Arsenal: Who Are the Players to Still Buy or Sell Ahead of the Coming Season?
Anxiety is the right of every fan, but it can quickly devolve into irrationality unless moderated and tempered.
For example, as last season wound to an end, the question on the lips of many Arsenal fans was whether or not Arsene Wenger would buy new players ahead of the coming season.
I did some analysis articles on the assumption that new players would come in. Some readers questioned this assumption. My response was that it was based on the fact that, to me, this period appears to be a decisive one for Wenger.
I can't see that patience will be guaranteed from the fans any longer in the face of another near disastrous season such as the last one—or, for that matter, if Arsenal are unable to make a huge push for some trophy in the coming season and next, especially as a result of the club's normal parsimony in the transfer market.
Wenger would buy, I said. And he did, even before the concluded season had ended. And, even before the transfer market had opened officially, he added another big signing.
Olivier Giroud. Getty Images.
Dross or Gold?
After these two signings, the complexion of the question changed. Suddenly, the question wasn't any longer whether Wenger would buy or not (it had become moot). It was now a query about the quality of the two players purchased.
Amusing to me was the idea that Shinji Kagawa is a far better player than Lukas Podolski.
Apart from the fact that I suspect that those who make these kind of flippant statements don't really know what they're talking about—that is, I wonder whether their statements are grounded in real facts, such as really watching these two players play throughout the season—I suspected that anxiety, which I say is the right of the fan, was really at work.
It is the reason why some fans can never appreciate their own players. For such, whatever is out there in the bush is better than what assuredly is yours right here at home.
The reader knows that during the heady days of Mario Gotze, when he figured in every dream and fantasy, I kept pointing to Kagawa, instead. I maintained that before Gotze got his breakthrough, Kagawa was the bigger player for Borussia Dortmund in the 2010-11 season.
I thought Arsenal should focus on him for practical (or shall we say, financial) reasons.
It should be clear, then, that I know Kagawa very well, having watched him for two seasons. But even I wouldn't rate him over Podolski. Podolski is a far more accomplished player, and I say this as a person who has watched the player for a sustained three seasons, not counting his international outings.
Then there’s Olivier Giroud.
Even as I write this, the idea that Olivier is not good enough continues to be watered in some quarters. The reason behind this isn't that the player has had a forgettable season in the recent past; it is anchored on the spurious conclusion that he can't be (that) good if he comes from Ligue 1.
Somehow, the French league is not worthy of even polishing the boot of the English Premier League. As well it might not, but one must wonder from which league, again, came Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka, Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira, Lilian Thuram, Marcel Desailly, Eric Cantona, Bacary Sagna, Didier Drogba, Florent Malouda, Zinedine Zidane, Karim Benzema, etc.
Where is Eden Hazard (much coveted by the top clubs) coming from? From whence Yann M'Vila, whom many Gooners have clamored for? From where does the French national team (which has outperformed the English national team in the last two decades) pool its players, from the English Premier League?
Silly logic, I say.
Again, what seems to be at work is the curious and flawed thinking, which concludes that whatever is yours musn't be good enough; whereas, whatever is Manchester United's (or whatever Manchester United buys, it) must be gilded in gold.
Flying high enough. Getty Images.
Ambition’s Rosy Fingers
After Giroud and Podolski, and beyond the malcontents, the question now is whether these two signings constitute ambition enough, and this is where the Robin van Persie saga comes in.
My own concern, a concern I've maintained for a long time, has been that we need a creative midfielder over and above these two forwards.
I did wonder whether Podolski could play in this role, or whether Van Persie, if he decided to stay, could be played in this role. I also wondered whether the speculation about Yann M'Vila meant that Wenger planned to play Alex Song in this role.
And now the news is that Arsenal have apparently signed Santi Cazorla, a creative midfield player versatile enough to also play on the flanks. Some think he is the second coming of Andre Iniesta.
He is a mouth-watering prospect, and couple with the fact that Arsenal are being linked with Nuri Sahin, another excellent midfielder, it is dawning suddenly on some that Arsenal mean business.
Santi Cazorla. Getty Images.
The Right Tools for the Job
What now is the color of the inevitable anxiety? Oh, it is that Arsenal are not buying the right players. Why multiply forwards when what we really need are defenders?
It isn't that there is no sense in this thinking. I'd say there's plenty. The problem lies in claiming that what we really need are defenders, that is, in lieu of forwards.
What one finds here is the true color of anxiety, and there's nothing wrong with being anxious, except, like we said in the beginning, it has to be tempered by sense.
No one who makes common sense the rudder of his thoughts can say Arsenal are merely multiplying forwards when all we really need are defenders.
This is the problem of amnesia, the kind that makes women want to have children again despite the agony of labor the last time out (and we thank them for it).
Suddenly, those who hold this thought have forgotten that we had a dearth of forwards, at least clinical ones, and that the fear of everyone the entire last season was the prospect of an injury to Robin van Persie.
The fact is, we do need these new players, including Sahin, if the rumor turns out to be true. But this isn't to say that those who see a weakness in Arsenal's defense aren't talking sense.
Consequently, there's the argument that Arsenal need to buy at least one more player even after Cazorla and possibly Sahin, and that that player should be a left-back.
The reason behind this is that Kieran Gibbs is not reliable enough because he is too injury-prone. I buy this argument, but not the one that says he's not good enough.
Those who think we need a left-back counter (at the mention of Andre Santos) that Santos isn't a good enough left-back. But this is only true to the extent that Santos took time to adjust last season after joining Arsenal, and when he had finally done so, he got seriously injured.
Some are discomfited by Santos because of his attacking instincts, which they think exposes Arsenal at the back. Be that as it may, full-backs should really be attack-minded.
Those who have followed my analysis know that I think they are a huge key in attacking football.
In every match that Arsenal dominated last seasons, forward-thinking full-backs were key. Three examples can quickly be recalled: the Spurs match at the Emirates, the AC Milan match at the Emirates and the Newcastle United match at the same venue.
Am I saying then that we don't need a left-back? Not quite. What I can say is that I don't know of any realistic option out there.
Between the pair of Gibbs and Santos (bar injuries), I think Arsenal will cope, especially since I expect that Francis Coquelin will be retained as a squad player and that Ignasi Miguel will continue to be drafted in from the reserves as further cover.
Per Mertesacker. Getty Images.
Who is the Rock of Gibraltar?
The other complaint, about Per Mertesacker not being good enough, I'd dismiss. I believe it stems from the fans' penchant for despising their own players. This isn't dissimilar to Laurent Koscielny's situation, a player condemned as not up to "the Arsenal standard," whatever that is.
Now I don't think anyone is saying that he isn't up to "the Arsenal standard." Mertesacker is a top player with a knack for good positioning, and he doesn't have to possess speed either. He isn't a full-back or a winger. In his second season in a new league, he is bound to improve.
On the buying front, therefore, I do not think Arsenal have a dire need for that. I'd be pleasantly surprised if we made any more purchases beside the rumored Cazorla and Sahin.
The Need to Sell
The problem of buying and buying again is the fact that when these players flop, the club becomes saddled with them. The normal practice of transfers involves offering players long contracts: three to four years is standard.
That's how long you are saddled with a flop, unless, of course, you can find a buyer for these players, but clubs don't tend to buy flops.
Someone has observed that, technically speaking, Arsenal's transfer activities so far make no business sense. You have to sell as well as buy, and, so far, all we've done is buy. Not that this is bad. That's not the point, as it is to say Arsenal need to sell players.
We do need the money to pay salaries, bonuses, service the stadium debt, or replace the one we've used for the current purchases. We need some money in hand for those inevitable unforeseen circumstances. Who knows, for example, whether we might be forced to buy someone in January?
So we can't just go on buying and buying. We are not Manchester City, who don't care about the ramification of amassing redundant players (although this seems to be affecting them right now).
Sébastien Squillaci. Getty Images.
The validity of this point is practical, and we can find it in players most think Arsenal should sell: Andre Arshavin, Nicklas Bendtner, Marouane Chamakh (although I'm sympathetic towards this one), Sébastien Squillaci, Park Chu-Young (this one I don't want sold, since he hasn't really had the opportunity to play), etc.
Besides, Arsenal have about the highest number of youngsters among the top clubs, players whose opportunity to grow would be hindered if Arsenal suddenly became a buying club. You want to balance these two aspects (development and consolidation), therefore.
So as far as more buying is concerned, I don't expect it, if the rumor about Cazorla and Sahin is true.
And as far as Arsenal's defense is concerned, what is required is technical, and with the coming of Steve Bould, one would think that this aspect would be tackled. Arsenal should be ready to go at the beginning of the coming season, which is just in about a fortnight.
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