both start and finish attacks, Giroud has started the season better than most had imagined. However I’m not convinced that he can maintain both form and fitness all season, he even intimated himself that he could do with some support. Although Walcott and Podolski can fill in, the former hasn’t got enough experience in a striking role and the latter is injured until December. 3-0 up going into home tie against Fenerbahçe should have presented an opportunity to rest some key players, instead we saw Podolski sustain an injury in a game he didn’t need to be involved in. The squad could really do with some strengthening in January at least to provide the option of a bit of rotation during the second half of the season. I am not optimistic as Wenger says he doesn’t like to do business in January or rotate the squad very much.
I am hugely grateful and in awe of what Wenger has achieved for Arsenal but it is clear to me that some changes are desperately needed. There isn’t the balance or depth of title winning seasons and I’m of the opinion that changes in tactics should be employed to make up for that. Of course the priority should be to play to the team’s strengths but every team should also be able to play to other teams’ weaknesses. This includes choosing different formations and players for different opposition from the outset and not just when things are going wrong. I’d like to see a bit more action and less reaction; even when things are going wrong sometimes it appears that there is no plan b. It appears to take Wenger a while to identify tactical problems or he is too reluctant to deviate from the initial game plan.
Former players have stated that Wenger doesn’t do any defensive training; I had hoped that Steve Bould would rectify this but Arsenal are still consistently caught out at the back. A lot of the defending is last ditch and very unconvincing which can end up undoing all the good work going forward. Although Wenger insists that he doesn’t need a director of football, surely it couldn’t hurt to have an extra football brain around to discuss the direction of the club. It pains me to see Vieira helping Man city to success when I’m sure he would rather be working in the capital for Arsenal. In the future I hope to see Bergkamp at Arsenal in some capacity, we need more people who know and love the club steering it in the right direction.