Arsenal Transfers: Özil, Cole, Melo, & Other Four-Letter Transfer Words
It's the middle of July.
Le Prof has already returned to vintage media form, dishing out heaping slices of Thomas Paine pie to hapless journalists and gossip peddlers the world over.
Earlier this week, Wenger quashed the rumor of a transfer for the allegedly "strongly linked" Yoann Gourcuff. The very next day, he turned around and assured us that out-of-form striker Eduardo is not going anywhere in a hurry.
Gourcuff was always a nonsense notion. While it's not unreasonable to believe that Eduardo may never fully recover from hitman Martin Taylor's cynical assault, the vote of confidence from Wenger should not surprise anyone.
For the many Gooners still chasing the white rabbit of the bank-breaking, headline-grabbing mega-transfer, it's time to come back down to Earth.
It seems clear at this point that we are not signing Gourcuff, Mesut Özil, or Felipe Melo. We're most likely not signing Joe Cole either.
Arsenal don't need to make a big splash in the transfer market to succeed in 2010-11.
The sooner we accept that thoroughly un-sexy point and get around the summer transfer mirage, the sooner the conversation can return to the issues that are going to matter this season.
Arsenal are as near a complete side right now as any team in the league.
With the addition of a veteran goalkeeper and a fourth center-back, either through re-signing sought-after veteran Sol Campbell or bidding on a low-profile transfer, this club will be primed and ready for a serious title run.
Let's stop talking about the "what-if" blockbusters deals and think about what this Arsenal team will look like next month.
Missing the Boat
This is a community of sorts, and we're all in this together. If I have time, I'm going to read most of the new Arsenal pieces that people publish. I just hope to see more discussion of football instead of tabloid talk going forward.
If you disagree, then so be it.
I'm just trying to make the case that this continuing transfer speculation is superfluous.
This is not a rant about first principles and Arsenal's team philosophy. Nothing is set in stone; there exceptions to every rule. Far be it from me to lecture other supporters on how our team does business.
Feel free to disagree with Wenger's team-building philosophy over the last few years. I know I've not always been happy with it.
Arsenal may have been better off holding on to some of our veterans like Patrick Vieira, Gilberto Silva, or Thierry Henry for longer than we did. We also may have made a serious title challenge two or three seasons ago if we had sold some of our young players to finance the acquisition of a couple big names.
Love or hate the youth policy, it would be hard to argue that Nicklas Bendtner, Gael Clichy, Denilson, Abou Diaby, Samir Nasri, and Alex Song aren't individually and collectively better off for their experience.
A couple seasons ago, "trusting in Arsene" vs. spending like Chelsea seemed like a reasonable debate.
After a season in which we were in title contention until the last few weeks, is there even a question as to what path the team is following?
Midfielders Need Not Apply
Much of the transfer discussion stems from the frustratingly persistent speculation over Cesc Fabregas' future at the club.
Never mind that Cole, Gourcuff, and Özil could not adequately replace Fabregas were he to leave tomorrow. More importantly, Arsenal already have more creative midfield and attacking talent in the first team and reserves than we know how to use.
The strength of our roster has already forced out Fran Merida and will soon necessitate serious questions about the long-term prospects of youngsters like Naz Barazite, Jack Wilshere, Henri Lansbury, and even Aaron Ramsey. For every big name we bring in, that's not just a member of the first team who must make way; it's also a stumbling block in front of a young Gunner looking to crack the first team.
As for buying defensive midfielders like Melo, Stephane Mbia, Sami Khedira, et al., the current formation does not require two hulking defensive midfielders in the starting XI.
It's true that Arsenal would lack adequate cover if Song were to suffer a long-term injury.
Craig Eastmond was impressive in limited appearances last season. He's certainly worthy of a spot in the first-team rotation as a sub. Of course, if Song were sidelined for more than a couple weeks, Eastmond would not be a long-term solution.
A backup for the rock-solid Indomitable Lion would be a prudent signing, but nobody is paying £15 million, £20 million or more to sign Melo or Mbia as a backup.
"What Will the 18-Man First Team Look Like?" and Other Questions Going Forward
As I see it, leaving room for the addition of a starting goalkeeper to be named, these 17 men should fill out the 18-man squad that makes the trip to Anfield next month:
(Manuel Almunia/Lukasz Fabianski/Vito Mannone), Andrei Arshavin, Bendtner, Marouane Chamakh, Clichy, (Denilson/Diaby), Johan Djourou, Emmanuel Eboue, Fabregas, Kieran Gibbs, Laurent Koscielny, Nasri, Tomas Rosicky, Bacary Sagna, Song, Thomas Vermaelen, and Robin van Persie.
Think of the questions that the team already poses for Wenger: Only three of Denilson, Diaby, Nasri, and Rosicky? What about Theo Walcott? What about Eastmond? What about Wilshere? What about Carlos Vela and Eduardo?
Any way you cut it, it's tough to fill out the 18-man roster—let alone the starting 11—without making tough choices.
When Aaron Ramsey comes back from injury, it will be even tougher.
There's so much here to contemplate.
There are so many formations, loans, and contingency plans to consider.
I ask you, my fellow Arsenal supporters, is this the time of year to continue discussing dreamland signings and video game roster scenarios?
Is this the time of year to sift through chicken entrails and tea leaves in order to divine where player X is heading?
Is this the time of year to humor the trolls who come around looking to provoke us into the umpteenth iteration of the "Fabregas to Barça" debate?
Are we not better than (or at least beyond) that?
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