I'm looking at you, Mr Hazard
It amazes me sometimes that even in the midst of a fantastic run of results, Arsenal fans—myself included—continue to clamor for new signings.
And still, we're not satisfied.
On the subject of new signings, Arsene Wenger has often said that he will only buy a player if he's available at the right price and, more importantly, if he makes the team better, and it is this second point that deserves reiteration. Almost every player in world football is available at a price, but how many of those players will really make Arsenal a better team?
Let's take a quick look at each position, see who the incumbents are, decide whether we need reinforcements and then toss about a few names.
Ever since he broke into the Arsenal first XI, Wojciech Szczesny's stock has risen at a ridiculous rate. His talent, physical attributes and mental strength have combined to give him an aura that is fairly unprecedented for someone so young. Compare his presence to that of David De Gea and you'll see what I'm talking about.
As impressed as I have been with Szczesny, I am growing more concerned by the day with one fairly apparent weakness. In fact, it is becoming so conspicuous that I am surprised that the "experts" have not picked up on it. It is his susceptibility to long-distance shooting that I am referring to. Juan Mata's goal for Chelsea last Saturday was the seventh goal that Szczesny has conceded from outside the box from only 13 shots faced, in 10 Premier League games.
All things considered though, this is an area where we do not need a new signing in January, unless one Lukasz Fabianski decides that he needs more playing time.
Before we dissect and dismantle our defensive performances this season, let us get a couple of facts straight. Arsenal have thus far played 17 competitive games this season. Three of our first choice defenders, Thomas Vermaelen, Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna have started five, eight and ten games respectively. That's a combined 23 out of a possible 51 games between them. Even if we remove a combined six possible Carling Cup starts, that's 23 out of 46, or 50 percent.
Over the course of this season, there isn't another team in the Premiership that have played without three of their first choice back four in 50 percent of the games. That does put our performances into some perspective.
Fact number two: In our last nine games, Arsenal have conceded 10 goals. Over their past nine games, Chelsea and Manchester United have conceded 10 and 11 respectively. Surprised? Don't be, it's the nature of the league this year.
That being said, we do need defensive cover. Left to me, I would sign a strong central defender, definitely someone with Premier League experience. My first two choices are Phil Jagielka and Christopher Samba, with Rio Ferdinand (if fit) as my wild card. I have never been a big fan of Gary Cahill, and his performances this season have just strengthened my belief.
I'm talking about the three central midfielders here, and in this position, Arsenal currently have Alex Song, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Mikel Atreta, Abou Diaby (yes, he's still at the club), Tomas Rosicky, Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin. Andrey Arshavin and Yossi Benayoun can also attack through the middle.
I'm really liking the way Ramsey is shaping up. He's finally getting back to full fitness, and I believe he still has some way to go. Some of his passes in the last two games have been truly Cesc-like, and while he stresses that he would like to be his own man, the comparisons to our former skipper are inevitable.
And as for Wilshere, I think the experts have forgotten how good he really is. To borrow an occasionally irritating Wenger cliche, when Jack returns, he will be like a "new signing." Can't wait to see him and Rambo feature regularly in the center.
Bottom line: Nothing needed here.
Incumbents: Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott, Gervinho, Andrey Arshavin, Ju Young Park, Marouane Chamakh, Yossi Benayoun and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
I'm half-tempted to say that we're ok in this department too, but I'll resist. I do feel that if someone really good is available, Wenger should dip into his treasure trove and make a move in the market. And by really good, I'm talking Kaka, Mario Gotze or Eden Hazard.
How many signings must Arsene Wenger make in January?
I think Wenger may just have a chance to sign Hazard or Gotze, because as things stand, their respective teams—Lille and Dortmund—will not make it past the Champions League group stage. Kaka was the subject of some serious transfer rumors during pre-season, but his recent return to fitness and form have shown Jose Mourinho and the Real Madrid fans just how good he really is.
I understand the fears surrounding RvP's fitness, and our supposed lack of depth in the target man position. However, I believe that Park will score a few goals this season. In fact, I'm going to stick my neck out and predict double figures for the South Korean.
In conclusion, I think Arsenal will get stronger as the season progresses. In terms of fixtures, Manchester City (away in the League) looks like the only truly difficult game before the new year, by which time Wilshere, Sagna and Diaby will be back. And hopefully we won't make our mid-season signings at 10 p.m. on Jan. 31.
Thankfully, the clouds of doom and panic have lifted, partially at least, and we're focusing on the football—and the goals—yet again.
On the subject of transfers, here's a link that will bring smiles and frowns in equal numbers from the Arsenal faithful.
Repeat after me: "One Arsene Wenger, there's only one Arsene Wenger..."