“We are in the market , but only if we find players who will really strengthen us because we have a good squad. But if we can find an exceptional player, then we will take him.”
(Wenger speaking to Media on the coming winter transfers on Dec 26, 2012)
“My plan is to keep all the players we have and then add maybe if possible, two new players to the squad.”
(Wenger speaking about Arsenal’s January transfer plans to Aljazeera)
It’s 18 days into the winter transfer window and with just 15 days to go, Arsenal are still awaiting their first piece of transfer dealing. Agreed, Arsenal have moved on some of their fringe players (Chamakh and Djourou) and look set to move some more (Arshavin, Squillaci and Santos) before the window slams shut but it’s not really those that are leaving that are of importance to Gunner faithfuls, it is those that are coming in to strengthen the purportedly weak current Arsenal team.
It is a fact that Wenger isn’t a fan of the winter window and has repeatedly clamored for its’ cancelation, calling it a distraction in the course of the season but that doesn’t mean the astute and shrewd Frenchman doesn’t buy if he has a reason to. He bought Reyes in the winter window of the 2003/2004 season when we didn’t really have any need for him and also splashed the cash on Andrey Arshavin in the winter of 2009 obviously, out of the need to get cover for the injured Fabregas.
We are almost in the same familiar situation we were in 2009 with a battle to finish in the top 4 high on our hands, wrestling against resurgent Tottenham and dark horses Everton. If this is true, why hasn’t he bought then? Yes, Wenger had always hidden behind the excuse of been in the market for an exceptional player that would improve his current squad and his usual quantity bench mark has been 2 or 3 even when he ended up buying half a dozen no thanks to the Old Trafford massacre.
The bone of contention between Wenger and the teeming Arsenal fans is the concept of “extra-ordinary” quality, the type Wenger says he is looking to add to the squad. Let me come in here, extra-ordinary quality doesn’t mean big transfer fee. Cazorla, Podolski, Chicarito, Vidic, Mertesacker are all extra-ordinary quality but they never left burning hole in the pockets of Arsenal and Manchester United.
On the presence of players in the transfer market that can improve the current Arsenal squad, there are plethora of players cut across all the positions and I would list them.
Goalkeeper – this one area Arsenal is currently short-staffed. Undoubtedly, the current number 1 is Szczesny the Pole and he is good enough but what scares me is the lack of quality back-up. This season, we have had to depend on Mannone and even rookie goalkeeper Martinez. While Martinez is still too young to be depended on in the event of a long injury to Szczesny, Mannone is just not Arsenal grade. The Italian should be moved on ditto for Fabianski. Wenger needs to bring in a decent goalkeeper that would not just be contended as an understudy but one that would be ready to push Szczesny all the way and drain the pole of all elements of complacency. My candidates for this role are Vorm (Swansea0, Begovic (Stoke) and Krul (Newcastle) and not the out of sorts Reina the media is pushing down our throat. These shot-stoppers are available and would move for the right price and that certainly, is within Arsenal’s reach.
Center-back – this is another position that needs strengthening and someone that can strengthen it is available in the current window. He might not be better that Mertesacker but he is better than vermaelen and Koscielny on current form. He is no other than Montpellier captain Yanga Mbiwa. The good thing is also the fact that if acquired, he would be available to play for the Gunners in the Champions League owing to the French champions failure to make the Champions league knock-out face.
Left-back – this is a role Arsenal aren’t well covered. Gibbs is undoubtedly the first choice but with no capable back-up, Arsenal are an injury away from crisis on the left. I know there is Santos but I would rather play a center-back in that role that play Santos (Wenger seems to share my opinion on this). Certainly, we need a cover and the Southampton youngster but massively talented left –back Luke Shaw won’t be a bad idea. Heard, the Saints are dangling a carrot of a new mega deal at him but certainly if a club of Arsenal’s standing show-up, he would jump on the next taxi set for the Emirates.
Defensive midfield- here, is where Arsenal are extremely light-weight. In this position, Arsenal have the massively injury prone Diaby and the aging Arteta. The latter isn’t as injury prone as the former but too many games could make him susceptible to it. We cannot expect him to play three games in 7 days and expect him to fire on all cylinders in them all. He needs to enjoy rest occasionally. Bringing in a new defensive midfielder would be a good move and to get that, we don’t need to break the bank. There is one right here in London who would cost us under 4 million Pounds to land him, he is Diame. Yes, I know he has a heart condition but less 4 million Pounds isn’t too much of a risk to take for a player heart condition or not.
Center forward- Arsenal have two strikers (Giroud and Walcott) but I would say Giroud is our real center –forward, Walcott is still an intern there albeit he has done well in the role so far but we need to get another natural center- forward , else, we would be shooting ourselves in the leg. In the striker chase, I would laud Wenger a bit, he has made moves to bring in one, had an offer rejected for Adrian Lopez while Barca refused to listen to offers for David Villa (loan or permanent move). While am lauding Le prof for making an effort, am also knocking him for not trying hard enough for David Villa. Wenger easily gives up on his transfer targets. I wonder why but other clubs don’t show such civility in their pursuit of our players especially Barcelona. The least we could do is pressurize them until they let go of an expensive bench warmer. Well, if we can’t get Villa or Lopez, we can get someone else and that person is Adam Szalai of Mainz. He might not be the high profile signing that would send shivers down the spine of Premier League rivals and the whole of Europe but he can certainly do the job. Chicarito wasn’t high profile but he is doing the job for Manchester united while Torres is high profile but has brought Chelsea nothing other than frustration and misery. Szalai has a decent goal scoring record at Mainz and is also quick. Mainz is a club below Arsenal’s station and if Adam can do well there, he is likely going to fare better at Arsenal where he would be surrounded by more creative players; Cazorla, Rosicky, Wilshere, Podolski, Giroud and Walcott.
Wings – with Walcott’s switch to the center and Arshavin’s likely sale, Arsenal are currently short on the wings. Most decent wingers are currently cup-tied but there’s one that isn’t . Wilifred Zaha. The England youngster is touted as the next big thing. He could be but he could also end up been the next big flop but you can never say with youngsters. Wenger glossed over Ronaldo and Bale and they have come to haunt him on several occasions. My take is that Arsenal should snap up the Palace youngster, he can’t be any worse than Gervinho or Ox Chamberlain atimes. If Arsenal could snap up Walcott and Chamberlain at younger ages, I don’t see why they cannot go for Zaha who is relatively older, stronger, looks more matured and with more Championship experiences than both of them put together as at the time of their moves to Arsenal.
I hope with these few points of mine, I have been able to demystify the notion that there are no extra-ordinary players that can improve our squad in the current window. Arsenal for a long while have pride themselves in having a great scouting network but it seems these days, they have only succeeded in unearthing gems for other clubs to snap up. I hope the same sad tale won’t continue this January. We spotted Ba, Chelsea snapped him up, well, the highlighted players are still available and I hope they wear Arsenal’s colours and not those of our rivals.
Written by Kolade Omotosho