Arsenal are a club in crisis.
I guess I was in denial for a while, but even the most ardent Gooner can’t hide from the bitter truth any longer.
After a fourth league defeat in only seven league games—three of them to potential “title rivals” (can I even say that any more?)—we find ourselves languishing in the now-familiar climes of 15th place in the Premier League table.
Our goal difference, once a pace-setter irrespective of our league position, is yet to venture into positive territory this season. Our defense, even past the George Graham and "Invincibles" eras, was one of the most water-tight in the League.
Now it is handing out Christmas gifts three months early.
More than the points, the defeats and the goals conceded, it is the pall of gloom that has spread through the playing squad, the staff and the fans, that I find most worrisome. Be it point-blank misses, goals conceded or injuries suffered, there seems to be an air of inevitability about every setback. There's almost a sense of reluctance among some quarters to fight this rampaging epidemic.
Arsene Wenger surprised many by signing nine players during the summer transfer window. He went against both precedent and his so-called “principles” by signing a number of experienced players, creating a real flutter on transfer deadline day.
In fairness, none of these players have set the league on fire.
Additionally, two of his most important players, Jack Wilshere and Thomas Vermaelen, have missed most of the season due to injury. Bacary Sagna, another defensive lynchpin, now joins them on a three-month injury-induced sabbatical. Abou Diaby, a player of whom much has been expected, is now Arsenal’s forgotten man due to a litany of injuries since he broke his leg at Sunderland five years ago. Nobody even asks about him any more.
And they aren’t the only ones. If I’m not wrong, Arsenal have averaged six to eight injured players for this entire season, which means players like Francis Coquelin, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Carl Jenkinson have had far more playing time than anyone might have expected, or their fledgling careers have deserved.
So even though we have as large a squad as any top Premier League team, is it time for Arsene Wenger to dip into his transfer chest once again? What type of player should he target in January 2012? Who may be available then? And crucially, will it be too late?
In my opinion, this Arsenal squad needs a bit of freshening-up. And a shake-up. They need two or three players of proven pedigree, some who know what it takes to win and players who can bring a winning mentality to the squad.
I’ve put together a list of 10 players I believe Arsene Wenger should look at. These are players who Arsenal may realistically be able to sign.
Wonderful as they may be, if you’re looking for Messi, Ronaldo, Xavi, Ribery, Vidic, Rooney and Aguero on this list, you’re going to be disappointed.
As much as the thought of signing anyone from Manchester United is revolting, more so someone who has had a somewhat suspect off-field past, bringing Rio Ferdinand to the Emirates Stadium might not be the worst thing Arsene Wenger has ever done.
Out of favor with both United and England, Ferdinand will be looking for some much-needed match time to convince Fabio Capello to take him to Poland and Ukraine for Euro 2012.
His record stacks up favorably against that of any defender in the modern game. He has heaps of experience, is a leader and an organizer. He knows how to win and more importantly, he knows how to make others around him win.
He has all the qualities that Arsenal are looking for.
He will be cup-tied for Europe, but that isn't where we need defensive cover. We've conceded three goals in four European games. But a partnership of Ferdinand and Thomas Vermaelen at the heart of Arsenal's defense in the Premier League sounds really good.
For the time being, he might be the answer to our never-ending defensive problems.
Phil Jagielka makes this shortlist as my second defensive pick. I know most Arsenal fans would have gone for Gary Cahill, but I prefer the Everton man.
First and foremost, I believe he is a better all-around defender than Cahill. Secondly, he is much closer to what Arsenal need. He has much more experience and can therefore add some leadership to the Arsenal rearguard.
He has also played for a better team than Cahill has, so he will make the transition to Arsenal more easily. Jagielka also has a bit of a street-fighter in him and Arsenal need that at the moment.
Arsene Wenger has been a Jagielka admirer for quite some time now; he even tried to sign him during the summer transfer window.
Mr. Wenger, now is the time to cough up the extra quid and make him an Arsenal player.
Yet another eyebrow-raiser, I'm sure.
If you haven't spotted the pattern yet, what I'm suggesting is that Arsenal sign defensive players who are not just experienced, but who have Premiership pedigree. Lassana Diarra has been around the block a few times now, and his stints with Chelsea, Arsenal, Portsmouth and Real Madrid have made him an outstanding holding midfielder.
I know that critics will point out his attitude problems over the years, but I believe he has matured now. He has slipped below Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira in the pecking order at Madrid, so he will be desperate to make his mark again.
At the risk of repeating myself, he is an outstanding defensive midfielder who, in fairness, has unfinished business at Arsenal.
If nothing else, bringing Diarra to Arsenal will put an end to us watching someone running around a football field with "Lass" written on his shirt.
I'm really losing it now, aren't I?
Another former Arsenal holding midfielder; a mercenary, too, who left Arsenal on a free transfer after Arsene Wenger gave him much more support and and many more opportunities than his early performances deserved.
I agree with all that. Facts are facts.
But in his last two seasons, Mathieu Flamini contributed as much to the Arsenal cause as any other player. As a left back in the 2005-06 season, then as a holding midfielder along side Cesc Fabregas in his last year, Flamini did more than what was asked of him. He was stupid to go to AC Milan for lots of money, but haven't we all done the same thing at some point?
The bottom line is that Flamini is a player of proven quality. He knows the Premier League and he has been out of favor at AC Milan, so he may well be available.
Definitely worth burying the hatchet and signing him up.
Mesut Ozil, the German playmaker, came into his own during the World Cup in South Africa.
Previously unheralded, he was part of Germany's brave new generation, who created a sensation with consecutive 4-1 victories over England and Argentina. Things really took off for the German after that. Signed by Real Madrid, he suddenly found himself at football's top table, rubbing shoulders with the sport's elite.
In his first season at Madrid, the absence of Kaka due to form and fitness issues made Ozil an automatic starter. Confident of his place in the team, the German produced a string of dazzling performances.
This season, a fit and resurgent Kaka is slowly but surely reclaiming his status as one of the world's premier attacking players. Ozil has found himself pushed down the pecking order and has cut a forlorn figure on Madrid's bench.
He too will be looking for playing time to ensure a starting place for Germany, more so given the sparkling form of the new German wunderkind, Mario Gotze.
Like the case of Rio Ferdinand, Arsenal and Ozil may be a match made in heaven.
Wesley Sneijder is my wild card on this list.
Signing him seems like a tall order, but there are a couple of reasons why this move can happen.
Firstly, Sneijder is not a fixture at Inter Milan. There was every likelihood that he would leave for Manchester United in the summer, but his wage demands scuppered the deal.
I do believe that he may still be wanting out, especially given Inter's start to the season, their decision to sell Samuel Eto'o and the appointment of Claudio Ranieri as manager. Say what you like; since losing Jose Mourinho, Inter have definitely gone south in the managerial department.
Secondly, Arsenal need him to replace Cesc Fabregas. In fact, if I were to choose two positions where Arsenal need reinforcements, they would be in central defense and central midfield. While he may not be a like-for-like replacement, Sneijder is definitely as good an all-around player as Cesc, if not better. He can produce that bit of magic that we have lacked all season.
I have no answer to how his present wage demands will be met, but I'm hoping he sees sense and settles for a mere £100 thousand a week.
Eden Hazard was another player linked with Arsenal all summer, with nothing materializing at the end.
Hazard was in sparkling form for French club Lille last season and he has begun this term in even better form, racking up a number of goals and assists already.
With the rapid demise of Andrey Arshavin as a creative contributor, Arsenal need freshening up in the wide areas of midfield.
Hazard is just the man for the task.
Largely unheard of, Renato Augusto made headlines on transfer deadline day when it was rumored that he was having a medical at Arsenal.
Sadly, nothing came of it.
The Bayer Leverkusen attacking midfielder is a product of Flamengo's youth academy and has spent the past three seasons in Germany. He also has three caps for Brazil. Augusto is normally a right-sided midfielder, but has also played with success in the "hole," just behind the main striker.
And if you're looking for evidence of his burgeoning talent, look no further...
This is also a somewhat outlandish possibility, but Neymar is the kind of signing that Arsenal need to look at if they are to restore their status as one of the game's elite.
Based on all the stories doing the rounds, it seems certain that Neymar will leave his current club Santos at the end of the season.
It also appears as if he will join Real Madrid, but the names of Barcelona, Chelsea, PSG and Manchester City have also been mentioned.
It is obvious that his agent will be keen to engineer a massive bidding war to increase his own pound of flesh. From a psychological standpoint, if Arsenal can sign a player of his caliber in the face of extreme competition, it will give the team a massive lift.
And he isn't such a bad player either...
You certainly didn't expect this one, did you?
I am a massive believer in the quality of the great Dane. The criticism leveled against him has been grossly unfair. His goals-to-starts ratio is as good as anyone's. And if given a chance, he is definitely a 15-20 goals a season striker.
He is still an Arsenal player.
So why not?