The Three Steps to Become Title Contenders

Alexis and Giroud are of vital importance.... do we have adequate cover, though?
Alexis and Giroud are of vital importance…. do we have adequate cover, though?

So the season is over and we are basking in the glory of another FA cup, a prize won by Arsenal more than any other club. The difference between Arsenal’s victories in the two cup finals could not have been much bigger. The first one was nervy and needed a mighty turnaround, but the last one was very professional, with clear signs that Arsene is getting nearer to his next established top team. We are strong in all areas and we have a squad of players with individual growth potential: so many are likely to make further progress next season. Ozil, Rambo, Jack, Alexis, Theo, Gibbs, Bellerin, Ollie, Coquelin, Ox, Welbeck, Szczesny and a few others: all are likely to become stronger and sharper. But key will be to give them plenty of opportunity to play and not to stifle them with buying too many new top players.

Arsene will have to decide what to do next: allow for intrinsic progress of these talented players, add established top quality players, or a mixture of both. He has money in his pockets and the fans like to spend, spend, spend, so the temptation is there, but is it the best thing to do for the team? The combination of recent successes – FA Cup and straight qualification for CL football – would suggest to opt for building further on what we have. If either Jack, Welbeck or Ox have a Ramboesque breakthrough season, and the rest make a step improvement, we can win the league without having to buy any more players. But of course, this could also backfire; it is not without risk…

BFG, Cech, Koz, Santi, Nacho, Rosa, Flamini and Debuchy can be the experienced players to give us stability and backbone.

For me, three things are key to make further progress:

Firstly, we need more goals from midfield. We need more from Jack, Santi and Mesut and the question is whether we have enough fire power with these three. Rambo, fit and in form, will get goals; Jack has made progress but has been injured too long to make a proper judgement, and Mesut still needs to find a better balance between being an enabler and finisher. With Ollie in the holding striker role, we have been over reliant on Alexis to benefit from his services. We will need a better spread of goals throughout the team.

Secondly, Theo’s long absence has not helped here, but it looks like Arsene does not want to play him on the right anymore. Walcott is not strong enough defensively and looks like the ideal Plan B striker next season. This, in my opinion, is the spot Ox should be claiming, but a mixture of defensive frailties and lack of goals are not helping. I love the guy but am not sure whether he will make it: he really needs to make a step improvement next season.

Thirdly, we need to be able to bounce back straightaway if and when key players, like Giroud, Ozil, Alexis, Coquelin, Cech and Rambo get injured. I reckon we have quality cover in the team for most of these players but especially up front we are vulnerable to injuries to Alexis and Giroud, and many of us will argue that an injury to Coquelin will also leave us exposed.

So, there you go fine fellow Gooners, which three steps do we need to take to make us proper title contenders next season?

By TotalArsenal.

29 thoughts on “The Three Steps to Become Title Contenders

  • Good morning TA – From last night: Yes, I am doing the Don McLean thing ‘fighting my insanity’
    I am hoping my headache will stay away long enough to write something on your post, otherwise I will try after the dog walk.

    I think your three themes are are right, but I might disagree with your first premise, in that new signings will necessarily hinder growth.
    Take Cech for example. I think he will do wonders for Szczesney, if he accepts he is still on a learning curve. Cech may think he can carry on until 40, but I give him two seasons tops, before WS2 becomes a serious challenger.
    I think of the others as being similar. Take Welbeck for example; if we sign a top class striker he could learn a lot. It might also expose any inherent weakness, but that is true of all those waiting to have a breakthrough season?
    Midfield is where it gets complicated because we have many who can play a similar, but different role, so to add to that would spell the end for somebody I think. For that reason, I think AW is reluctant to go for Vidal? I also don’t see him still in for Schneiderlin if he actually ‘chose’ United over us? Ideally, I think he is waiting for them (UTD) to buy first so he can get a clear run at whoever?
    But the type of player is one that can cover for injury to Coquelin, because he is one of the three players you name as being indispensable if we stick with what we have. I am hoping that WC is another blind, that is keeping our real target safe. But if we get a quality DM, both Coquelin and Bielik can benefit. Although it would squeeze the other positions if he played alongside either?

    My ‘bonus buy’, to borrow the phrase, will always be a pacey wide player who is flexible to play anywhere across the front line. This is because I think we need cover for another from your short list – ALEXIS.

    I don’t believe there is anybody who can take on that role as an individual? Collectively, we might survive short term. But the fact is, he may miss a good chunk of the early season, just so we have him for the rest of the season.

    The other thing we have not touched on, is just how many of those experienced player may yet move on? Arteta for one, has not signed an extension to his contract? Now whilst I do not see him playing a major role on the field this season, I do think as an assistant coach he could be extremely useful. I think he is a voice that Arsene might just listen to?

    Otherwise I think we are well covered. If Jack is to fulfil his potential I think it will be rotating with Ozil. This will emphasise the need for a wide player though, as we do not need any more heading for the middle.
    Cazorla could be covered Coquelin if a DM is taking over tackling duties. I think people have forgotten his major strength as a youngster was his passing range. He has sacrificed that this past season, but I think it is a mistake to just label him as a DM.
    Ramsey too, could operate here, but with a different style, as could the OX. Indeed, in some games Zelalem could be an ace to surprise all?

    This could go on through the rest of the squad, with just the three areas of cover I have named above. Of course, quality signings would probably expect to play most games, despite the ones that they could cover for. That is where rotation is needed to maintain unity.
    Not easy!


  • Good post T A getting the grey matter thinking. What I find encouraging is in previous seasons we have had huge shopping lists and invariably never start the season with a fully rounded squad. This year feels different, Cech was a huge signing and I would like to see cover for Le Coq. Note I say cover, not a replacement. He did so well last season I see no reason to spend a fortune and put him on the bench. Other than that I think we are pretty close.

  • Gerry, I like the approach of having two class options in every position. In our back five we are well covered, and in the midfield two we have Coquelin, Ramsey, Cazorla and Jack. All players who can make a tackle, win the ball and start a fast attacking break against a park the bus team.

    Up front we may just be a little short.

    Number one problem is that Ozil is absolutely indispensable, and to me if we have one player in the squad who could take his place it is Zelalem. This season I would really like to see us give Zelalem game time enough for him to be a credible first-team option. No loans please.

    Number two problem is at centre-forward where we need a back-up and/or alternative to Giroud. Theo looks a good option up there, but he’s not the type of player who will be available for 50 games a year. It’s here we might need a proven striker to contribute goals and support the likes of Welbeck and Akpom, and if it were me I would be looking to bring in

    I honestly think that’s all we need. That plus bringing in some young players for the future, and having watched the U-20 World Cup I really like the look of Serbia goalkeeper Rajkovic and Ghana defender Ntim, who plays in France, can play across the whole backline and has Te pace and timing of Ashley Cole at his brilliant best.

    Unusual year this in that we have such a nearly complete squad. We could win this league!

  • I’d be looking to bring in that pack Lyon forward Lacazette – the French Ian Wright!

  • I was pleased when I read that Diaby might get a late career chance in the MLS, I hope that comes off.
    I am also chuffed that Ormonde-Ottewill has got himself a deal at Swindon. I have been a fan of ‘B54’, and it was very unfortunate to get an injury in his final year, and never had much chance to impress. his style of attacking FB should suit Swindon well. I wish him all the best.

    Talking of LB’s, this Ghana player being linked with us, I can tell you he is very very good … if we are looking for a LB? He is not the first for that position that has been linked, so they may be getting in a replacement before somebody moves out? Augsburg were the team I watched regularly in the Bundesliga, and this guy is right in the Gibbs mold. Up and down the touch line all day, and at speed. Only thing against him is the ‘AFCON’ stuff, and Ghana are regulars in that?

    Ay Em & En, aka Ainsley Maitland Niles has got himself a good gig at Ipswich for the season too. With regular games, it could be the making of him.

    I am sure there was someone else, but I cannot think of who it is right now?

    NewsNow seems to be full of our ‘big clear out’, but for the most part it looks like nobody knows what is going on? Other than Poldi on his way to Gala.

    Right, that is my update, laterz …

  • Thanks Gerry and others for responses. It is amazing how many more viewers we have than usual but only so few can be bothered to comment. Blogging is about commenting and those who are reading, I urge you to add to the conversation!! 🙂

    I agree that we need another attacker. A proven, PL capable goal scorer who can play with Alexis and Ollie and be back up in case either is injured or suspended. Gerry, I disagree on it being good for Szczesny and Danny that more experienced players are coming in. Both now need to play regularly to get themselves to the top level they need to achieve, and it will not happen this way round. Best thing for Wojciech is to go somewhere else where he will be nr.1. Yes he will learn from Cech but he will learn a lot more from doing it now. Danny has worked with a number of top strikers, especially at Manure, but he also just needs to do it. Bringing in another attacker will not help him much in this respect, imo – even though it would be better for Arsenal… Difficult balance to strike each and every time.

    Retsub, fully agreed on Le Coq. Unlike the Oilers, we do bring talent through to the top and Le Coq is a great example…. Let’s stay behind him and develop him into top, top class. Good back up would be great, and that is why Schneiderlin would have been perfect, as he operates at the same level.

    Davyx2: two top quality players in each position sounds good, but is it realistic? How does Arsene keep them all motivated? I reckon we need 18 top quality players, who can rotate and play in more than one position. More than that and it becomes hard to motivate them all. And yes, we are close to having what we need, and adding a quality attacker seems key (especially now that Poldi seems to be moving on… a shame for both club and player in my opinion..)

    Catch up again tonight.

    We need posts by the way, as I have sucked my creative finger bone dry now… 🙂

  • Hey TA…Another fine post… I thought, however, that we had one more post season talk between AW and the BFG still to come… 😀

    I can think about writing one given that I’m up early and the espresso machine is warming up…

    I agree with what you’re saying here–the squad finished the season well and played a great, uninhibited cup final. Teams (lacking the quality to match us) who try and really play against us could well be punished. We were a little iffier against the bus parkers, but maybe that’s because we were too far behind Chelsea to make a real run and those draws at least helped us avoid the CL qualifier…

    Here in the close season people are naturally focused on how to remake the squad. Real quality in depth has to be balanced with opportunities for all those players or they lose interest and sharpness for coming in and doing a real job. As such, I agree that too many signings can work to disrupt things. We’re in a good spot right now and value for money and younger, less heralded players who might really bloom with us (over several seasons) is probably the way to go. That said, we also have enough money to almost be shopping in our own category–not quite for guys who top teams might build around or are the absolute best in their positions, but guys who are in the top 3 or 5 in their position for their (younger) age bracket. Like everybody else, I’m thinking DM and Striker but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see another defender and a versatile left footer (i.e., left back who can maybe play CB) seems the most logical spot. Buying over there would not be a good sign for Kieran Gibbs (after losing his starting spot to Nacho)…

    So, in my opinion the squad is not the problem. With Alexis playing tomorrow in the Copa America final (and being under intense scrutiny given that he’s the main man for the host country) he will be in need of some sort of enforced rest. Will he even be with the squad for the earliest matches? IMO, we need to get off to a solid start (get the fans behind us…) and then his reintegration into the team needs to be smooth. That’s your 3rd point, kind of, that we need to recover from injuries to our main guys (or their absence) w/o hiccups…and I agree. Whoever takes up that role (in the Community Shield and the league opener) will have a lot on their shoulders. Wilshere or Welbeck would be my bet, but what do I know?…

    For me then, it’s more about the system we play and esp. how our wide attackers (who tend to work from the corners of the 18 yd box if not even more central…) integrate with their teammates. Those early matches will serve a blueprint there too. We need to pick up where we left off, cup final style, rather than that run of nil-nils and other low-scoring matches which had us playing for 3rd instead of 2nd…

    ‘Nuf said, for now at least… 😀

  • Thanks TA, I fully understand that view. However, the three players, or ‘player types’ I suggested are for the 3 three that you identify as the ones we need cover for?
    Striker – for Giroud
    Wide player – for Alexis
    DM – for Coqueln.

    Now the players we have been linked with, in the same order, are ones that could play with or without Giroud, with or without Alexis, and with or without Coquelin. But if you think that MS would be ideal for the latter, and not think with a £25m price tag and ambitions for better things (than he has at Southampton), and would not want to be first choice???
    All I can say is, if that is what AW told him, that he was just ‘cover’ for Coquelin, then it is no surprise he might have chosen Man Utd?
    Be serious now, because the same applies to Alexis’s ‘cover’. They will have to be pretty damn good to take on that role, but will look for more than a bit part role.
    When we come to Giroud it gets a bit complicated. Many want to replace him. I don’t. So it comes down to the player type. Somebody who offers something different, but at the same time could take the lead role in his absence. Davydavy’s suggestion is not a bad call, although that £21m quoted price looks like an auction waiting to happen?

    I just try and make sense of the rumour mill, and it could well be that the Striker and Wide man may be just one player? Either way they are likely offer more in the way of goals than Welbeck, and more flexible in terms of coming from deep than Walcott, otherwise there is no point. They are your alternatives? But JD and KB are the ones I could see arrive, and slot in rather well. When the talk just drifts to ‘… yes, we X for Y, and A for B’ without any reference to the balance of the side, to me, is why I am happy to leave it to AW. 😀

    I did not expect you to speculate on departures, but the latest quote from AW on Cazorla ‘It will take a massive fee’, is not quite the same as ‘he is not for sale’? It is these nuances that interest me.
    I also think Man Utd, who are after the same sort of players, and in terms of spending power a major threat, so when they complete on some of their choices I can see more movement from Arsenal … unless we have sneak in first.

    That is all from me tonight. I have to turn the computer off on warm nights, as it is not helping with my headache. catch you all in the morning.

    If I sleep well, I’ll put insanity towards a post … if I sleep well, okay.

  • Excellent post, TA. A bit of refreshment in this hellish summer. 🙂

    I would add a bit on what 17 wrote about the bus(es). When you take a look at our point tally and how it was spread across the final standings, you may notice that our worst nightmare were teams between fifth and tenth spot. We picked 17 out of possible 36 points against those or less than 50 percent. If you’ve been looking for those four points we lost between 2013-14 and 2014-15, don’t look any further – we had picked 21 out 36 against teams in respective positions in 2013-14. Here is annoying part – Spuds are at fault. We picked just one point comparing to six in the season before and that made our overall record worse. With those five points we would have ended second.

    Finding proper (yes, it’s a proper word 🙂 ) cover for Alexis is essential for the start of the season. Remember, we’ll start the season against West Ham and they have already started their campaign which means they will have much better team cohesion and match fitness than we will. Alexis is likely to miss that game as Arsene has promised a four-week-holiday for him. Also, Bilić has given us a hard time with Bešiktaš last season so we’ll have to do our best to avoid stupid surprises.

  • That’s great additional info, Admirable. 🙂

    I don’t get the we struggle against parked busses argument. We have Ollie who cracks them open and ball passing magnets to move through them. We have struggled a bit against the mid table teams who played football against us; who dared to have a go with more mobile busses.

  • Gerry, what I meant with cover is two players equally good who can give each other a break. Le Coq and Schneiderling would be a perfect combination, and I can also see us play them together in some games, like top away games.

  • Yes to the post, Seventeenho, and agreed on the importance of replacing Alexis successfully at the start of the season. Wilshere is a good call… Maybe Rosa too.

  • Hi Guys,

    I reckon that we can stick with our own midfielders and getting a DM in the shape of William Carvalho, hope I got the spelling right, and the paper reports are half true.

    In strikers we have plenty but not commanding enough though. If we can bring in just one more striker I will be happy, but without addition in this area I feel that we can still live with it.


  • Hi all.. And welldone TA.. Another great post..

    If your theory about Walcott is true.. Than we shall never see our 4-1-2-3 or 4-2-1-3 anymore.. Hicks 3x.. No more fastest winger at PL ever.. Hahaha..
    So We are moving to 4-1-4-1 or even 4-1-5 formation.. Hehehe..

    Anybody rate Hakan Calhanoglu..
    If we must play 4-1-4-1 forever than me must add this kind of player.. He had the magic in his both legs..
    He is the best free-kick player today.. More than Ozil or Messi.. What a player..
    If Arteta.. Flamini.. And with Diaby gone.. We have enough room for a brandnew Midfield..

    Two are enough for me.. We still had plenty youngsters.. Who will raising soon..
    And if Walcott play as our CF.. Then no need for new CF..
    If Chicarito can so will Walcott.. Hehehe..

  • TA @ 22:00 – I don’t disagree with anything you have said there. But it is what you are not saying that is important.
    If we play both together, that has an impact. Cazorla misses out, or moves forward. Ditto Ramsey, if he is selected. Somebody will miss out. That is to be expected.

    But if they are not both playing, MS and Le Coq that is, who do you chose as your primary DM, and who is cover?
    I don’t think a quality DM will sign if they are not the primary selected, when everyone has bedded in?
    Take your core 18 man squad as this:
    GK – Cech
    CB – Mert, Kos, Gab.
    FB – Bells, Deb, Gibbs, Nacho.
    MF – Coquelin, Cazorla, Ramsey, Ox, Wilshere, Ozil, Alexis.
    ST- Giro, Theo, Danny.

    That is 18 of the players that might play more that 10 times. If you put anybody else on the list, then someone drops out. Quality players will expect more than the 10 game minimum, a lot more.? That is all I am saying.

    I think AW wants the Title this season, and will buy in the positions of need. You identified three areas, but even you must accept that cover from within is not ideal?

    I have dictated a post btw, I will tidy it up over the week end. Okay?

  • Morning Gerry, where does ten games come from? Here is what I mean: 55 games X 11 positions / 18 key players = 34 games for every core player on average. Allow some games for wider squad, and the core can play between 25 and 40 games each, depending on fitness and form. I see your point re a new DM demanding to be first choice and that might be the reason we won’t get one once again this summer.

  • Good post Total…

    I can’t disagree with your three points, but I’d like to add one of my own.

    Shad Forsythe…

    His influence on the fitness and the general wellbeing of our players is, imo, as important as anything, for if Arsene has a fit and able squad to choose from, then I believe that everything else will follow and that our present squad is capable of reaching the kind of heights we wish from it.

    I find it hard to believe a lot of the transfer nonsense doing the rounds.
    I read it of course, but dismiss most of it…

    Arsene has a great squad with Petr Cech solving and upgrading that position.
    He just needs to tweak the squad, with maybe one big signing & that’s about it…

    I would like Vidal, but I doubt that it’ll happen…

    The links to that young Serbian midfielder (can’t remember his name) is more in the classic Wengeresque mould of signing.

    I’m really very upbeat about Arsenals prospects in 2015-16…

  • So true, Allezkev, Shad’s magic is key, key, key! Three weeks till the EC then the season opener against the Cechless ones hahaha 🙂 the future is red and white.

  • Hi

    Some brief comments:

    A. Shad was last years top signing, give or take Alexis

    B. I think OG needs the backup and the competition. But is it Welbeck and Theo offering different things or another bigger man in the same mold? Do we rest OG against open teams and attack them with speed, saving OG for when teams sit deep and top 5 squads? I’m unsure myself on this but feel another proven scorer, like many, is a must.

    C. Width, we need width.. A winger, but isn’t at Theo? Hmm, no answers there and a lesser concern maybe… Give or take the fact that everyone wants down the middle it seems…

    D. DM.. Last years, AW is right, he IS like a new signing, Coquelin… Amazing relegation, but I think we need depth here, as Gerry and ores point out… So, a top one here would help and cover injuries.

    So, my thought, in summary:

    E. We have Cech, check! (So, sorry, had to do it)

    F. We really need another top DM, in process?

    G. We should get a top striker of proven EPL quality

    For checking off F and G, I like most of the DM types associated with us, they’d all do… Striker or winger, Draxler, or ?? That’s harder and under we will see. That said, AW often surprises late in the window, last few years, with high quality buys, so we will see. I think we will see the DM sooner than not, and a striker late.

    Cheers — jgc

  • Total, there’s been a few comments and opinions passed on Wojcieh Szszesny.

    I kinda see it this way…

    Right from the off, I saw Cech as more of a long term signing, goalkeepers are just different animals. Like a fine wine, they get better with age…

    So I saw him as having 5 or 6 years in our goal ( he, himself is talking of playing up till 40 years of age and that would give us 7 years).
    So depending on the usual – fitness/form – I’m not sure where that leaves Szczesny?

    I guess that he’ll see this season out as Cechs deputy and next summer will possibly access his future at our club…
    It wouldn’t surprise me, if we didn’t find Martinez as our No.2 goalkeeper in 12 months time…

  • Great posts TA, apart from the Nasri one – WTF were you smoking that day lol

    I’m quite happy with the midfield situation atm, there’s actually more than enough options. My biggest question for that area is would either Cazorla or Ramsey take sitting on the bench as they battle it out with each other for that B2B position – please god no more central midfielders out wide just to fit them all in, please please please Wenger!!
    Cazorla out wide – shite
    Ozil out wide – shite
    Ramsey out wide – shite
    Take the fucking hint Wenger 🙂

    So as i see it developing (all speculation atm however because the TW is far from done) is…..

    The mass clear out a few of us predicted:
    Maybe Arteta

    From the squad left over, The first team:

    ——————-Giroud or Walcott——————–
    Sanchez—————-Ozil——————New RW
    ————–Ramsey————New DM————-

    With the option of pace or power up front and the remaining questions of what to do with Cazorla and Rosicky?

    Then the subs and injury team:

    ————-The OX—————–Le Coq—————

    OX would make a great B2B midfielder in my opinion with his drives up the field, and his defensive qualities a very good actually, and apart from Wilshere and Coq the rest i think would have to admit that they are substitute level atm so no big upsets in the squad.

    A new DM, someone for that right wing (a left footer would be my preference) and we are more than sorted. A replacement for BFG would be my personal addition, i swear that slow fucker is gonna cost us points this season, but hey those two positions filled and i would be over the moon – midfield wise we are sorted 🙂

    Any new suggestions for that right wing Gerry, TA, others?
    Some left footers for my idea:

    Bale – no shit Sherlock

    Lucas Lima – when i have seen him play he looks like a mix of Jack and Ozil and plays in midfield normally but when he has been put out wide he has done fantastically well because he has some real pace as well.

    Robert Kenedy – Descent prospect but I think Chelsea are looking at him though

    Patrick Roberts – Too young, but one for the future maybe

    That’s all ive got atm lol, could have added Drax but i really don’t think he’s as comfortable on his left peg as you think Gerry.

    So i will leave you with some porn to get you warmed up for the Copa final 🙂

  • Hello,
    I like the topic TA and i agree with you or the question you put out there, plus i i agreed with nearly all’s possible additions.
    My imo is that we have a great team and it seems they are all very happy. Just a couple of bad signings could rock the boat.
    Wenger clearly had many good but none the less selection headaches last season as he clearly loves all his players but there just cant all play.!
    I think he would probably like to move a few on before bringing anymore in, but of course he won’t want to miss out on his targets players.
    I really expect Welbeck to hit in a lot of goals next season , as long as he is given enough games.
    Wenger will just keep telling him your a grea passer, just pass the ball in the net, then start hitting screamers.
    Theo is ready.
    I am a big Giroud fan and think he can and will improve further so we really are in no desperate need.
    The OX is a great player, his drippling and speed is fantastic. hE has been unlucky with goals hitting the bar many times from long strikes. He imo has more to offer then Jack.
    What i would like to see is him maybe taking the DM role or at least learning it to become a complete midfielder. Then getting more game time, he can of course play RW but he is at his best in the middle.

  • Steve11,
    I agree about the clear out but.
    1 sec
    Breaking news sky sports
    Podolski sold to Gala

  • Arteta , Ospina and Campbell i think all have value to us.
    But i could see why you have said so and may well go.
    That would free up a lot of cash and space for 1 or 2 world class big signings.
    In Arsene we trust 🙂

  • 1 other point that i have not heard mentioned is we have players coming to the end of there contracts.
    Theo and i have just read Santi have a year to go.
    So they maybe looking to see what happens before signing a new 1???
    I bet hthere is many more to, Ozil has what 2 or more maybe 3 seasons left so maybe we should be looking more to ensuring what we have is secure first , just a thought.

  • TA.. You can easily find Hakan from uncle Google.. Hahaha..
    All I can say that he still young.. Energetic.. Skillful.. And I rate him more than Ozil..
    I remembered.. Wenger wanted him 2 years ago before we got Ozil.. Hehehe..

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