Lukas Podolski's Signing for Arsenal: 5 Implications
Besides name-dropping—which seems to be favorite pastime of a number of fans, whereby any other footballer of any note on earth is your team's transfer target, and every other footballer signed to your team is a swear word or a potential swear word—what is the immediate implication of Lukas Podolski's move to Arsenal?
The signing of Podolski already is a deviation from last season's farce, whereby Arsene Wenger clearly wanted to retain the duo of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri as core members of a rebuilding effort, but seemed to have lost the backing of the board, who preferred to cash in—especially in the case of Nasri, and understandably so.
Name-dropping means that fans still might not be satisfied with just this one signing this summer.
They'd want more.
More seems to be an assurance of, or a promissory note for, success in the coming season. And this is not unreasonable, considering, of course, that the names dropped are reasonable.
Therefore, and in fact, the signing, though a good sign, should call for more.
This was my own exact reaction when Arsenal confirmed the signing: "It calls for celebration," I said to a fellow Gooner. "But I won't be satisfied until a midfielder of note is signed."
1. The Front Looks Good
The first implication is that, insofar as Arsenal's attack is concerned, there's now enough quality and firepower there to enable the team to compete against the best of the English Premier League and the best of Europe.
The attack currently consists of Gervinho, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lukas Podolski, Robin van Persie, Nicklas Bendtner, Marouane Chamakh, Joe Campbell, Park Chu-Young and Ryo Miyachi.
The stars here are van Persie (who in all honesty should stay), Podolski, Walcott (who, like van Persie, should stay) and Gervinho.
Capable support include Oxlade-Chamberlain, Bendtner and Ryo, while Campbell, Chamakh and Park are doubtful.
In the case of Park, it is so because he hasn't had sufficient opportunities to prove himself.
Campbell is still rough around the edges, and having spent a season away from the EPL, is an unproven product.
Chamakh is doubtful because he could transfer away from Arsenal, although I remain convinced that he is a good player who is simply undergoing a Fernando Torres. His potential could surface at any time. So I won't grumble too much if he stays, or if he is sold and other options such as Demba Ba or Olivier Giroud are brought in.
The immediate effect in the face of all this is that Arsenal now have two capable central strikers in van Persie and Podolski. Furthermore, they now have a very capable false 11, meaning that should Yossi Benayoun be let go, (I prefer that he isn't) there's now a player who should fit into this role very neatly.
This means Arsenal can rotate van Persie and Podolski in the 4-3-3 system (or its hybrid) while there's capable personnel for the false-11 position, which is essential for Arsenal's way of playing.
However, if Arsenal really want to go from mere contenders to real championship material, it wouldn't hurt to sign another striker: a poacher. Demba Ba is my choice in lieu of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar who already is in the wee end of his career.
The reader would recall that at the height of Arsenal's powers, a player like Nwankwo Kanu, who was first-XI material anywhere in the world, used to play mostly off the bench.
Such was the depth of Arsenal at the time, but again, Arsenal were still at the puny (if memorable and historical) Highbury Stadium.
An eye to the future meant sacrificing buying world-class players in favor of a good loan for a stadium, the building of which has positioned Arsenal financially as one of Europe's top clubs, a feat difficult to match these days without a government subsidy.
So as far as forwards are concerned, if Walcott and van Persie are retained, I wouldn't mind another one—considering, of course, that either Bendtner or Chamakh, or both are let go.
If these two can recover their form, then there's an argument that there's enough cover in this department for all the competitions Arsenal are to play next season, including the Champions League—if the team finishes this season well and is automatically qualified.
A word on the flanks: Genvinho is a direct winger type, as is Walcott at the moment. Both flanks have good cover in Ryo (if he is retained, not loaned) and Oxlade-Chamberlain. So I'd say Arsenal are good here.
Podolski in action for Germany against Spain.Clive Rose/Getty Images.
2. There's Room for More
There's room for more signings, which, in fact, seems to be the case if the signs Wenger is dropping are anything to go by.
Although I have said I believe Chamakh's form could yet rekindle, and although a good argument could be made for Bendtner, I'd prefer surefire options such as Demba Ba or Huntelaar. Therefore, it might be best to sell Chamakh and Bendtner and buy another quality striker.
If one were simply to refer to the recent resurgence of Manchester City, which isn't unconnected to the return of Carlos Tevez, it isn't difficult to see why truly world-class options are absolutely essential to winning titles.
But like I have said, if the want of buyers means either Chamakh or Bendtner stays, and if either rediscovers his form, neither is really bad cover.
But where I argue for an essential purchase is the attacking-cum-creative midfield position. An argument here is that we have a surfeit of midfielders, a fact that militates against more.
This is true. The only question is what kind of midfielders we have.
Without the return to fitness of both Abou Diaby and Jack Wilshere, the box-to-box position is bare, which is why Arsenal have struggled this season when Mikel Arteta has been injured. Argument against buying for this position will ring true only if it can be guaranteed that these two will be fit and available next season.
As I see it, none can guarantee it now.
Although, of course, a similar argument could be made against a new buy, since none can guarantee that a new player will settle in and be productive immediately.
The only difference here is that we are speaking about the difference of availability and the lack thereof. When a player is out, he is out, while a fit, out-of-form player is always an option.
In light of this, I see why Wenger is interested in Yann M'Vila and Jan Vertonghen, both of whom could play in the box-to-box role.
To compete next season, Arsenal have to have strong support for this position.
But again, the successful return of Wilshere should provide adequate support. However, the fact that Aaron's Ramsey's return—while successful by and large—was not without some painful hiccups should be a warning that Wilshere's return can't guarantee anything.
It'd be wise therefore that Arsenal find an extra option for this position. If Diaby and Wilshere prove fit, well and good: they'd advance Arsenal's chances in the cup competitions, where both could work to bring their fitness to top shape.
In the defensive midfield position, Alex Song and Francis Coquelin already are good options. Plus, Emmanuel Frimpong returns next season from injury. I am therefore not worried about this position.
Plus, if Arsenal are able to sign either M'Vila or Vertonghen, there'd be sufficient depth here. This brings us back to my worry about the attacking midfield position.
The argument that Oxlade-Chamberlain can be slotted in here is a good one, but that is a developmental option.
Although I know that he has enough quality to hold his own here, I wonder whether he has reached the point where he is, or could be, the maestro of the team. Capability and psychological maturity are two different things: one is latent, while the other is fleeting but can destroy the first.
Psychological maturity is absolutely essential for the pressure that this engine-house position exerts. This (I believe, or rather, I'm firmly convinced of) is the most important position in a team.
Dennis Bergkamp, for example, was essential to Arsenal winning years. Although Thierry Henry got all the accolades, it isn't stretching facts to say that without Bergkamp, there wouldn't have been an Henry. Although, of course there were other partnerships in the team, such as the one between Robert Pires and Henry.
Dennis Bergkamp, playmaker par excellence. Andrew Budd/Action Images.
Tomas Rosicky has recovered his best form, but he is 31 going on 32. It means that he is diminished physically. Besides, he needs more than adequate cover, which Aaron Ramsey isn't at the moment.
Don't get me wrong, Ramsey is a gifted player and always gives his all, but if you want to be head and shoulders above your competition in this specific area, he isn't going to give you that advantage, not immediately.
The attacking midfield position is too bare and too inadequate. I cannot but believe that Wenger knows this, since neither Rosicky and Ramsey are in the class of Cesc Fabregas.
Arsenal need a player of that quality.
And no, it isn't Christian Eriksen.
I have watched him in recent games. On current form, I'd take both Rosicky and Ramsey over him.
People continue to drop his name, but I suspect they do so based simply on that game against England last season in which Eriksen shone, or on his last season's form. He hasn't rekindled that form this season and that is worrying.
He is a good player, but not one I'd buy for immediate impact at the attacking midfield position. I'd rather buy Nuri Sahin and nurse him back to fitness during the preseason.
Eden Hazard is too fickle. He wants to go to the highest bidder, which won't be Arsenal. Shinji Kagawa could go to Manchester United for the very fact that they'd outbid Arsenal.
This means that Arsenal have their work cut out for them as far as searching for good a option here is concerned.
I do have a hypothesis, which is that Wenger might be looking to convert Song to this position, considering he is able to sign M'Vila or Vertonghen.
Yann M'Vila shadows Zvjezdan Misimovic of Bosnia & Herzegovina. Jamie McDonald/Getty Images.
3. It Implies Consolidation
The coming of Lukas Podolski to Arsenal seems to indicate transition on the part of the club.
With good players coming in last season in Arteta, Per Mertesacker, Gervinho, Ryo, Campbell and Gervinho, it was a sign that the immediate future of the club—as far as trophies are concerned—isn't far from the mind of those in charge at the club.
What has hampered Arsenal in recent seasons has been a lack of consolidation; to wit, what is on ground isn't retained and supplemented.
If van Persie and Walcott are retained, and if other options are bought, it'd be a clear sign that the club is transitioning from its necessary financial conservatism to its old liberalism in the transfer market.
Consolidation means better ability to compete, and Podolski's coming cannot be but an indication of this.
4. It's a Sign of Transition
I have argued strongly in this forum in the past few months for financial conservatism and its necessity thereof. Those who condemn Arsenal for doing this are blinded to its necessity and advantage. But I shan't argue these points here.
What I'd like to highlight is the possibility that this could be a point of transition from this former and necessary way of doing things to a new policy of competitiveness.
I am convinced (or almost so) that Manchester United are to be dethroned from their vaunted throne soon, and I'd hate to see Manchester City be the ones to do so. To forestall this, Arsenal must fight tooth and nail to gain advantage.
This means that if this indeed is a period of transition, then Arsenal must buy the necessary players.
Last year, Arsenal's debt—after the deduction of cash in hand—was £98 million. If Arsenal service this debt by as much as £15 million this year, that'll take the debt to £83 million, a manageable debt that should enable Arsenal to compete in the transfer market—especially since there are yet enough years in which to pay off the remaining debt.
If I'm right, then more competitiveness in the transfer market this season shouldn't come as a surprise.
What is important is that it's coming at the right time.
Arsene Wenger. Clive Brunskill/Getty Images.
5. Promise of Ambition
The vocal fans that admit no other argument but transfer purchases are wont to accuse financial conservatives like myself and the Arsenal board of lack of ambition. The purchase of Podolski should dispel such accusations, especially if it's a prelude to more purchases.
And if indeed van Persie's holding out on contract talks has been to gauge the club's future ambition, this should go a long way in assuring him of what the ambition is.
It should make him and Walcott sign.
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