After a very disappointing end to the season dropped them to fourth place overall in the Barclay’s Premier League, Arsenal appears to be in line for a bit of a makeover in the coming months. Once entrenched in competition for the league championship, the Gunners won just two of their last 11 matches and finished yet again outside of the top two for the fifth time in six seasons.
While Arsenal’s roster is studded with elite young talent, the team’s heart and maturity were questioned all season. It has been a tough season for Arsenal faithful as well, and their desires were made clear during Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Fulham when chants of “Spend some f***** money” rang out from the crowd.
Arsene Wenger has made it clear he expects to be very busy over the next three months shoring up open positions due to departures while adding leadership and experience to his squad. Clubs like Man City, Everton, Liverpool and Aston Villa are clearly forcing their way into the top three of the league alongside ManU, Chelsea and Arsenal, and it’s clear Arsenal can no longer stand pat. Wenger, who has a history of not spending money, finds himself on the hot seat for the first time. While he has warned supporters not to expect any £50 million signings, to the fans’ disapproval, Wenger has indicated that he will strengthen the team this summer.
Here’s a look at five moves gaining traction:
The 30-year old defensive midfielder and FWL footballer of the year, Scott Parker was one of the best players in the EPL this season. With West Ham’s relegation, Parker will likely be allowed to move for the right price this summer. With loads of Premiere League experience, Parker, who is revered for his mental toughness, would be a great addition to the Gunners as a leader both on and off the field.
While Cesc Fabregas, the current captain, is undoubtedly one of the top midfielders in the world, his leadership ability has been questionable all season, especially coming off setbacks. Parker, on the other hand, kept West Ham afloat all season with his inspiring leadership, and would be a great role model to youngsters like 19-year-old Jack Wilshere and 20-year-old Aaron Ramsey.
While Parker is certainly beyond his best years, his impact would be felt across the entire roster. Despite the emergence of Cesc Fabregas, the team has not won a trophy since the departure of Patrick Vieira in 2005. Just saying. Signing a top defensive midfielder should be at the top of list for Wenger, and he would be smart to look to the West Ham fire sale right away. He is rumored to be worth £6 million, which is certainly worth it.
A large factor in the Gunners’ harsh fall to fourth over the last couple months has been their overall lack of a center defender since the departures of Sol Campbell and William Gallas. It appears Wenger’s short list for a center back transfer this season features Samba, Bolton defender Gary Cahill (easily the best of the group), Mamadou Sakho and Phil Jagielka.
Samba has recently indicated that he would like to play for a team at the highest level, and after his club has steadily dropped down the table since his extension signing in January, Samba may be on the move this summer. He is expected to cost the Gunners around £12 million.
Samba is regarded for his great motor, natural leadership ability and brute strength. The 27-year-old Blackburn captain would instantly improve the team’s set piece defense (due to his aerial game and strength) while also helping them match up against the more physical teams in the EPL.
Gary Cahill has been on the Arsenal radar for quite some time now, but will likely cost the team at least £25 million, which may scare Wenger away from his top target.
Twenty-three-year-old attacking midfielder Ricardo “Ricky” Alvarez has been a name floating around Arsenal message boards and fan pages over the last couple days. The Telegraph confirmed the pre-contract that was first announced last week.
Like many youngsters who have come to the Gunners over the past couple years, the 6’2” Alvarez is unknown to most fans, but is regarded as one of the top talents in South America. His flashy attacking style has drawn many comparisons (by overeager fans/writers) to Lionel Messi, and many believe he could contribute immediately. He has the skill set to play across the entire midfield, although he is most strongly suited along the left wing or as an attacking midfielder.
His contract with Sarsfield ends this June, so Wenger would land him for free.
Moussa Sow, last summer’s best free transfer, had a superb 2010/11 campaign netting 22 Ligue 1 goals for the eventual French champions, Lille. The 25-year-old Senegalese hitman who led all Ligue 1 goal scorers in 2011, has become a target for both the Gunners and Manchester City with Arsenal leading the race.
Due to Nicklas Bendtner and Marouane Chamakh’s struggles and Robin van Persie’s long-term concerns, Wenger is expected to bring in another attacking option this summer. Although Sow’s track record is not that strong dating back to his Rennes days, he was an absolute goal machine this season. Many question this move as Sow’s price is sure to be inflated with Lille’s success this season and many wonder whether he would even start ahead of Chamakh for the Gunners.
Sow isn’t the only Lille striker being courted by Wenger and the Gunners. According to the Metro, the even more prolific winger/striker from Ivory Coast, Gervinho, has recently announced that he would like to make the jump to a top club. So far, both Arsenal and Tottenham have been named front-runners, while Tottenham and Newcastle have also recently expressed interest.
The 23-year-old hitman is under contract for one more season with the French Ligue 1 club and it is still unclear whether they will look to move him or keep him for one more season. With Gervinho’s expressed interest in playing in the EPL alongside many of the other top Ivory Coast natives, it may be smart for Lille to move him ensuring that they get something in return. Originally considered a £6 million transfer, Goal.com and Daily Mail have indicated that the Spurs have are leading the race on the “£10 million target.”
Like Sow, Gervinho would be another great addition to the Arsenal attack. With Nicklas Bendtner’s seemingly likely departure, Gervinho could fill in his role immediately.