I was not disappointed when the Transfer Window closed at 6 p.m. yesterday. This morning, I went through previous blog entries from May and June of this year, and I realized that most of my conclusions then about reinforcements back then still hold true. I won’t gloat and say I told you so, but for me it was interesting to be reminded of the fact that Arsenal is all too predictable.
On the blog post Oh To Write About Arsenal Posted on May 3, 2010, I said:
"On our current squad, I support Arsene’s opinion that we only need two or three additions. However, I believe that number should increase should there be any departures. I do not believe William Gallas will sign a new contract as if he wanted to, he should have done so already. Our most pressing area of concern should be that of goalkeepers. I also do not feel that come next season Manuel Almunia will be No. 1 at the club. I am one of Lukasz Fabianski’s biggest critics as I cringe each time I see him step out to the field. Nevertheless, I am reminded that other Arsenal fans were critical of the likes of Diaby and Song in the early days whilst I saw the potential they had in them. Arsene may yet keep faith with him or may decide to cut his losses and splurge on a goal keeper who is proven at this level."
"It seems obvious that we will sign Chamakh in the summer so that leaves us with two more positions to fill. The boss isn’t talking about Silvestre or Senderos so I assume they will leave us at the end of the season. Sol Campbell in my opinion has done enough to earn himself another year at Arsenal and with Djourou coming back to full training we will need one more player should Gallas leave in the summer as I expect. The final player I expect us to sign will probably be one of those surprise Arsene signings. On that, I will not speculate."
Nothing much has changed since then. We have signed Chamakh, Koscielny, and Squilacci whom I will call the surprise signing. The only thing I did not fathom was the fact that Sol Campbell would leave the club. Now it looks like Arsene Wenger is resolved to keeping faith with Manuel Almunia who has started all three games this season. If I know Arsene at all, I am sure that he would have looked elsewhere more seriously if he thought the Spaniard time at the club was truly over.
In anticipation of the 2010 World Cup, the article Carpe Diem! posted on June 1, 2010 looked at our defensive situation and pondered upon the possibility of losing up to three centre backs as the situation with Campbell had started to look uncertain. With that in mind, I said, "I won’t be surprised if the boss attempts to sign not one but two centre backs."
Notice I haven’t mentioned Silvestre who I believe will not be expecting an extension nor Bartley or Nordveit who I do not quite yet rate as ready for the Premiership. The names currently in the bag as of yet are Lorient centre-back Laurent Koscielny and Dynamo Kiev’s Pape Diakhate, the latter of whom Bacary Sagna has claimed would be a welcome addition to the Arsenal squad. Unconfirmed reports claim we had a bid turned down for Koscielny who would probably be a Vermaelen type signing."
So far so good on Koscielny, eh? He was blamed by many for the goal conceded at Blackburn last weekend, but a great piece by Joel Che on the Arsenal Mania website seems to puts his performances so far into perspective for me. It makes an interesting read.
The signing of Sebastian Squilacci proved that theory right. Kyle Bartley has returned to Sheffield United on a season long loan while Arsene Wenger publicly stated that he would play Harvard Nordveit at right back to gain experience.
I also believe that Fulham were well within their rights to turn down our advances for Mark Schwarzer as they were unable to get a proper replacement for him in time before the injury to David Stockdale and the close of the transfer window.
On my birthday in June, I pondered what the implication of signing Mark Schwarzer would be for him.
"Signing him will most certainly mark the end of Manuel Almunia’s time as first choice and will also provide sufficient time for our younger goalkeepers to build up their confidence. I’m sure Arsene must have been thinking about making Schwarzer first choice for next season with Almunia as back up (even though I doubt if he’d play) and Vito Mannone as the Carling Cup Keeper."
"He’d then be able to send out both Fabianksi and Szczesny on loan for a year bringing them back in the summer of 2011 to fight for the No. 1 spot. By then, Almunia would have probably left the club, Schwarzer would be on the verge of retirement, and James Shea would battling Vito Mannone for third choice."
"Since it appears that we have been rebuffed by Fulham, I will be interested to see what our next move will be. Will we return with another bid or look elsewhere? I don’t know whether there are any other viable alternatives to Schwarzer that will tie in with the scenario I have speculated above."
I still expect one of our goalkeepers to be sent out on loan this season as lower league clubs can still loan players after the window has closed. Yesterday, the club announced that James Shea who was mentioned in the earlier post had been training with the England squad after injuries to Ben Foster and David Stockdale. Could Arsene be trying to pass a message across to us?
On the Season Review DVD Arsene Wenger admitted that we need to be stronger at the back.
He said, "In the positives as well is the number of goals we scored because that is quite higher than ever. And when I say that positive I have to go straight away to a negative because of the number of goals we conceded is too high as well to win a championship. So where we progress from there is quite simple—we need to be more steady defensively and concede less goals. The basic improvements that have to be made is defensive and with spending the right money. The right money is not necessarily quantity because you never know how much people want for the players you want. But what I mean by the right money is that we will not be scared to spend if needed."
What is clear from his statements and what has happened since then is the fact that while signing a new goalkeeper would probably be a welcome addition to the squad, defensive stability is the greater priority as a goalkeeper can only stop what is thrown at him.
While a world class keeper can win points for his team by making great saves, a good defense will not only cover up the frailties of any goalkeeper, but their ability to communicate with themselves and with him often makes the difference between leaving him shielded or exposed against the more brilliant attacking sides.
Looking at our current defensive position, whilst you can probably say that Gallas is currently a much better player than Laurent Koscielny, the young Frenchman has age on his side as he is only 24 and can only get better as his career progresses at Arsenal.
Djourou’s return from injury can be considered a vast improvement on Mikael Silvestre who signed for Werder Bremen. Sebastien Squillaci in my opinion was signed to balance out the departure of Sol Campbell who unsurprisingly signed for Newcastle. I haven’t mentioned Philippe Senderos as he hardly played last season, and we at least have the option of Nordveit or even Alex Song to fill in at centre back should we require it.
My position is for true Arsenal supporters, not just arm chair fans to get behind Manuel Almunia who is obviously a relieved man to find out that he is still No. 1 at the club and give him all the support he can get.
Some groups have suggested boycotting Arsenal games to protest our lack of major activity in the transfer market. That to me is simply ignorant. Almunia is no fool and he knows that the manager did try to replace him.
As a professional, his obvious reaction should be and has been to work harder both in training and on the pitch and use the criticism to his advantage and regain the form that forced Wenger to install him as first choice goalkeeper for the club. After all, who would have thought that an unknown Spaniard from Pamplona would keep the great Jens Lehman out of the Arsenal team.
He said, “You can understand that he [Almunia] is unsettled by that situation but on the other hand, when you play at Arsenal, that’s what you have to deal with. You have to be strong enough to deal with that and I believe he is. Jens Lehmann had to deal with that situation because at some stage I took him out of the team and played Almunia so competition is part of our world. We have to accept that. I understand completely that it is not always easy but it is our world.”
He also points the following out in his comments, "It appears Almunia has been told not to kick long this season. While it would seem like this is to mitigate what might be considered his poor distribution, it still would have a major impact on how Arsenal play. To start with, the back four would have to play out of the back more, and they would have to take different positions when the keeper has the ball. What impact will this have on Arsenal’s possession game? That remains to be seen. Will it make Arsenal more susceptible to the pressing game?"
I do hope that the saying “Form is temporary, class is permanent” applies to Almunia this season.
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Till next time...Victoria Concordia Crescit