Arsenal FC Summer Transfers: How Wenger Can Improve His Squad
Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have been struggling of late, and it's time for Arsene to accept his project isn't working and fix the problems he has created.
Arsenal's team isn't that far from being able to seriously challenge for Honours, but it isn't the first team that is the problem (for the most part, GK and CB standout as serious holes). It is the lack of quality depth that has plagued the club for the last few years.
When the best players are injured or suspended, those brought in to replace them have been sub-par, shots not taken, passes horribly missed and tackles poorly timed. Arsenal's bench would struggle not to be relegated.
But with a few tweaks here and there, getting rid of the dead wood, bringing in new talent and a new attitude—as well as holding onto the prized assets—and Arsenal could be challenging for Honours on numerous fronts next season.
I'm not advocating widespread change and a huge shift in personnel; mass changes like that would take a while to blend and gel into a working unit. What Arsenal need to do is to remove the five or six players who have reached their use-by date, and bring in a similar number to add to the depth of the squad.
Sebastian Squillaci for Chris Samba
During last summer's transfer market, Arsene was (surprise, surprise) searching for defenders, and the two he brought in had contrasting seasons.
While Laurent Koscielny showed signs that he can be a decent CB for the Arsenal in the future, Sebastien Squillaci showed signs that he should be thinking of hanging up his boots (or getting out of the too fast too physical EPL).
Squillaci is a strong contender for Arsenal's flop of the season, his performances were always sub-par, his leadership skills were non-existent and he was unable to compete with the physicality of the premier league. To his credit, he never stopped giving his all, unfortunately, his all was never going to be enough.
Replace Him With: Chris Samba, Blackburn
Strong on the ground, dominant in the air, tall with proven premiership experience.
Chris Samba would be the perfect replacement for the ineffective Squillaci. In the two games between Blackburn and Arsenal, he was one of the best players on the field for either side. Nullifying any aerial threat from Arsenal and providing his own for Blackburn, Samba could be the man to sort out the shoddy defence at set peices.
He is also a leader on the pitch, and leadership is something Arsenal sorely lack. He is a leader in his actions, playing like a captain should, laying his heart out on the field for everyone to see. But he is also very vocal, marshalling his defenders and organising his midfielders. The man would be perfect for Arsenal.
Gael Clichy for Jan Vertonghen
Gael Clichy has been one of those players in the Arsenal squad who the fans love and hate. One week he is providing an attacking option down the left and tracking well to cover, the next he looks like he should be playing Sunday park football.
His performances, though, have never inspired any real confidence into the Arsenal supporter. Constantly making little silly errors giving the ball away or trying to turn an attacker inside his own defensive third (and more often than not giving the ball away from this situation).
He has also come out in public and stated he wants to leave. And I say good riddance.
Replace Him With: Jan Vertonghen, Ajax
Versatile, solid on the ground, adept in the air.
The Belgian defender is good friends with Thomas Vermaelen and as such wouldn't have too difficult a time settling into the Arsenal dressing room.
Traditionally a CB, Vertonghen would bring a quality to the Arsenal backline lack at the moment. Someone who is versatile and solid in defence. Able to play solidly as a left back and adept at providing an attacking option on the flank, Vertonghen would be able to replace Clichy without any problems.
He can also play as a CDM.
Denilson for Henri Lansbury
Denilson came to Arsenal with plenty of promise, and in a few games, he showed that he has a cracker of a shot and a decent passing range. But he has only done this in games against sides in lower divisions and when there is absolutely no pressure on the midfield because Arsenal are dominating possession and field position. But when Arsenal didn't control the ball well and there was offensive pressure, his shot went missing, his passing range was terrible and he can't defend.
The young Brazilian has been very vocal this season, causing problems within the dressing room with his leadership comments and now in the offseason, claiming that despite him playing his best season he is very disappointed and is desperate to leave the club.
In what world can Denilson (or any midfielder for that matter) consider a season with 32 appearances, no goals, no assists and a poor record when it comes to goals conceded and losses when he was on the pitch, his best (or even a good) season. Denilson was poor and his willingness to leave should be welcomed with open arms at the club.
Replace Him With: Henri Lansbury, Emmanuel Frimpong or Craig Eastmond, Arsenal Youth
The young English (that's right all three, although Frimpong could yet side with Ghana) midfielders have all shown plenty of promise in terms of developing into first class players. Henri Lansbury looks as though he will be the first to have a chance at a regular first team spot as he has made more progress this term, helping Norwich City gain automatic promotion to the Premier League by scoring or setting up vital goals (came on at 1-1 against Bristol with 10 to go, set up the winner and against local rivals Ipswich was involved in 3 of the 4 goals scored).
He has also played for the Arsenal first team and scored a goal against Tottenham in the Carling Cup 4-1 victory at White Hart Lane.
Keep Lansbury with the first team, but send Frimpong and Eastmond back on loan. They are still a little too green.
Nicklas Bendtner for Gervinho
Nicklas Bendtner's time is up. The player has come out and said he wants to 100 percent leave Arsenal and in my books, Wenger should jump at the opportunity and try to cash in as early as possible.
Bendtner thinks too much of himself and as such cannot take responsibility for his actions and will not be able to improve as a player. While players used to have to prove that they are world class and can turn a game on their own, Bendtner merely claims to be world class. And although he did turn a couple of games on his own, they weren't games against top teams.
A hat trick against Leyton Orient, impressive—if you play in the Orient's division—and his 61st minute rallying goal in the Carling Cup that spurred Arsenal on to beat Ipswich Town 3-1 on aggregate (3-0 on the day) decent, but certainly not world class. Had he have taken his late opportunity at the Nou Camp to put Arsenal ahead on away goals instead of buckling under the pressure and completely missing the ball, I would have said world class.
Replace Him With: Gervinho, Lille
It seems as though it's pretty much done, and it's not such a bad deal. The Ivory Coast international has been linked relentlessly with a move to The Emirates these past few weeks, and it looks as though finally a deal will be agreed and Arsenal will get their 2nd signing of the summer (Carl Jenkinnson from Charlton was first).
The forward played a vital part in helping Lille secure a domestic double, winning the league and the Coupe de France with 18 goals and 10 assists in 43 appearances. His shooting, strength and dribbling skills being his most valuable assets, Gervinho can play on the wing, as a second striker or even lead the line. He would also bring a winning mentality having known what it feels like to win after a successful 2010-2011 season.
Tomas Rosicky for Alou Diarra
"Little Mozart" has never been the same since his horrific run of injuries which kept him out of competitive football for 14 months, and unfortunately for Tomas and Arsenal, it may be time to call it a day and part ways.
I say unfortunately for Arsenal because I really liked Rosicky as a footballer; he always gave his utmost and never shirked a challenge, but then he got injured and his willingness to fight went with it.
His performances this season were sub-par and he was unable to influence any of the games he played. As such, he needs to move on and find a new challenge. Perhaps recapturing his technical skill in a less-physical league.
Replace Him With: Alou Diarra, Bordeaux
The French midfielder is strong in the air, on the ground, as a leader, defensively and has a "combative edge." The last French midfielder described this way was Patrick Vieira and he was brilliant.
He may not be a like for like replacement when it comes to Rosicky, but he would be perfect to bring into the club to shore up the midfield and bring in some much needed leadership. Diarra's plays with his heart on his sleeve and always gives 100 percent. His tenacity and willingness to always keep fighting would be perfect for the gunners as they don't have a player like this at the moment.
Manuel Almunia for Any Decent Goalkeeper
Manuel Almunia has overstayed his welcome at Ashburton Grove. It is time for Wenger to realise this and get rid of the dead weight in his squad.
The Spanish shot-stopper has never inspired confidence in his teammates or fans due to his pathetic decision making and his knack for just making silly mistakes.
Why did he charge out to meet the ball when we went to The Hawthorns when Squillaci could have cleared the ball much more easilly? I'll tell you why. Because Almunia is not a top division goalkeeper. His "lapses of concentration" would not be tolerated at a club chasing promotion from the championship, they certainly shouldn't be tolerated at a club chasing trophies! So why does he remain at Arsenal?
Replace Him With:
Maarten Stekelenburg, Ajax;
Sebastien Frey, Fiorentina;
Shay Given, Manchester City;
Hugo Lloris, Lyon
Andriy Pyatov, Shakhtar Donetsk;
Mark Schwarzer, Fulham
This is the order for which keeper I would most like to see between the sticks to least. Although any would be better than Almunia, and all would be more vocal and commanding than Fabianski. (I don't consider Szczesny to be the answer as he makes too many little mistakes, thinks far too highly of himself and he cost us the Carling Cup trophy (along with Koscielny—although it's the keepers job to call loud and clear for the ball).
Fabianski isn't an option right now, his injury last season means that the confidence he gained from playing well pre-January will take a fair few games at the top level to get back and any goalkeeper Arsenal bring in would be able to help develop both Fabianski and Szczesny for the future.
Arsenal need a goalkeeper who is more than just a good shot-stopper. They need a keeper who can organise the defenders and win games by making great decisions as opposed to the poor mistakes the fans have become accustomed to.
Players to Keep
Every year a number of first team players leave as soon as they hit their peak for big money, and this summer it is of vital importance that Wenger hang onto his stars.
Although his heart may be in Catalunya, his contract has him firmly in North London and Arsene must do everything he can to prevent losing his Captain. Cesc's performances last season may not have been vintage, but everyone knows he is world class and can turn a game on his own. Wenger simply needs to get Cesc into the right mindset for one more season with the club, and come next May, Cesc may be lifting trophies like his Catalan brothers.
The only defender of merit from last season's dismal campaign, Bacary Sagna has become hot property in Europe with Bayern Munich interested in acquiring the right back's services. A consistent member of the PFA Team of The Season, Sagna is a player Arsenal must hold on to.
Although disappointed by his flirtation with Manchester United, Nasri is an important part of the Arsenal squad.2010/11 proved to be his breakout season scoring and setting up goals at will before becoming burntout, and as such the French midfielder felt he deserved a larger cut of the wages bill. Whether he deserves the same money as Cesc isn't important, what is important is that Wenger opens up the club cheque book and signs off on raising the Frenchman's wages. It's better than losing him.
Although probably not going anywhere anyway, Arsenal must hold onto Wilshere for a long time. The young midfielder is a future captain for the club, and his performances are only going to get better. Arsenal must start winning trophies so that they can convince Jack that Arsenal is where he should stay—and hopefully become a Maldini style legend (one club man).
The Starting Lineup
Taking into account the changes I have proposed to the team, this is the starting lineup that I would pick for Arsenal if all transfers came to fruition.
Formation is a 4-2-3-1
Bacary Sagna Christopher Samba Thomas Vermaelen Jan Vertonghen
Alou Diarra Jack Wilshere
Samir Nasri Gervinho
Robin Van Persie
Fabianski, Djourou, Eboue, Ramsey, Song, Walcott, Arshavin