Two midfielders in, three midfielders out, and rumors of more moves on the horizon seem to be making it a nervy summer for Arsenal fans. But are the nerves really necessary?
The answer is definitely not.
To listen to pundits and fans talk it seems that there are massive holes all over Emirates Stadium, but in every supposed hole there is a possible solution.
The loss of Alexander Hleb, for instance, is no loss at all. His first two years at Arsenal were dismal, and his last year with the Gunners was merely promising. He had some impact and was one of the better parts of our team, but is in no way irreplaceable.
Enter Samir Nasri, a full French international with some solid years at Marseille, the confidence to take a shot on goal, and ball skills that rival and maybe even eclipse Hleb.
The loss of Arsenal’s two defensive midfielders, Flamini and Gilberto, seems more problematic because Wenger’s currently signed no replacements, so it is this position that is receiving most of the transfer speculation.
Aston Villa’s Gareth Barry and Liverpool’s Xabi Alonso are the leading candidates to make the transfer. Either would be welcome additions to any side.
Barry would raise the English-to-Foreign ratio on Arsenal, which will be important in the years to come and might give him the slight edge as a genuine target despite his inflated price tag.
But transferring in either of these men is probably unnecessary. Alexandre Song and Denilson have been growing with the reserves and with occasional first team action—even a loan spell in the case of Song—for the last couple of seasons, the time is right for them to step up into the first team.
Some argue that neither of these players are Cesc Fabregas, and that, therefore, their graduation to a permanent place on the squad is a mistake. But surely that argument is fallacious.
Fabregas is a prodigy. He came in at 17 to displace Patrick Vieira—one of the greats in Arsenal's central midfield—making not just the position but the team his own. That takes something special, and very few players are able to do that in the world, let alone on the same team.
But replacing Flamini and Gilberto is not the same as replacing Patrick Vieira.
Neither Denilson nor Song need to be better than the men they are replacing, only as good, and surely Denilson can be at least as good as Gilberto given a prolonged run in the side.
Moreover, Song’s few first team performances as a center back have shown him to be surprisingly promising. He is fast, tireless, and brave. The perfect combination for a defensive midfielder, which is Song’s preferred position.
And then there is Abou Diaby, who showed tremendous promise before his leg was shattered by Sunderland's Dan Smith, and has had trouble coming off the bench since regaining fitness. He plays a similar game to Vieira and could make great strides if he were given a chance to become a regular in the side.
There are options, and potentially good ones, even if it is a bit of a risk to go with the youth. Yet this is just the kind of risk that often pays off for Wenger, and the talent he nurtures.
Another important thing to consider is that all of Wenger’s young side are a year older. They are growing up and into their roles, and they will be better than they were last year.
Plus, his midfield general just won the Euro Cup with Spain, playing a significant role in that victory. Arsenal's experience is growing and growing.
Even beyond the midfield, prospects look bright.
Arsenal has a wealth of attackers, the best full backs in the league, and two top drawer first choice center backs in Gallas and Toure.
If there are any holes they are the reserve defensive positions. Senderos and Djourou are both better when they are playing regularly, which cannot happen unless there is an injury to the main men, and the rest of Arsenal’s defensive corp is relatively untested. But that also means that few fans have seen what's coming, but the rumblings about Nordtveit and others is, as always, promising.
It is important to remember too that even Gael Clichy was considered a sketchy replacement for Ashely Cole. But not anymore.
Like any team, Arsenal would benefit from the arrival of any excellent player, but the truth is that Arsenal doesn’t absolutely need a new player to succeed. They would help, they would be soothing to the collective Gooner consciousness, but they are not necessary.
Of course, no one will believe that until Arsenal win a significant competition with this new crop of players. But we'll all know for sure come May 24, 2009.