Arsenal Transfers: 3 Most Important Holes for Arsene Wenger to Fill This Summer
On the heels of Arsenal's defeat at home against Bayern Munich, it's clear that the Gunners have a few areas in which they need improvement.
As Andrew Mangan of Arseblog rightly points out, Bayern were simply the better football team on the night, and as such, it's not worth throwing oneself into a tizzy over the loss; average fans have as good a chance of being appointed President of FIFA as significantly influencing what goes on behind closed doors at the club.
But that does not mean supporters should sit languidly by while they watch their football team sink ever more quickly into the quicksand of mediocrity, as clubs that were formerly their equals ascend to ever greater heights.
Arsenal do not possess players that are good enough to win the Champions League or Premier League—competitions that, based on Arsene Wenger's success in the early 2000s, the Gunners should be competitive in every season.
Comedic defensive errors were not the root cause of Arsenal's capitulation at Bayern's feet (as they have been so often this season). Whenever the Gunners apprehensively attempted to advance the ball past the halfway line, a sea of black shirts surrounded the ball and sprung a clinical counterattack.
Simply put, Arsenal stood little chance from kickoff, and that of course, is unacceptable.
Let's examine the three areas that Wenger most needs to reinforce this summer after Arsenal are done competing for that infamous, imaginary "fourth-place trophy."
It's extremely difficult to ascertain why Arsenal have had so many problems defending in seemingly routine situations this season. Every player along the back line has had his period of poor form, but none have been so inept as the center-backs.
And it doesn't make a whole lot of sense on paper. Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen are all full internationals, with 134 caps between them (Mertesacker has the most with 86). How could players who are among the best in their countries be so fragile on a weekly basis?
No one can answer that from their armchair. With defensive stalwart Steve Bould as the assistant manager now, the problem should not be coaching. Therefore, new personnel must be recruited.
Even if Arsenal did not have a quality issue at center-back, they would still have a quantity issue. After Johan Djourou's loan to Hanover 96, Arsene Wenger has just three senior central defenders from which to choose—and he had to employ all of them at once against Bayern Munich.
You'll notice I didn't count Sebastien Squillaci.
He and Djourou will likely leave at the end of the season in a sensible search for more playing time (neither has appeared in the Premier League this season). So it is imperative that Arsenal improve both the quality and quantity of their defense.
Any new addition would have to be highly experienced, with a proven track record of leadership and no-nonsense defending. Perhaps Fernando Amorebieta, who is out of contract at the end of the season, would help.
Goal.com quotes Amorebieta's agent saying that "We are in talks with Arsenal, he could join them in June." The same website reported that the Gunners wanted to sign both him and Nacho Monreal on transfer deadline day, which gives them a shred of credibility.
Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that Arsene Wenger will spring for a true defensive midfielder this summer.
The manager has said that the age of pure defensive midfielders has come and gone (via Arsenal.com), so there would appear to be no desire to spring for a Victor Wanyama or Etienne Capoue.
Wenger has stuck to this philosophy this season, employing Mikel Arteta as the pivote, dictating the tempo from deep and keeping Arsenal's attack ticking. When the Spaniard has been unavailable, Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin and Abou Diaby were used to fill the same role.
And Arteta has done very well as the Gunners' metronome. According to EPLIndex, he has completed the highest percentage of passes in the Premier League among players with over 1,400 minutes played, while attempting more than any other player.
But he is not a defensive player, and Arsenal have a massive problem with keeping defensive organization and solidity.
Arteta excelled in a more advanced role last season, and while his ability allows him to play in more than one midfield position (are you watching, Vicente del Bosque?), defense is not his specialty.
A dedicated defensive player who is willing to sit back and harangue the opposition would be an invaluable addition to Arsenal's midfield, allowing the Gunners to close spaces left by their three attacking midfielders and not worry about overreaching.
Emmanuel Frimpong could perhaps take on the role if Wenger does not want to look outside the club for a defensive midfielder. But as popular as he is with Arsenal fans, he is still too raw and untrustworthy to be considered as a realistic option at this point.
Supporters were desperate to see a new addition to Arsenal's shallow corps of strikers during the January transfer window, but, despite a plethora of David Villa rumors, nothing materialized.
Now the Gunners will have to tiptoe through the rest of the season with only one true striker (Olivier Giroud), a pretender who can only be used against certain teams (Theo Walcott) and a man Wenger has not entrusted with leading the line since the first day of the season (Lukas Podolski).
Move either of the latter two players into the middle, and a new winger must be drafted to fill the normal starter's position. In short, Giroud's absence through injury, fatigue or tactical necessity shifts the balance of the team.
More importantly, there is no one for Wenger to turn to off the bench to add a different element to the team unless he leaves Giroud out of the starting XI.
On more than one occasion this season, we have seen an attacking midfielder come on late in a game when the situation begged for a goalscorer that could poach both crosses and loose balls in the box.
The fact that Arsenal have been tactically hamstrung is inexcusable, considering the resources the club has at its disposal and the time available to engineer a transfer.
And the new player brought in does not have to be a superstar by any means. Few would decry Wenger if he somehow managed to bring Stevan Jovetic to the Emirates, but a much more modest signing would suffice. After all, Arsenal have a reliable starter, they just need to add depth.
Who knows what might have happened in January if he had not already played for two clubs in the same season?
David Villa might, hypothetically, be a possibility, but Arsenal do not have to fish for big names. A few quality additions in key areas could go a long way toward lifting the club closer to winning its first trophy in what will be nine years at this time next season.
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