As I’ve been falling into a football-less vortex that is the remained of the summer. I’ve wondered about our squad and what it would actually need to challenge for the title. You know, a proper challenge, one that goes to the last day and ends with us flooding the Islington streets [or insert drinking hole of choice] with joy.
The gist of the summer so far: Arsène said going into it, he would sign “two or three” depending on the departures we had. The first to officially go was Lukasz Fabianski, the re-born again keeper signed for Swansea after his contract was up. I have to say I wasn’t sad to see him go and as he came hurtling out of his goal against Hull, it was a stark reminder of what he was all about. If you close your eyes for a second and just listen, you can hear the Wembley tuff scream “WHAT ARE YOU DOING… ITS BEEN 9 YEARS!”.
Typically I start writing a blog and it quickly becomes irrelevant, so I have to scrabble to change it. I start babbling about rumours and what does Ivan Gazidis do? Makes me look foolish and continues working on his A-game.
‘We’ve signed David Ospina’ *Deletes chunk from blog*
I have to be honest I hadn’t seen Ospina play prior to The World Cup. Something instantly stood out though – his pace. Maybe pace is the wrong word; speed or anticipation might be more relevant. He was very quick off his line. There’s always the risk he could find himself stranded in no-mans-land. He’ll have to learn very quickly about timing his charges.
He pulled off a few ‘impossible’ saves, unsighted, which just seemed out of his reach. He also appeared to have very good control over his box and handled crosses very well. Reading a few articles and seeing some stats, Ospina played behind a defence that was very unpredictable last season. As we saw from Fabianski last year, our improved defence helped him build his confidence.
Next to leave – Manchester City bound Bacary Sagna. Our long-standing fullback has been replaced with his French international counter-part Mathieu Debuchy from Newcastle. I think he’s a solid piece of business, with the fee believed to be around £10m. A few other players where mentioned but the Frenchman fits the bill for our current need. I do have to add this caveat though: I think we will quickly realise how important the modern full-back is and how rare quality full-backs are available…
As things stand, Thomas Vermaelen seems to be the only big name that could actually be sold by the club. A few rumours of Cazorla and Monreal to Atletico Madrid, and Podolski to the Bermuda Triangle. But with Madrid looking set to sign Antonne Griezmann I think that would right off their interest in Santi. Anyway, I want my cake and I want to eat every last bit this season (I want everyone to stay). Anyway, Vermaelen seems to have an air of inevitability about his departure from the club and Man United seems like it will be his eventual destination. My Arsenal concern of the week all stems from him and our defence. With the stink possibility of only having two (proper) centre halves at the club. To concern me a little more, Arsène said this at his press conference in New York: “I don’t think our German players will be ready for the first game of the season…” Reporter: “All 3″. Arsène: “All 3″. Erm… *looks blankly around the room* anyone got their boots?
The knock-on effects from Sagna’s departure will bring more issues for the squad than first anticipated. His versatility has come in more than handy to say the least. We managed to get away with not needing a fourth choice centre-back last season because Sagna was able to step in when required. What I’m trying to say is: No way, I so no way, it would be crazy, to sell Thomas Vermaelen before the season is underway (unless someone is brought in of course). We have the Community Shield and a Champions League qualifier to contend with. A scary thought for everyone *squeezes whiskey bottle* I think Miquel might just get another lifeline, until January anyway, just because of the circumstances.
So with all the outgoings covered, now the fun bit. The equivalent of football crack, the incomings. If anyone is a French cryptic mind-reader that would be great. Did Arsène mean two or three if Sagna and Fabianski stayed, or was it two or three if they went? I had thoughts and expectations before this all kicked off – I hoped for three. A keeper, a right-back and some sort of forward. Arsène threw a cat amongst the pigeons, by completely blowing our minds and signing Alexis Sanchez very early on. I could wax lyrical about the impact on the club he will have. I went on the stadium tour a few weeks ago and I took my brother-in-law (he’s nine) I bought him a shirt and he wanted Alexis, 17 on the back of it. Standing in the (very tedious) queue and pretty much everyone wanted Alexis. The guy printing said they sold roughly 150 Alexis shirts on the first day The Armoury opened. Never mind all that, he’s very, very good at football and his ability to run really fast and kick the ball in the net is outstanding.
Making two very good additions, very early on. Arsène has opened the gates to the chocolate factory and made me dream. But he has also left the window tittering on the balance of being good, with the strong hint of marvellous-ness.
In the last few days we’ve seen the rumours of Calum Chambers from Southampton escalate very quickly. (By the time you’ve read this we’ve probably signed him) The rumoured fee is being touted at £16m – I imagine that’s bonuses, Games played etc etc. So the initial outlay won’t be that much and don’t take your guff hat off just yet. It’s believed Carl Jenkinson and Serge Gnabry will move in the other direction as a loan for the rest of the season. It’s very promising to see Arsène still using the money wisely. A window wouldn’t be a window unless a promising young-gun was signed up.
So…once a goalie is signed, will that be our lot? More importantly, is that enough?
To be honest, I’ve since had hopes for more. MORE.. Like I said, football crack.
I suppose on the back of last season the obvious places our squad need(ed) improvement was defensive midfield and up front. I suppose I should drop the token gesture of Mikel Arteta and Olivier Giroud ability as they have both really impressive. We were a proper mess before Arteta arrived, he’s been a God send considering our situation. The flip side of that gesture is their limitations. So a shinning new Arteta type midfielder [Insert description of choice, you may have your fingers burnt] would be superb. I feel like Arsène sees that as a luxury signing because we have ‘options’ – Mikel and Flamini. I do believe Arsène will search for players. He always does. I just think he will search high and low for a bargain, therefore making us missing out. Before you say anything. I’ve got the t-shirt, I own the drum, a tattoo and all the cards for a new midfielder. I do feel like that’s the piece we need to be a success at the tip top level. Whether it will happen is a completely different story.
So that’s four positions covered by Arsène: Goalkeeper: Opsina. A right-back: Debuchy. Right-back cover, Centre-back cover, Utility: Chambers. A Forward: Sanchez. So for me the only glaring hole is still centre half. If Arsène can conjure up some kind of midfielder, come centre back option. I.e. Javi Martinez. I’d be laughing haversacks. Versatile players keep the squad to a minimum, which Arsène is always keen to do. He likes a calm, hassle free environment. Versatile players have a much wider skill-set. An ideal example is Daley Blind. Played several roles for the Netherlands at the World Cup and always looked comfortable. More the all round attributes, better the ability to play several positions to a high standard.
I’ve heard, and seen very promising things about Chambers, (I hope he’s bloody marvellous). But i think he will be Jenkinson’s replacement and centre half will be a long-term thing,
Our squad may look something like this.
Szczesny – Opsina
Debuchy – Chambers
Mertesacker – (Chambers?)
Koscielny – Vermaelen
Gibbs – Monreal
Ramsey – Wilshere
Arteta – Flamini
Walcott – Sanchez, Chamberlain
Ozil – Rosicky
Cazorla – Podolski
Giroud – Sanchez, Sanogo, Walcott
**Gnabry and Jenkinson on Loan**
** I left Sanchez out of the starting XI because I don’t what formation Arsène will start with and who will drop out. A simple exercise on numbers and options we have**
Ideally I’d like two more added to the squad, or if he’s clever, just one. If he can do that, I’d feel really comfortable to say we can challenge on all fronts. Something feels really special about this squad. I don’t know if it’s because in revitalised because if the cup win or the signing of Sanchez, but we are on to something here.
Let’s hope Arsène springs another surprise in the coming weeks.
Cheers for reading,