Three games to go. Pretty amazing when you reflect on this season as an Arsenal fan. A horrendous summer, an even worse start to the season. At one point, it seemed Wenger’s reign was coming to a crash-and-burn ending.
But with three games left, Arsenal are in the driving seat for third place and guaranteed Champions League football (and its money). This crazy season still has some twists and turns in store, we can be sure of that. Still, Wenger has brought back the club for 17th place in September and deserves plaudits for this accomplishment.
Assuming that Arsenal can secure a top-three spot in the remaining games, then the next question is how this summer will play out. Reinforcements are needed, and some names (cough: Park) look set to leave.
Gooners love to speculate about the transfer window, always thinking this will be the year Wenger finally opens his purse strings. Here are the six most realistic targets for this summer window.
An unsurprising name if you have read any Arsenal news over the past month. The German international, Lukas Podolski, looks certain to sign this summer. The Mirror has reported that the deal is as good as done. Still, Arsenal fans have learned enough to know that one isn’t an Arsenal player until we see him in a jersey. (Juan Mata, anyone?)
However, if true, Podolski represents a real coup for Wenger and the Gunners. The Cologne striker is proven on the international stage, bagging goals like it’s his job; soccer fans around the world remember him starring in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.
A direct striker, who can also play wide left, Podolski possesses a rocket left-foot. If van Persie stays next season, Arsenal will finally have a proven backup for the Dutch forward. Additionally, he will likely operate on the wing which could create a fantastic partnership between the captain and Podolski.
All signs point to Podolski being in an Arsenal jersey next season, and this should make Gooners very happy. He alone is not enough to turn Arsenal into title-contenders, but it is a great start.
Jan Vertonghen is an imposing Belgian defender who would add steel and leadership to the Arsenal back line next season. And, encouragingly, as he enters the final year of Ajax contract, the center-back has made overtures to Arsenal recently. The Mail reports Vertonghen has suggested if Arsenal were to make a move for him, he would be interested. The flirting has begun.
Vertonghen and Vermaelen are good friends from their Ajax time together, as well as the Belgian national team. The Ajax defender is club captain, who possesses fantastic aerial ability while also comfortable bringing the ball out of the back. In times of need, moreover, he has filled in at left-back or defensive midfield.
This versatility, leadership, and strength would be a great addition to the Arsenal back line. With Sebastian Squillaci almost certain to leave in the summer, and Djourou’s future unclear, Vertonghen would provide depth for the Gunner defense.
The early signs are positive, with Vertonghen declaring his interest in a move to Arsenal. Although some question whether moving for another center-back, with Vermaelen, Koscielny and Per already established, Arsenal has proven time and again that injuries will arrive. It can only help to have added competition and depth.
Throughout the season it is been speculated Arsenal will move for Yann M’Vila, the young French midfielder. And this week Metro is reporting that things are heating up, which is a promising sign for Gooners everywhere.
The paper suggests Arsenal are already in advanced talks to bring the 21-year-old defensive midfielder to the Emirates this summer—despite a reported high price for the Rennes star. Still early days, but promising.
M’Vila is being touted as the next big thing in France, with comparisons to Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira among others. He operates primarily as a defensive midfielder, although he possesses an impressive passing range and skill on the ball. There are some worries that M’Vila would be surplus as he plays a position similar to Alex Song. However, the addition of M’Vila would allow Song to play a more offensive and playmaking role—something he has excelled with at times this season.
I think the defensive midfielder would be a strong addition to the team, and one that could realistically happen. M’Vila seems to have a high ceiling, with superstar potential. And although a large transfer fee would be required, Wenger could use the French international as the fulcrum of his midfield—freeing up more attack-minded players.
More options can only be a good thing moving into next year’s campaign.
Jamie Sanderson (Arsenal blogger extraordinaire) recently suggested Oliver Giroud could head to London this summer. If it happens, it would be a fantastic move for the Gunners' offense.
Giroud, an imposing 6’4” French striker, has had another impressive season for Montpellier as they challenge for the Ligue 1 title. Something of a late bloomer, possibly in the mold of good friend Laurent Koscielny, Giroud would be an important addition for Wenger’s side.
The striker has scored 19 league goals this campaign, chipping in with eight assists. And, although some Gooners might be wary of another Ligue 1 forward who is strong in the air (see: Chamakh), Giroud has an impressive blend of strength and technique which would allow him to flourish in the EPL.
If van Persie stays, and Podolski arrives, some may see Giroud as unnecessary. Adding the powerful striker, however, would allow more forward rotation and greater flexibility—as the captain could play a more withdrawn role.
It is tough to predict whether Wenger will move for Giroud. Still, if van Persie stays, he is fantastic cover; if he leaves then the French striker suddenly becomes a priority. Either way, interest in Giroud makes sense for the Gunners.
Arsenal will likely be in the market for an experienced goalkeeper this summer with the departure of Manuel Almunia and possibly Lukasz Fabianski. Although Wojciech Szczesny is establishing himself as the clear number one at the Emirates, it is imperative that Wenger provide depth and competition behind the Polish stopper. This is where Craig Gordon comes in.
The Scottish goalkeeper has been highly rated from a young age and widely touted as a future star before his move to Sunderland. Injuries, however, have stunted his career and he now resides as backup at the Stadium of Light. With his contract expiring this summer, it seems Gordon will be on the move.
Gordon would be a fantastic addition for the Gunner squad. His experience and unquestioned talent—when healthy—would provide Szczesny with the necessary competition. Moreover, Wenger loves a bargain and a free transfer makes his move even more appealing for the French manager.
I think it is highly likely Wenger moves for a goalkeeper this summer and, at the moment, Gordon seems the most sensible option.
One of the most overlooked players this season has been Clint Dempsey. While not operating as an out and out striker, he has still scored 16 league goals in 2011-2012.
Is it because he plays for Fulham? Maybe because he is American? I don’t know why, but that’s beside the point. Clint Dempsey is an impressive and versatile Premier League attacker and could be a target for Arsenal this summer. The Mail are reporting that Arsenal are interested, and with only one year left on his contract, a move is very possible.
Arsenal’s main offensive deficiencies this year have been their inability to breakdown defenses—either dribbling by or passing through—and an over-reliance on van Persie for goals.
While many Gooners want highly-rated targets such as Mario Gotze and Eden Hazard, it seems unlikely either will move to the Emirates. Clint Dempsey, however, offers a cheaper and more experienced—though admittedly less explosive—option.
The American is able to play a variety of positions—out wide, attacking midfielder, or even striker. He has shown he is able to bang in the goals in Premier League, and at 29 he has to move now if he wants Champions League football.
Although I think Dempsey is viewed as a secondary option for Wenger, and could be priced too high by Fulham, a move for the American is still possible this summer. Dempsey would provide valuable depth and versatility, as well as the ability to lighten some of van Persie’s goal-scoring burden.