After yesterday’s debacle, it is time to take a step back and see where we are, how did we get he and what the future holds. There is no point in analysing yesterday’s match, it is certified XXX in the minds of all Arsenal fans.
We all knew it was not going to be an easy match but the roots of the result go back, probably two or three seasons ago. Namely in our continued transfer policy of selling top players and not replacing them or when we do bring players in we offer them a four year contract which means we either offer a new contract after one year or we are left on tenderhooks as to whether they will stay or not.
Four years ago we had Gilberto, Flamini and Diarra all competing to play alongside Fabregas, things looked promising, then we managed to lose all three players in the same season. The replacement was a young Welsh midfielder, Ramsey who was not ready at the time for first team football.
The scenario was to continue the two season when we sold Adebayor and Toure for a combined fee of £40M, and we brought in Veramelen.
Last summer Arsenal were active, no players left but bough Koscielny, Squillaci and Chamakh joined on a free transfer.
This summer saw a summer exodus, though no Arsenal fans were surprised, the squad had gone stale, the same errors were happening, the same inability to compete for trophies were re-occuring. Out went Eboue, Clichy, Denilson (loan), Vela (loan), Fabregas, Nasri, with Almunia, Bendtner and Squillaci all expected to follow.
This summer window was one I was looking forward to, because the noises coming out of Arsenal was that it would be an active window, Wenger “knew” what went wrong and was determined to put it right, the dead wood was going to be cleared and new faces were going to arrive.
All Arsenal fans expected Cesc to leave this summer, the only person in denial was Arsene Wenger, why? When it also emerged that both Clichy and Nasri were not going to sign new contracts, the Arsenal board and Wenger should have planned for life without them straight away. These three departures, were big players leaving Arsenal and we need to ask the question who was responsible for allowing Nasri and Clichy to reach the final year of their contracts? Someone in the Arsenal hierarchy needs to answer some questions to ensure that we are not faced with the same situation next summer with van Persie and Walcott.
With so many players leaving what were Arsenal doing in the transfer market? We secured Carl Jenkinsson, but was he an able replacement for Eboue, was he ready step into the first team so early? Wenger insisted, when Clichy left, that Gibbs, Traore and Vermaelen were all capable of playing left-back. Whilst Gibbs is an able left-back, his tendancy to get injured meant we needed a second left-back and Traore was not that player. Jose Enrique was available for £6M from Newcastle, but Arsene dithered and Dalglish stepped in and we are now left scouring Ligue 1 for a replacement as we could be selling Traore!
Wenger knew we were short of strikers. Bendtner is going to leave and Wenger has decided that Vela is not ready and probably will never be ready for Premier League football, this left us with van Persie whom we know will play 50% of the games at best and Chamakh who has disappeared as a striker. So the club waits until the last moment to bring in a striker, expected to be Park the South Korea captain, not Benzema that all Arsenal fans wanted. Once again we shopo at Lidl whilst others shop at Harrods!
Our search for midfielders has been a farce. Ricardo Alvarez was to be our first signing, yet we lost out because of a £1.7M difference in valuation, this is pathetic, Arsenal made around £5M from the Asia Tour. Juan Mata a quality player was available for around £13M due to a clause in his contract that expired on 31 July, so the incompetence and dithering of Arsenal meant we made a bid for him on 1 August! These two signings, plus Gervinho would have compensated for the loss of Nasri and probably allowed Arshavin and Rosicky to leave the club.
Our search for a centre back continues, with four candidate, Samba, Dann, Cahill and Jagielka all the prime candidates, but once again Arsenal are arguing over £3m-£4m. We do not need one centre-half, but two and Samba or Dann should be bought in addition to Cahill.
Our summer transfer window has been a disaster, a non-starter. Everyone knew we needed players, yet we dithered, we were incompetent. We were faced with our hardest start to a season, a tough Champions League qualifier, yet as a club we were prepared to wait until the last minute to buy players. The end result has been the worse start, players suspended and injured and squad so decimated that our bench yesterday was made up entirely of kids.
The situation is not reversible. We have three days to bring in not 3 players, but 5 players and we need to pay the money to ensure this happens. If we bring in the right players, Wenger can turn things around, but he needs to buy. Failure to bring in the right players, failure to bolster the squad and turn things around will result in the worse season in Arsenal’s EPL history. We will fail to qualify for Europe next season, we will be humiliated in the Champions League, we will lose more vital players next season and Wenger will leave Arsenal and be remembered as the stubborn, intransigent manager who led Arsenal to their worse season in the EPL.
The next three days will define our season and our immediate future, the sake of the club Arsene spend the money to bring in the right players.
Whilst it’s still early in pre-season and players are still finding their feet, some patterns are emerging after two games.
Wenger’s early acquisition Carl Jenkinson looks a good buy. He never put a foot wrong in either game. As the pre=season friendlies move up a level it will be interesting how he copes against Cologne and Benfica. Jenkinson can expect to start the Carling Cup and even push Sagna in the league. To fully develop as a player, Jenkinson should be on the bench against teams like Wolves, West Brom and Norwich giving Wenger the option to blood him if things are going well.
The other flank is a bit of a worry and I think Wenger will have to go back on his word and recruit a left-back. Traore still looks unsure as a left-back and this was against two inferior teams. If Gibbs is injured at any time, and that looks inevitable, Traore will be exposed at the back and we will be in trouble. The two options to Wenger are Jose Enrique from Newcastle United or the logical solution is to accept Eric Abidal as part of the Fabregas deal. Abidal can offer advice to Gibbs and adequate cover anywhere along the back. This is the type of move that might appeal to Wenger.
At centre-half we saw the nightmare that could unfold next season, Squillaci. This is his last year at Arsenal, but Wenger should offer him a free transfer and route back to France. It is not that he is the worse centre-back we have had in recent years, it is just that his presence causes panic amongst the other centre-backs. Wenger needs to cut his losses with Squallaci and press home the move for Cahill in the forthcoming week. We have no option but to come to an agreement over Cahill and the sooner the better.
Arsenal’s midfield performances proved that Nasri playing in the playmaker role is the ideal position for Samir. Whether we see him playing in that role in an Arsenal shirt next season remains to be seen. In both games we saw the emergence and further development of Ramsey as great midfielder. Ramsey and Wilshere complement each other in the middle; both are creative, tough tackling and always looking to go forward. I would like to see Ramsey, Wilshere and Nasri start against Cologne,
From both games so far and also for most of last season, what is become apparent is that Rosicky has lost it. He is not the creative playmaker, he slows the game down too often and his passes are wayward and without thought. Playing Rosicky against Brimingham in the Carling Cup was one of Arsene’s biggest mistakes. As with Denilson we need to cut our losses with Rosicky and let him go. We need to look at bringing in another midfielder this summer plus promote both Henri Lansbury and Emmanuel Frimpong to the first team squad.
The striker options looked a bit threadbare for Arsenal. Wenger must be looking at either another striker or playing Walcott or Vela upfront, though neither will be able to play the sole striker role that our 4-1-4-1 / 4-2-3-1 formation requires.
It has been reported this week-end that Arsenal sent Richard Law to Costa Rica to negotiate the signing of 19 year old Joel Campbell from Saprissa. Gunnerblog have reported that the player’s father has stated the clubs have agreed a fee in the region of £2M and that the player will join on a 5 year deal. If Arsenal are able to get a work permit for Campbell, then he will wear the number 12 shirt. The only question will this 19 year old be the answer to providing sufficient back-up to van Persie and Chamakh.
The press and radio are having another field day with Arsenal, writing about our demise before a ball has been kicked. The rationale behind this theory is we haven’t spent any money so we will struggle to qualify for the Europa League, never mind the Champions League.
Well let’s look at this matter in detail.
If Clichy and Sagna can rediscover their form of two years ago, once more we will have a solid defence. Wenger has strengthened the defence with the signing of Vermaelen and if Toure leaves, then he will add one more defender.
In midfield the key is not the “holding” player, but Fabregas. If Fabregas starts to tick from day one, so will the rest of the team. In Denilson, Song and Diaby Wenger has three players who should compliment Fabregas, but is Cesc does not find form then we will suffer.
In the attacking third of the field we have the most attacking players and option available than any other club in the Premier League. Commentators ignore the return of Rosicky and Eduardo, they do not realise what these two players will bring to the team. In addition we will Arshavin for the whole season. This player is a winner and possesses the ability to unlock some of the packed defences we will encounter at the Emirates. Wenger has a wealth of riches to choose from in terms of attackers, van Persie, Eduardo, Bendtner, Vela, Arshavin, Walcott, Nasri, Rosicky and Wilshere.
Now let’s look at our rivals.
Liverpool have added Johnson, period. They could lose one if not both of Alonso and Maschareno this week and they are so reliant on the goals of Gerrard and Torres that they are two long term injuries away from Premier League mid-table football.
Manchester United have lost Tevez and Ronaldo and Fergie has been riled by Manchester City. He is worried be cause he realises that despite the goals that Owen has scored in friendlies they count for nothing once the season begins. Ronaldo scored 25 goals last season and countless assists, where are they going to come from this season? Fergie has his wings clipped in terms of spending money this season and does not like it.
Chelsea are as always stable and will one or two players. Their biggest problems are the age of the squad and Carlo Ancelotti. Ancelotti is Roman’s pick and the previous manager chosen by the boss failed, furthermore Ancelotti has won only one league trophy in all his years in Italy.
There are as always several pretenders. Tottenham, Everton, Aston Villa and Manchester City.
Tottenham are stuck in a vicious circle of buying plenty of mediocre players, overpaying them and not able to sell them on.
Everton have no money and Moyes will cobble together a challenge for the Europa League, but Everton are traditional slow starters to their league campaign.
Aston Villa have lost a key midfielder and replaced him with an over-rated winger who has a broken leg. Their season went pear-shape the moment they bought Heskey.
Manchester City are the biggest challengers, but Hughes did not show last season that he can get a group of players to gel together. City at one stage flirted with relegation. It will take one or two bad results and the Cit bubbler will burst with the likes of Tevez and Adebayor complaining about spending too much time on the bench.
I do not believe or listen to the doom and gloom mongers. Wenger will strengthen the team but we are not far off challenging for the league, we need to find form early this season and start to score goals from all over the place then we will challenge and plent y of pundits will have to eat their own words.
Arsenal go into Saturday’s game with Sunderland on a high after a resounding victory over Cardiff in the FA Cup. The only downside is that the architect of that victory, Eduardo, is out for two-weeks with a hamstring injury. Wenger stated that is occurred minutes before he was taken off, what surprised so many Arsenl fans is that Eduardo was not taken off on the hour.
Also missing from the squad is Adebayor who has been the centre of transfer talk again this week and has come in for criticism for his lack of goals this season.
The crowd on Saturday will be anxiously waiting to see the debut of Arshavin. The longest running saga in Arsenal transfer history concluded on 3 February, now we have waited long enough, we want to see the Russian, our saviour, our creator. Wenger has stated that he will play some part in the game, but he is not sure how he will use him. There will be a chorus of boos like you have never heard if Eboue starts in his place or if Eboue replaces him.
Carlos Vela had a great game on the left. Nobody will mind if the Mexican was the player to replace Arshavin or even to start instead of him. This boy is a box of tricks and has plenty of energy; Arsene needs to start using him more often.
Our Achilles heel remains the central midfield, Song blows hot and cold and we cannot afford this if we are to pursue a top four finish. Denilson gets on with his job in a quiet unassuming manner and this perhaps brings him undue criticism.
If we play an attacking and flowing game, if Bendtner takes his Cardiff form (except for the glaring misses) into the game against Sunderland and van Persie and Nasri weave their magic, the points should be ours.
Arsenal need to be waring of the dangers posed by Kenwyn Jones, to counter his aerial threat Wenger should turn to Johan Djourou, just as he did against Chelsea. Djourou is strong in the air and this is what we will need against Sunderland.
All our games are must win games, we cannot afford to have one eye on Tuesday’s clash with Roma, and we need three points at all costs and then worry about the Roma game when it comes around.