Arsenal's Tomorrow Men: The Players Who Will Dictate Our Next Big Buy
With Arsenal's unfair but deserved loss against Barcelona, the transfer mill is in full swing with a supposed super signing on the way. While names like Hazard, Cahill and Matuidi are continually bandied about on various articles and sites, these are generally coming from speculation and in part fans believing the equation.
Superstar = Better Squad
Which is not strictly true, Andrei Arshavin may be the last superstar Wenger felt the urge to purchase, while he has continually divided the opinions, there is no doubt his record this season has been impressive. He has five goals and 11 assists in the league so far, and he has definitely been a factor in Arsenal's Premier League push for silverware this season.
Either way, Wenger is never one to go for massive names and a more obscure signing could possibly be on the cards. How many fans heard of Koscielny before he ended up at Ashburton? Not many, though I suspect more would've known a little more about Marouane Chamakh, who is another example of Wenger choosing a great deal, and we could turn our eyes on the players with only a year or so left on their contracts.
In my opinion, the transfer equation in Wenger's head looks a little like this.
Superstar = Arsenal - players sold +/- silverware won - youngsters
In simpler terms, I believe Wenger will only spend big if:
- We sell or lose players, Clichy is supposedly at crossroads
- We win silverware, there may be room for argument for no new faces
- We don't win any silverware, there will plenty of argument about who we need to sign
- We don't have any youngsters ready to be thrown into the first team
So if we lose a key player, win nothing and have no youngsters ready, then and only then will Wenger, probably, loosen his purse strings.
The last line in particular is something I'm going to be writing about, if the title hasn't already revealed my intentions. Jack Wilshere was literally thrown into the Arsenal first team and has played in all four competitions at the highest level, he certainly has not disappointed, so Wenger may be eager to repeat the process as our ever talented academy continues to spew exciting youngsters.
So before we can even think about which superstar we are going to be linked to, which positions are in desperate need of reinforcing?
Bartley In, Squillaci out
Wenger has made it perfectly clear that he only wants four centrebacks, and only four. It may be one of the reasons why Cahill isn't already in a Arsenal shirt. Looking at our current crop they would be Vermaelen, Djourou, Koscielny, Squillaci and Miquel—in that order. Injuries aside, Miquel is still inexperienced and is likely to go out on loan next season.
Squillaci has only really impressed against Stoke but has cost us more points throughout the season. He's experienced but ageing and is unable to compete with the quality of the league. Fans would rather see him gone after an inconsistent debut.
So looking back at Wenger's faith in the youth, I'd say it's a massive possibility that Kyle Bartley could be our 4th centre back. Only 19, he's got a half season's worth of experience at Sheffield United and is now at Rangers adding some European experience to his belt. And yes, he is the only Arsenal player still in Europe. At 6'4'' and strong and pacey with a aerial threat from set pieces, he has a bright future ahead of him.
Is he good enough? That's debatable, but as 4th choice we wouldn't expect him to start many matches. Ideally used for the cup matches or when we're under huge aerial pressure, he'd be blooded into the team, and hopefully he can be something special.
Last season, Wilshere and Szczesny spent time at Bolton and Brentford respectively, but have gone straight into the first team and are first choice. So when Bartley returns from playing in the Championship, SPL and Europa league, I expect big things.
While not a right back, he can also be a temporary replacement for Eboue as an understudy to Sagna. It would give him more experience and give him more freedom to attack.
Lansbury In, Rosicky out
Rosicky has continually found himself in the Arsenal starting XI whenever Fabregas is injured. His suicidal performance against Newcastle and several other bland performances leave many fans still wondering: why?
His legacy aside, he should be the technical playmaker in a similar mould to Nasri, with less speed and better passing. But he's not, often disappearing in games and making stranger passes and dribbles. His once famous shooting, cemented by a hammer of a longer ranger against the USA in the World Cup preceding his transfer, his goals tally is awful, with a recent sitter against United evidence of so.
One thing about Rosicky that Wenger likes is his versatility; he can play in the middle and on the wings when needed. A versatile playmaker with an eye for the goal and a good engine would cost us around £15 million, at a minimum. That is unless we already have one in our ranks who has been patiently waiting for his opportunity.
Henri Lansbury, currently at Norwich, has only been seen a few times playing in the first team. His goal in the demolition of Tottenham earlier in the season impressed many and showed all the qualities of an Arsenal player. His 13 appearances for Norwich this season have resulted in four goals and pushed the Canaries into 2nd place in the Championship.
At 21, he's not going to hang around in the reserves forever, and if he doesn't break first team next season, we can't complain if he wants to leave. Versatile and able to play in the attacking midfield positions, he's got a good pass, strength and eye for the goal.
In my opinion, he's already better than Rosicky is and much more exciting. Though I haven't seen his pace, he does remind me of a young Ljungberg in style and appearance.
Jay Emmanuel Thomas In, Bendtner out
Bendtner has divided opinions all season. His ego is somewhat notorious among the Arsenal faithful, and his performances have ranged from poor to great.
As a striker, he's found a better home on the right wing, and his performances have improved there despite his goals, which typically are against weaker opposition. In a typical 451 situation, you'd only need two strikers, but with Van Persie continually injured, many would be uneasy with only two.
Stuck inbetween 2nd choice striker and 3rd choice right wing, he's more surplus to requirements under a full strength squad. In the past he has impressed but Arsenal don't need another winger; they need a clinical striker, and Bendtner is not that.
With no real strike sensation in our reserves or youth that are ready, I'd prefer JET to be given a chance. At 6'3'', strong, quick and technical, he's less Adebayor and more... well I'm not really sure. He's not really built as a winger, but he possesses a sweet left foot and is a danger, nonetheless.
Currently on loan at Cardiff with a goal and two assists to his name, we'd definitely like to see a more imposing threat down the wings as our current wingers are having trouble penetrating defences.
He's not a striker, but just looking at him you wouldn't expect him to be poor from aerial deliveries. His role would be more along the lines of 3rd choice striker and 2nd choice winger. He'd be able to play as striker if needed and allow Chamakh to actually play more as a striker and regain some of his form.
After all, Henry was a winger when he came to Arsenal, and JET can possibly play just about wherever he's needed on the pitch with short spells in defence and up front.
Miyaichi In, Arshavin out
The mercurial Russian has had a mixed Arsenal career.
While his stats impress, he often goes missing in matches and has slumps in form, as well as a nasty habit of shooting straight at goalkeepers in one-on-one situations. With his contract running down and unable to replicate his best form, he may be looking to return to finish his career gracefully at his old club, Zenit St. Petersburg.
While he's hardly the worst player we have, and even arguably one of best, he finds himself the 2nd choice winger on both flanks. He's at his best as an impact sub but has frequently shown he's not on the same wavelength as his team mates, misplacing passes and not always making the runs he should.
So what impressive youngster can possibly replace him?
While he's never played for us, the young Miyaichi—currently at Feyenoord—is certainly impressing, and the jump from high school level football to the Dutch Eredivisie has been taken with ease. Though he's only scored a single goal, he's not shy in taking on players and is a fan favorite.
Speedy and a good dribbler, he's improving his passing and strength while on loan. Not as fast as Theo, many would hardly call Theo the best dribbler around, and at times his speed isn't always his best asset. Miyaichi brings a different style of play, he's not afraid to take players on and a nice change to the torrent of passes we see go nowhere.
While Arshavin is still important, his transfer is still speculation. Miyaichi is still waiting for a work permit and unknown what actions can be taken or even if we can see him next season, though Feyenoord are looking to keep him for another season. Another year and he'll be a better player and that much closer to breaking into the squad.
Coquelin/Ramsey In, Denilson/Diaby Out
Denilson came to Arsenal with much hype riding on him.
Being Brazilian, and also a defensive midfielder, many would've expected him to be the next Gilberto Silva. It didn't work out as well; the player we currently have is often caught out of position, too slow to chase and is sloppy in distribution. Similarly, Diaby is hardly impressing either and doesn't bring much to the squad. Not forgetting his meltdown at Newcastle, which cost resulted in two points dropped.
Both find themselves behind Wilshere, and with the impending return of Coquelin and Ramsey, both are surplus to requirements. In Ramsey we see a cross between Wilshere and Fabregas: strong, good passing and good movement, and he is able to dictate play in a similar style to Fabregas. While Wilshere can also dictate play, his role has seemingly evolved into tackling back and distributing the ball safely.
Song's role has also evolved this season and his defensive duties have become more relaxed as Wilshere shares the hard work. In Coquelin, we have a promising defensive midfielder with a good engine and can certainly ease the pressure in midfield, though still inexperienced, he may have a opportunity to prove himself if he's patient.
We only have a few spaces that really do need improvement and, subsequently, transfers. In defence, I'm not too happy with Eboue and would rather see a young right back be blooded into the squad. Vrsaljko has been linked with us and is the typical unknown but seems exciting enough to break into the team.
Up front we lack a real striker in the reserves. Afobe is still too inexperienced and the formation isn't suited to too many strikers, but I'd like to see Bojan Krkic at Ashburton. Not strong but pacey with a good finish, he's more in the mould of a Raul type player, or even Owen. Relations might be stormy between our clubs since we hate them for continually beating us and annually lusting after our players, and they hate us for poaching their players and paying only a fraction of what they're worth.
In goal, we have plenty of options and it's likely that Almunia and Mannone will be sold off. While there's plenty of dead wood in midfield, it's not a area we need to worry about. Clichy may be looking to leave in the summer but I'd still stick with Gibbs and Vrsakjlo unless we can buy Sakho.
Wenger's youth system is going to pay off and save him some and the club some big money but right now we need quality if we want to win silverware. A big name signing may not be in the cards knowing Wenger but there's not a lot of room for improvement without sacrificing more players. We should expect more sales than purchases come summer and then Wenger can parade the fact the club are back in profit once again.