While being linked to world-class talents like Edinson Cavani of Napoli, Marouane Fellaini of Everton and Radamel Falcao of Atletico is flattering, Wenger has stated on numerous occasions that he will not overspend in the transfer market.
“I totally agree with Cruyff (on not needing to splash out millions to win the Champions League – and I won’t change…I could have left 10 times to join another club but I didn’t because I have worked with the same vision and philosophy at Arsenal for the last 16 years — and that won’t change.”
“The game is not all about money. We have to continue to believe that it’s not only about that.”
Let me make it clear that I don’t buy the media hype surrounding all the players we’ve been linked to or any of the deals for these players being “as good as done”. If you’re convinced these deals are guaranteed to happen in January, let me remind you of past failures like Mata, Cahill, Ibrahimovic, Drogba, van Nistlerooy, Hazard, Pato, Ozil etc. I only approach the rumours with cautious optimism that Wenger recognizes our squad needs further strengthening to truly compete.
The following list is meant to be a comprehensive analysis of the abilities of some of the players we’ve been linked to. All scouting reports are based on games and individual film I’ve watched on each:
Isco – One of my favourite current footballers, the game seems to slow down when he is on the pitch. It seems as though there are endless possibilities for the Malaga starlet when the ball is at his feet; his first touch is sublime, he can dribble around you, take on 3 defenders, take a devastating curling shot or play give and go in the traditional Spanish way. In addition, he has a very good center of balance and pace reminiscent of Wilshere. Not only that, but Isco has the on-field awareness to know when a defender closes in on him when receiving a pass. He effectively turns or moves into space or creates a foul from the opposing player. Isco has the balance to stay on his feet and the pace to play out wide. He represents another option to offer our attack a more direct approach and has an eye for the final dangerous ball. His 2 goals, 2 assists, 2.5 key passes per game and average of 4.8 successful dribbles per game in 4 Champions League appearances are proof of his ability. His La Liga stats, while not as impressive as his CL ones, are still noteworthy for his age (20) and from a hybrid CAM/LW. 1 goal every 5 games, 1 assist every 15 games, and almost a shot on goal every game. His game still needs further refinement but there are no doubts in my mind that he’ll make a seamless transition if purchased, much like his Malaga counterpart that we bought this summer.
Rumoured transfer fee before wages and agent fee: £ 16.9million
Etienne Capoue – Arsenal are often criticized for lacking character and a fearless leader that can motivate and rally others. Wilshere can eventually be the unequivocal leader for us, but currently it’s too big of a burden to place on the shoulders of a 20 year old that just came back from a 16-month layoff. The 6’2 product from Toulouse represents everything Arsenal is sorely lacking: a presence who can strike fear in the hearts of the opposition, a no-nonsense tackler and prowls around the field until he gets the ball back. Naturally one would question if this breed of player would lack the required skill to play Arsenal football. However, Capoue can control the ball relatively well, makes the simple short passes and can run up field and link up with teammates. If acquired, he would represent the first purchase by Wenger to replace what Vieira was to this team (outside of his immense talent) – a player who could give vocal leadership and hold others accountable. The entire Arsenal squad has become complacent and a brittle level of confidence is plaguing the squad. Arsene has always been renowned as a passionate coach who encourages his players to express themselves on the pitch. What he’s missing is the link that can inspire others to push forward and to never give up. Despite not being known for his offence, Capoue’s statistics in Ligue 1 are quite impressive, registering 3 goals and 2 assists in 14 games this year. He was also named to Ligue 1’s team of the year in 2011-12. His 2011-12 statistics show that he conceded about two free kicks per game, but was only booked with 7 yellow cards and 1 red card over the year. It’s evident from watching him that Capoue is a hard tackler who is capable of shutting down the opposition’s skilled players. Combine all that with his 75.2% success rate in aerial battles and you have quite the talented holding midfielder. It’s not all good news though as Capoue needs further refinement in his offensive game and learn to be more effective with his passing (only a 76.5% pass completion rate).
Rumoured transfer fee before wages and agent fee: £ 10-15million
Jesus Navas – He was heavily linked with Arsenal in the summer transfer window but the whispers have been non-existent ever since. Navas is an orthodox right-winger and a true world-class talent. He has the pace to burn defenders out wide, the ball control to match his speed and supreme delivery both on crosses and passes the ground. He can finish if given the opportunity too and his style is very direct and does not need much space to produce extremely dangerous in-swinging balls (79 successful crosses last season alone). Being a Spanish international, his ability to play beautiful tiki taka football has been well documented and he’s firmly entrenched in Vicente del Bosque’s side. Over the past 4 seasons (2008/09-2011/12), Navas has established himself as one of the best distributors in the most technical league in the world with 45 assists. Of greater importance, he is rumoured to be high on Cazorla’s list of players that he hopes Wenger will pursue. Keeping our top players happy will help in retaining them for years to come. However, much like any other player, Navas isn’t without weaknesses. The greatest fear would lie outside of the pitch, where he has a history of struggling with homesickness, anxiety and seizures. He blocked a move to Chelsea in August 2006 and was only able to make his international debut for Spain in 2009 due to homesickness. On the bright side, he has taken measures to overcome this condition and has now traveled internationally with Spain and joined a US tour with Sevilla this pre-season. Other concerns would be his strength as he has a slight build and to be more clinical with his finishing. Due to Sevilla’s current financial situation, it is believed that the immensely talented winger could be had for a discount price despite holding a buy-out clause of £ 35million.
Rumoured transfer fee before wages and agent fee: £ 15-20million
Adrian Lopez – A player heavily scouted by Arsenal the past couple years, Adrian broke onto the scene with Atletico Madrid last year. He was especially impressive in their Europa League championship run with 10 goals and 2 assists in 15 appearances. Adrian is in a similar situation as Walcott, refusing to extend his contract, which currently has a £ 14.4million buyout clause. As a result, his playing time has suffered and he’s been a disappointment with only 1 goal in 6 La Liga starts. People are quick judge Adrian on his production this season, but it’s difficult to find form without any continuity in playing time. What Adrian does offer is incredible pace, is outstanding in the air, has great ball control and dribbling and is comfortable playing tiki taka thanks to his Spanish football development. In addition, he’s versatile enough to play anywhere up front whether as a striker or on the wing. Possible weaknesses include over dribbling and no prior history to suggest that he’s a clinical finisher. However, Adrian is considered to be a late bloomer who is only starting to realize his vast potential and has represented the mighty Spanish giants nationally at almost every level since the age of 16.
Rumoured transfer fee before wages and agent fee: £ 14.4million
Kevin Strootman – At 22 years of age, Strootman still has bags of potential and is a prototypical box-to-box midfielder. He’s versatile enough to play as a holding midfielder, but is at his best galloping up and down the pitch (similar style to Diaby) in order to capitalize on his blossoming offensive instincts. When watching him play, he has an elegance and flair that reminds you of a certain Dutchman who recently departed the Emirates, is left footed and even slightly resembles him in height and appearance. Just like van Judas, he shows bundles of emotion within reason and isn’t afraid to be in the thick of any battle on the pitch. Strootman is quite clinical for a midfielder, scoring 5 times for PSV Eindhoven this season in only 9 games (albeit in a less competitive Eredivisie). He’s quite physical and uses his strength to tackle the opposing team, maintain/create space and shield the ball from opposing players. He also would be able to offer Arsenal that vocal presence on the pitch and is not afraid to hold players accountable for their play. Strootman can also spray the ball all over the field and is comfortable with both short passes and those over the top long balls that we have sorely missed since Cesc’s departure. Downsides to Strootman’s game include inconsistent intensity, lack of defensive concentration and average acceleration/quickness. Despite having strong character, he is victim to drifting in and out of games and can get caught watching plays develop. The inconsistent intensity is especially evident in his approach to his defensive responsibilities. He often jogs back to his own end of the pitch and can be accused of lazy, mistimed tackles that result in him being out of position. His ability to read opponents’ movements and break up plays could also stand to improve. Strootman has a very powerful running style and once he gets going is difficult to catch up with, but he still lacks the acceleration and quickness you’d like to see from a top end midfielder. He is definitely not a finished article and would need some seasoning (especially his speed) before he could comfortably adapt to the EPL.
Rumoured transfer fee before wages and agent fee: £ 20million
Remy Cabella – All you need to know about Cabella is that Pires is a big fan of the young lad and believes that Cabella is just like Wenger’s summer signing, Santi Cazorla. Much like Santi being forced out wide due to circumstance at Malaga, Cabella’s long-term calling will not be as a right mid, but be centrally as an attacking midfielder. Cabella is a small technical player who is very quick and adept at creating space. Evident in our Champions League clashes vs. Montpellier, Cabella displayed great touch, remarkable ball control and dribbling, decent crossing ability and the confidence to shoot from distance. His ability to execute at top speed is very important since fast players have a tough time making important decisions at top speed. Cabella caused problems for us in both games down the right side and really spread out our defense with Podolski constantly needing to track back to support Gibbs when he was in possession of the ball. He is currently tied atop Montpellier’s scoring leaders with 5 goals in 16 games and leads the team with 4 assists. There’s also the added bonus that he played with Giroud during Montpellier’s title run last season and is only 22 years of age.
Rumoured transfer fee before wages and agent fee: £ 5-10million
Hatem Ben Arfa – A player renowned for his flair and ability to take on defenders in tight spaces, Ben Arfa is also capable of producing some beautiful crosses, score from range and can occasionally play some deadly long balls. Last season, he finally turned the corner on his career after being out of action for 11 months with a broken tibia and fibula, in addition to a surgery that was not allowing his shin to heal properly. This season was supposed to see Newcastle and Ben Arfa establish themselves among the Premier League’s top 6 clubs again, but they have seriously regressed. Whether it be because of the drain the Europa league schedule has had on the squad, injuries or Pardew’s stale tactics, it’s clear that Newcastle is in need of change. HBA is most effective when played slightly more centrally, where he can harness his creativity and link up with teammates. Currently, Pardew has Ben Arfa playing out too far wide on the right in a 4-4-2, limiting his effectiveness and offensive production. In a 4-3-3, HBA is much more effective on the RW and can cut into the middle on his left and produce dangerous opportunities on goal. He’s the type of talent that can truly create something special out of nothing, but realizing his full potential is hindered by his selfish attitude and penchant for over dribbling. He’s certainly grown as an individual since joining Newcastle, but glimpses of his poor attitude occasionally resurface (issues were well documented with the French national team this past summer). In terms of his over dribbling, he often takes it upon himself to try and change the outcome of a game; in the process leaves teammates frustrated wondering why he never passed the ball to them when they were wide open.
Rumoured transfer fee before wages and agent fee: £ 20million
Demba Ba – The Senegalese striker has been quite prolific his whole career and has continued to prove his worth since joining Newcastle in 2011. 16 goals in 32 games last season and 10 goals in 16 games this year are impressive in such a competitive league. Much like Ben Arfa, Ba’s success is dependent on the formation that Pardew uses. Ba is most productive as a lone striker leading the line and this was evident when Papiss Cisse joined Newcastle in the January transfer window last year; Ba only scored 1 goal after his arrival and was pushed out to the LW. Ba has great power and strength, is an aerial threat, has good ball control and is a great finisher. At 6’2, he’s got decent pace but could stand to have better acceleration. He doesn’t offer versatility in attack and needs good delivery from the wings and midfield to score goals. Despite needing delivery, Ba can link up well with teammates to create space for himself to shoot.
Rumoured transfer fee before wages and agent fee: £ 7.5million
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar – (already analyzed in previous article, “Beckham, Huntelaar, Strootman and the 4-4-2 show can truly begin”)
Rumoured transfer fee before wages and agent fee: between £ 5-10million
Wilfried Zaha – (already analyzed in previous article “Wilfried Zaha: Arsenal’s Missing Link is Holloway’s Precious”)
Rumoured transfer fee before wages and agent fee: £ 18million
It’s difficult to choose exactly whom I think Wenger should buy in January, as adaptation to the English game and Arsenal’s system is unpredictable. However, I am convinced that any world-class talent should succeed in any environment. With that said, I believe Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Jesus Navas (homesick free) would be the ideal additions. Arsenal currently has many quality talents, but is lacking game changers of top quality outside of Cazorla and Wilshere. Huntelaar would provide the clinical finishing that we’ve been sorely lacking this year and allow Santi to be more confident in expressing his creative instincts. At 29 years of age, Huntelaar is in the prime of his career and should not be seen as a long-term replacement threat to Giroud. He can act as a mentor for Giroud and give him more time to adapt to the English game. Giroud will still get all the Champions League starts given that Huntelaar cannot represent any other team after already appearing for Schalke in the tournament. The dream acquisition of Jesus Navas should be straightforward. A winger who can produce deadly crosses, has pace, ball control and a direct style of play are in dire need at Arsenal. The right side would be so tantalizing with the link up play and innate understanding of movement between Cazorla, Arteta and Navas. He’s also an extraordinary distributor, which would only see Giroud, Podolski and Huntelaar (in my scenario) benefit even further.
Another missing element in this team is a destroyer in the midfield who is fearless and brings leadership, heart and “spine”.
Etienne Capoue would certainly appear to be the ideal solution, but I’m not convinced he’s the type of top quality player Wenger will be looking to buy in January. However, if Wenger opted to beef up his midfield with such a player, I would not be opposed to the move in any way.
Any quality reinforcements would be an improvement over players like Chamakh, Santos, Squillaci, and Ramsey etc. and should be welcomed at this point.
Of the aforementioned transfer targets whom would you identify as the suitable option(s) to right the ship? Can of any them improve our team’s current output? Are there any other realistic targets you’d like Arsenal to buy?
Written by: The Gooner.