Arsene Wenger: 5 Moves Le Prof Must Make to Save His Job at Arsenal
This term has been a roller coaster for the North London club. In September, after beating Liverpool and Southampton consecutively, the Gunners were well placed in third position to mount a title challenge.
Roll on just over two short months later and Arsenal were languishing in 10th after losing at home to Michael Laudrup's Swansea City—the Gunners' lowest league position since 1994.
With their current slide down the league halted, thanks to fortuitous win over West Bromwich Albion, Wenger must now turn his attention to his team and halt their slide. Add in a poor end to their group campaign in the Champions League and an embarrassing exit to the hands of Bradford City in the Capital One Cup, and you can see exactly why Wenger is under pressure.
Arsenal have been dismantled as a serious side over the past eight seasons—to such an extent that they are now no longer looked upon as being credible title contenders on a consistent basis.
As the January transfer window nears Le Prof must sign players to bed them in for what might be this term and for the title challenge that must come next season.
Doing so will safeguard his job, put an end to recent fan protests and secure the Gunners as viable title contenders going forward.
Here, Bleacher Report looks at five players who would return Arsenal to the glory days of old.
1. Goalkeeper: Asmir Begovic (Stoke City); Value: £12 Million
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Stoke City have the best defensive record in the Premier League this season and much of that is down to their goalkeeper—Asmir Begovic.
This season the Bosnian shot-stopper has been in the form of his life. He is being rightly lauded as being one of the best 'keepers in the league and it is no surprise to see him linked with the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool (via The Sun).
Having only conceded 12 goals and kept eight clean sheets in 16 Premier League matches this term, Begovic is exactly the kind of leader the Gunners need in goal and has been consistently good since usurping Thomas Sørensen in the Stoke goal.
He has faced 195 shots this season and has only conceded 12 goals.
Compare this to Wojciech Szczesny, who has allowed six goals in 66 shots across seven games, and Vito Mannone, who has conceded 10 goals from 93 shots across nine games.
Begovic joined Stoke for £3.25 million from Portsmouth just two years ago and is now one of the jewels in Tony Pulis' team.
There is no chance Pulis would part with his star in January, but signing the 6'5" stopper in the summer for around £12 million is definitely the way to go.
2. Centre Back: Ryan Shawcross (Stoke City); Value: £15 Million
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Arsenal have the makings of a top-class defence. Bacary Sagna is superb. Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson both have bright futures in the game. Thomas Vermaelen is a superb defender but really needs a no-nonsense leader beside him to get the best out of him.
This is where Arsenal fall down at the back. None from Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny or Johan Djourou are good enough or consistent enough at the highest level to contribute to a title-winning side.
At present, as far as Premier League experience is concerned, the three best options for Arsene Wenger at centre-half are Joleon Lescott, Steven Caulker and Ryan Shawcross.
Lescott would probably be available as he seems to have fallen down the pecking order at Manchester City this season. This is despite the England international arguably being the best defender in the league last season.
Spurs would never sell Caulker to their chief rivals, so that leaves the last and best option—Ryan Shawcross.
The take-no-prisoner’s style defender is just 25 years old and has proven pedigree having begun his career at Manchester United.
Shawcross is an old enemy of Arsenal's fans, having broken Aaron Ramsey's leg in a tackle in 2010, but there is no doubting his potential as a top defender.
He has recently broken into Roy Hodgson's England squad and is tipped by Asmir Begovic to become a regular over the next number of years.
This season he has been immense in helping the Potters to their superb defensive record.
His defensive record, according to WhoScored.com, reads as: 34 key tackles, 18 key interceptions, 121 clearances and 19 blocked shots—the most recent of which he blocked with his head as he dived to stop Christian Benteke from scoring for Aston Villa.
Shawcross would be a superb capture for any top Premier League team—but especially Arsenal.
3. Centre and Left Midfield: Kwadwo Asamoah (Juventus); Value: £12 Million
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Juventus' Kwadwo Asamoah is one of the most underrated midfielders playing in Europe today.
The powerfully built Ghanaian international is comfortable in central and on the left side of midfield. He would provide Arsenal with the kind of penetration they lack through the middle through his powerful lung-bursting runs.
The Gunners haven't possessed a player capable of such a skill since Patrick Vieira departed. This current Wenger incarnation miss and lack his ability to quickly break from midfield before shooting or providing an assist.
If they do break swiftly it is usually on the right wing through the likes of Gervinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Theo Walcott. They have no one to break down the left or through midfield.
Asamoah would provide this balance in one swift signing and would also provide a certain steel that the Gunners' central area also sadly lacks.
This season he has been more than influential for Juventus but is significantly only a squad player, having played 16 matches but starting just 11.
During his time on the pitch he has provided 39 tackles at a rate of 2.4 per game and 19 interceptions at 1.2 per match.
However, it is his offensive statistics that may interest Arsenal fans most.
Asamoah has a pass success rate of 89.3 percent and would easily slot into Wenger's slick passing style. He also contributes 1.2 key passes per game alongside a significant 2.2 dribbles per match.
From these WhoScored.com statistics you can immediately tell that Asamoah is a cautious player in midfield and rarely gives the ball away recklessly in dangerous positions.
Should Wenger see fit to connect Asamoah with the likes of Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla, the Gunners would have one of the best midfields in Europe—they are that close.
Keep the current midfield status quo and Arsenal will do nothing for years to come.
4. Midfield: Adam Maher (AZ Alkmaar); Value: £7 Million
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The Moroccan-born Dutch international is just 19 years old and has been fast-tracked into the Dutch national team—such has been his phenomenal rise.
After making his debut in the Europa League by scoring against BATE Borisov, who recently beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League, Maher has jumped to the forefront of everyone's thoughts regarding football in Holland.
Last season was his first full season for AZ, and the 19-year-old clocked up an impressive 52 appearances in all competitions and scored 11 goals into the bargain.
That good form prompted Bert van Marwijk to include the Moroccan-born youth in a preliminary squad for the European Championships, but he was eventually cut from the squad.
He has not let that little setback stifle his growth, though, and this season he made his full international debut against Belgium.
He has also scored four goals and contributed six assists in just 21 games for AZ this year, with many more expected to follow.
Comfortable across numerous roles in central midfield and in the final attacking third, Maher would be an outstanding capture for Arsenal because he could literally fit in anywhere.
Given his prodigious talent the eventual best place to start the young star would be in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Then Wenger could use Maher, Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as his attacking trio just behind the striker. The incredible versatility of each player would then give Le Prof the ability to switch to any number of formations at one simple instruction.
5. Centre Forward: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Schalke 04); Value: £6 Million
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The Dutch striker, who scored 48 goals in 47 matches last season and who already has eight in 15 this season, is coming toward the end of his contract and could be available for as little as £6 million.
Time is running out for Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and if he does not act quickly, his legacy will be tarnished.
Make no mistake about it: Arsenal's strikers have been a disaster this season.
Lukas Podolski has only scored seven goals from 23 matches and averages a miserable 1.5 per game. Olivier Giroud has been equally as bad and has fired in just six goals from 22 matches but fares batter with 2.8 shots per match.
Huntelaar, scorer of 47 goals from 48 matches last season, has notched up 11 from 22 starts this term while averaging 2.9 shots per game.
He is a far better player than Podolski or Giroud and has far more to his game than the blinkered German or the static Frenchman.
The Hunter is known for his intelligent movement around the box while Podolski is at his best in one-on-one situations with defenders out wide and Giroud is quite decent with his back to goal.
However, when all is said and done—strikers of this quality do not come available for this price very often and Wenger would be insane not to have looked at the possibility at the very least.
Huntelaar's capture alone would change Arsenal's and Arsene Wenger's season dramatically.