Honestly, I’ve been thinking about writing this kind of post for a couple of weeks now, but Thierry Henry’s comments after the Chelsea game on Sky Sports got me to do it.
He said that Arsenal have to buy 4 players to win the league – a goalkeeper, a centre-back, a holding midfielder and a world class striker.
He then asked Carragher whether he thought Giroud was the kind of striker that you can win the league with and both agreed on a no.
Graeme Souness pinched in and said that they have to buy players, but that it’s about finding the right ones. He added that the foundation was there in the stadium, the city, the money and the football.
Now, if I remember correctly, for the first time in my life I agree with something Souness said as a pundit. It is very easy to sit in that chair (or in the stands) and say Arsenal have to buy this player and that player while in reality it is incredibly difficult to just buy a player.
I want to touch on a couple of things which I think are vital concerning the progression of Arsenal Football Club.
Firstly, in order to buy new players, we need to get rid of a couple of players.
For me Podolski, Diaby, Flamini, Sanogo, Campbell, Miyachi have to go.
I also think that Theo Walcott has to be sold because what he offers is not worth the money we would have to pay him on a new deal.
Arteta and Rosicky should be kept as experienced players that can do a job every once and a while.
On the goalkeeping front I do not think that David Ospina is good enough to be our number one. However I have kind of lost faith in Szczesny over the last couple of months. One of the two should be kept as number two and Emilliano Martinez could be number three.
That gets me to incoming players.
I don’t agree with Thierry Henry that we need a centre back. Gabriel has been very promising every time he has featured and I hope he will play alongside Koscielny next season. Mertesacker should be the third man and Callum Chambers the future prospect.
I agree that we need a new goalkeeper but as Souness said, it is about finding the right one. I don’t think that Petr Cech is a good choice because of his age. The first name that comes to my mind is Bernd Leno, but I don’t want to stretch this point.
I also agree with Henry that we need another holding midfielder. But unlike most Arsenal supporters I don’t think that we need to find Patrick Viera reborn. We need someone that is a very good passer of the ball and can build-up the play. Of course he also needs to have defensive qualities, but if you understand how to create the game you also know how to stop your opponents from playing. For me the most obvious target is Sami Khedira because his contract expires at the end of the season. Schneiderlin is another that would suit us very well.
As for the world class striker everyone keeps talking about. Of course I would love to us buy a world class striker (who wouldn’t???), but it’s simply unrealistic. The best strikers already play at the best clubs all across Europe and you can’t just prize them away, cause that’s not how transfer business works. (i.e. Agüero, Lewandowski, Benzema, Ibrahimovic, Costa, Suarez)
Also a striker has to fit into our playing style which Giroud obviously does quite well (by now).
To me it makes far more sense to buy more versatile players who can play up front, behind the striker or on the wing. I would rather see us go for players like Raheem Sterling, Pedro, Paulo Dybala or Roberto Firmino who are young (except for Pedro) but already have experience. They proved they can score and create goals and, most importantly, who fit our style of play.
This also brings me to my third point, which is tactical flexibility.
I believe that every good club should have their perfect system and game plan which they should try to impose on their opposition. BUT every club also needs to be very flexible tactically because your plan A doesn’t always work. There are a lot of different systems which have their advantages and disadvantages and we should be able to use them to our strength and adapt them to our opponents, which is why players that can play in 3 or 4 positions are key in the modern game.
In terms of general progression I find it rather difficult to judge from the outside, but concerning money I believe that the new TV deal and Champions League money will even the playing field for the big clubs. Meaning to attract new players you need to be able to offer more than just money. This is where Souness’ point fits perfectly. Arsenal is a global brand with one of the best stadiums in England, located in one of the best and most globalised cities in the entire world. We rightfully pride ourselves on the beautiful way we play and that we do everything with class. This package and the fact that we always play in the Champions League should be more than enough to attract sponsors, fans, new players and everything else that is needed to push us to the top.
My last point, which I am sad to make, is that it will be more and more difficult to integrate young players. Because of the general level that all of the top football clubs have reached only the very special young players will make it through. For others the road will always be to play for a lesser club first to gain valuable experience and to mature into a good player before at the age of 23 or older they will get their shot at the big club, like Thierry Henry himself.