What if Arsenal bought nobody this season?
I know this is sacrilege to the transfer horny hordes out there, but it is a necessary question to ask in my opinion. The paint on the old season has not even dried and everybody is talking greedily about the players we need to buy – and I have been as guilty as anybody. We all feel we have £70m+ burning in our holsters! 🙂
Yet, I feel there is not enough recognition for the incredible feat our boys have achieved since our painful loss against the Spuddies.
Winning the last five away games in a row is worthy of high praise, and so is winning eight of the last ten games. Add to this our five clean sheets (six including Bayern away) and conceding only five goals in 10 PL games, and we can only say that our boys have done us proud to fight back with all they had after the derby defeat.
The key question we have to ask is whether we can, and should, build further on this team.
To do this properly, let’s assume nobody is going to be signed in the summer, so we can analyse the strength as well the potential in this team going forward. For good order, and to avoid the nutbums to come on to the blog in hordes, I am not saying we should not buy anybody this season.
In three separate posts, I am going to look at the areas of GK/defence, midfield and attack.
Our defence has improved from last season, conceding 37 goals compared to 49 a year ago. Yet, we know that, except for the last ten games, they have been inconsistent: often conceding unnecessarily and early on in games, after which the team is faced with big mountains to climb. In the crucial one to one matches with our nearest rivals, our defence has not been good enough, especially in the first halves of our encounters with them.
It would be wrong to put all the blame on Vermaelen, as everybody in our defence has made costly mistakes this season. It is also fair to say that as a unit they were not provided with enough protection, and the switch towards a more conservative double-DM formation in which Ramsey and Arteta were ordered to stay tightly together and focus first and for all on their defensive duties, rather than venturing forward constantly, has made a big difference.
I feel the biggest problem for Vermaelen was his inability to combine the leadership duties, both of the defence AND the team as a whole, with performing his own CB duties to a high level of concentration and execution. He failed in this, and many of us could see from quite early on that Vermaelen was not made for the captaincy.
Other than instructing Ramsey to play more conservatively and closer to Arteta, the pivotal decision in turning this season round has to be the benching of the Lion of Flanders. It allowed the BFG to become the organiser/leader of defence and Arteta to take on the leadership responsibilities of the whole team.
I love TV5, and really hope he is going to stay put, and fight for his place. But this cannot be as our captain, and he will have to work very hard to dislodge the more and more solid CB-pairing of BFG and Koz.
There are some vague rumours that TV will leave this summer, but if we want to consolidate the newly found strength of our defence, Arsene needs to do everything to keep him. One injury to either Koz or BFG, and TV gets another chance to work himself back into the team. We need at least one quality, experienced CB on the bench, and TV would be ideal for this. The question is whether he would be happy to accept this scenario…
With Squillaci surely leaving now and Djourou probably not returning to the squad after the summer, there should now be a chance for Miquel. He is a very stylish player who lacks experience, and I would love to see him get first team games next season. We also now know that Sagna can play centrally, and so we should have both two experienced – Vermaelen and Sagna – and a talented option to cover for the CB positions. However, this does mean we need to hold on to both the Belgian and Frenchman, and if we don’t, we need to replace them as we need to keep a certain level of experience within back four.
Our current CB-pair of BFG and Koz is a combination of the tall and stable organiser type with the ‘first-soldier’, highly energetic type of CB. I reckon in TV and also Sagna we have more than decent replacement for the first-soldier type CB, but we do not have another ‘organiser’ type, ready to slot in.
I believe that Miquel has great potential for this, but he would not be adequate cover (yet) if and when the BFG is out for a long period. Perhaps Koz can be turned into this type but I am not entirely sure whether this would benefit us much. TV is not that type and neither is Sagna, so this is an area Wenger might have to look at.
We are likely to see an enormous ‘Battle of the FB’s’ next season, as Sagna and Jenkinson will compete for the RB position and Gibbs and Nacho for the LB position. It is fantastic that we have two good players for each position, and only if Sagna were to leave would we need to find experienced cover – and that is why I believe Arsene will not let the Frenchman go: what would be the point?
It might also be time to promote Nico Yennaris, who can play in midfield but also as a FB. It would allow us to use Sagna more regularly as a CB – especially in the domestic cup games – and give both Jenkinson and him a break now and again.
I reckon Szczesny has done enough to convince Wenger he is still our nr.1 with a number of good performances since he returned to the first team. The key issue remains whether we have good enough back up in case the’ Pole in Goal’ gets injured, suspended or suffers a huge drop in form. Mannone and Fabianski both had stints in the first team and both did relatively very well.
But I still think this is the one area were Arsene might invest a bit of money to bring in a PL-experienced goalkeeper. However, if he decides not to then the risk would be relatively low.
So all in all, our defence is looking pretty good and if we keep everybody there is no urgent need to bring in new players.
Written by: TotalArsenal.
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