3 Signings to Take Arsenal to the Next Level
As Arsenal's 2012-13 campaign heads into the homestretch, it's safe to say that it's been a disappointing season for the Gunners—in fact, it's probably been the North London outfit's worst season since Arsene Wenger took the reins in 1996.
Arsenal currently lie in fifth place, five points adrift of fourth-place Chelsea and seven points behind third-place Tottenham. Perhaps what fans are most upset about is the fact that third and fourth place have become Arsenal's target in recent seasons, and the days when they challenged and often beat Manchester United at the top of the table are a distant memory—the Gunners are currently 24 points off of first-place United.
The most embarrassing bits of Arsenal's season, though, have been their fortune in the cup competitions. The nadir of the campaign came in December when Arsenal's humiliating loss to nPower League 2 side Bradford City on penalties saw the Premier League side crash out of the Capital One Cup.
As if that wasn't enough, Arsenal's FA Cup fifth-round exit came at the hands of nPower Championship side Blackburn in a 1-0 loss at the Emirates.
The only cup competition the Gunners currently still stand in is the Champions League, where they face a daunting task of taking on Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday to overturn a 3-1 deficit.
Arsenal need to bolster their squad this summer, with the key areas being the striker position and the defense.
Here are three signings that can take Arsenal to the next level, with one for each area of the pitch: a defender, a midfielder and a forward.
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Although they've conceded the fourth-fewest number of goals in the league, Arsenal's defense has been shockingly poor this season.
Thomas Vermaelen hasn't responded well at all to being given the captaincy, and has endured his worst season in an Arsenal shirt, highlighted by some shocking defending against Spurs in the 2-1 loss. Per Mertesacker had a solid start to the season, but he's struggled recently and his lack of pace hurts Arsenal's defense at times.
In Micah Richards, Arsenal would have a big, strong and fast defender who can play at both center-back or, if he does in fact replace Bacary Sagna, at right-back in his preferred position.
If Manchester City really are looking to offload the Englishman, then he'll certainly come at a cut price, and Arsenal should look to bolster their defense and snap up the 24-year-old.
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Although Arsenal have been linked with a move for Mario Gotze, Newcastle's Yohan Cabaye seems like a much more realistic target for the Gunners.
In all fairness, Arsenal do have a strong midfield at the moment—Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta usually make up the triangle in the middle of the park, while Abou Diaby, Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin and Tomas Rosicky have all been used as well at times this season.
Yohan Cabaye is a complete midfielder, a player who can do pretty much anything.
On the attacking side of things, he takes 2.4 shots per game, completes 2.1 key passes and 2.1 crosses, but his 2.9 tackles and 2.4 interceptions per game show that he's also excellent on the defensive side (courtesy of WhoScored.com).
The Frenchman's specialty, however, is his free kicks. He remains one of the best free-kick takers in the league, having scored one just this weekend in a 2-1 win over Stoke City.
The one aspect of Cabaye's game that could be improved is his pass completion—he only completed 78.5 percent of his passes, which isn't a great number especially when compared to current Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta's pass completion rate of 92.4 percent.
Despite his problems with injury this season, Yohan Cabaye is one of the best central midfielders in the league and has attracted attention from Arsenal as well as Manchester United. Newcastle's disappointing season means the former Lille man could be on his way to a bigger club this summer, and with Arsenal's history of signing French players this is definitely a transfer I can see happening
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Since the departure of Robin van Persie this summer, Arsenal has been struggling for quality up front, and the lack of a top-class striker who can change games and finish off chances has been one of Arsenal's key issues this season.
Although he's had purple patches, Olivier Giroud has struggled for form this season and currently hasn't scored a goal since January. The Frenchman's physicality suits the Premier League; however, his lack of pace clearly hinders his play and doesn't suit Arsenal's style of play.
What the former Montpellier man has shown this season is that he'll have a field day against a smaller team with a weak defense—he had no trouble against the likes of Fulham, Newcastle, West Ham and Brighton. But against a top team like one of the Manchester clubs or Chelsea, Giroud looks close to useless up top.
Theo Walcott, on the other hand, has finally been given his chance as a striker this season, and while the numbers don't lie—he's currently Arsenal's top scorer with 18 goals in all competitions—Walcott is still a long way off from becoming the next Thierry Henry.
The Englishman showed how dangerous he is when he scored a hat-trick and provided two assists against Newcastle in a 7-3 win; however, Walcott's game is fairly one-dimensional. He'll try to beat the offsides trap and latch onto a through ball to get himself one-on-one with the keeper, where he'll usually finish the chance and score.
Other than that, Walcott doesn't provide any aerial threat, and doesn't quite have the physique to hold up the ball well—in fact, he's the opposite of Olivier Giroud.
The answer to Arsenal's striker problems is Stevan Jovetic. The Fiorentina forward has been in brilliant form this season, scoring 11 goals and providing 4 assists in Serie A. While those numbers aren't exactly prolific, the Montenegrin isn't a classic No. 9 striker like Giroud. Jovetic is a creative force, averaging 2.1 key passes, 2.5 dribbles and four shots per game (stats courtesy of WhoScored.com).
Having had his best season yet, the 23-year-old is developing into a world-class talent and would be a brilliant addition to Arsenal. He's been linked (via the Telegraph) and Arsenal apparently have money, so this is a transfer that Arsene Wenger should really look to complete this summer to ensure he keeps his job and brings glory back to North London.