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Where could Arsenal buy? Pt. 3: Forward — plus recommendations

Does Arsenal need to buy “just one player?” And if so, why is it that no one can agree on the “just one” player that Arsenal need to buy? Also, why is it that Arsenal need to buy a different type of player every three months when someone new goes down with injury? In this series of articles I have looked at the defense, the midfield and now the forwards to see if Arsenal need to buy anyone, whether it’s more than one player, and today I offer some players who might be good buys in January.

Forwards

Lukas Podolski

Offense 8/10: Arsenal’s most clinical finisher, has six shots and three goals in Champions League play and 4 goals off 19 shots in the League. Also quite the provident passer and has already tallied 4 assists in both leagues. Efficient, doesn’t get the ball a lot, but doesn’t need the ball a lot. Has already shown a decent partnership forming with Giroud. Can’t really create his own shot. Would benefit enormously from having a creative wing player on his left.

Defense 5/10: Tracks back nearly every single time. Takes his duties seriously as a winger in Arsene’s 4-4-1-1 defense. Tackles at a decent rate for a forward, fouls a little too much, and doesn’t read opposition passes very well. Should have higher defensive numbers considering how much his side of the field has been targeted this season. Can’t complete 90 minutes, almost certainly due to the physical demands of playing as a winger.

The Oooo Walcott

Offense 9/10: Can’t dribble, but dribbles better than Podolski (11 v. 9 and Theo has had less time on the pitch). Can’t finish, but finishes better than Podolski (has a goal every 4 shots).  Can’t cross, but has 4 assists all from the wide position (leads Arsenal in assists). Poor touch, but the best Arsenal player for touch at pace. Flat track bully who has also added 5 goals and 3 assist in League Cup games.

Defense 3/10: Historically considered a defensive liability and still has some of the lowest defensive numbers for any Arsenal player in the Premier League. Plays significantly better with Sagna behind him than Jenkinson. Can play defense (see Schalke) but would rather play as a 2nd striker in a 4-4-2.

Gervinho

Offense 6/10: Arsene moved Gervinho into the center forward role and the Ivorian flourished-ish. Movement is good and when he scores they are usually good goals. But his touch is often dreadful at pace and as a result it’s not the goals he did score that many remember but the goals he should have scored or sometimes, worse, the shots he should have taken but didn’t because of his poor touch. Effective dribbler who always dribbles to the same place and almost always drops the ball to the same place. Why no one (offensive or defensive) has figured this out yet is going to be a Leonard Nimoy “In Search Of” special. Started last season strong, finished horribly after ACN. Cannot cross the ball, probably the reason why Arsene moved him centrally. Would rate lower but that would be unfair due to the fact that he has five goals.

Defense 4/10: Actually, a better defender than Theo Walcott, only just. Doesn’t take defensive duties as seriously as Podolski but still averaged twice as many tackles per game as Theo last term and has a surprising number this term despite being used as a center forward.

Alex Ox

Offense 5/10: Remember we are rating on actual play, not potential. Has the drive to break down opposition defenses, can dribble “the village” and is dispossessed a ridiculously low 0.9 times per game but has very little final product right now. Has just the two assists and one League Cup goal in 11 apps to keep his rating low.

Defense 5/10: On par with Podolski in that he takes defense seriously and tracks back nearly every time. Decent tackler, but like everyone at Arsenal would rather play centrally than wide.

Chamakh

Offense 2/10: Played in two games, has 2 goals and an assist. On the merit of that probably deserves a higher rating. But he’s been dropped from even sitting on Arsenal’s bench in the last few games and scored just one goal for Arsenal all season last year. Would rate lower but don’t want to incur the wrath of the Chamakh lovers.

Defense ?/10: There’s nothing to rate him on. Played in that 5-7 win over Reading but not responsible for any of their goals. Is a center forward.

Giroud

Offense 7/10: Needs a lot of shots to score but has added headed goals to his scoring repertoire. Wins a lot of aerial duels. Gives Arsenal an option up front that they were looking for from Chamakh. Poor passing range, poor vision, but some times pulls off the amazing assist pass. Looks to be finding his place in this Arsenal team, could rate higher very quickly.

Defense 8/10: Compared to a winger or a defender, Giroud doesn’t deserve an 8, but he is always back to help clear the ball on set plays and puts his head on the line. And besides which I like a good defending forward!

Verdict: £ — Received wisdom is that Arsenal need a striker, someone to back up Giroud, but I completely disagree. Arsenal have a backup to Giroud in Podolski. Podolski would thrive in the center forward spot because he’s strong, he’s a better passer, and he’s much much much more efficient than Giroud. But the problem is that Arsenal can’t play him there because they need him playing defense on the wings and covering for Gibbs/Santos. It’s a strange situation, the only three players in Arsenal’s 25+ man squad who like too play wide are Gibbs, Sagna, and Jenkinson. Everyone else wants to be a center forward.

That said, Arsenal do need to spend some money on either replacing or securing Theo Walcott as he is Arsenal’s only other wing threat. There are right wing players out there who could fit the bill if Theo’s demands are too odious but they will cost dearly in the January transfer window.

Overall verdict

I would like to see a backup keeper at Arsenal. Given the fact that he has bid on several over the last few years, I think Arsene Wenger wants a backup keeper at Arsenal — for the right price. That said, who sells their best keeper in January? No one, in Europe. Major League Soccer produces a lot of fine goalkeepers and I wonder if Arsenal shouldn’t take a look at Jimmy Nielsen from Sporting KC. He is a fan favorite over here and would almost certainly not turn down the chance to retire with Arsenal.

The other problem that Arsenal need to sort out is the fullback situation. First, it is critical that Wenger sign Sagna or replace him with a player in the 23-25 year old range. Fagner is having an amazing season, though it could be a one off, and his tackle numbers (5 per game) are almost as absurd as the fact that he averages 2.2 dribbles per contest. This is a situation that can wait until summer but if Sagna won’t sign, Arsene has to replace him. Second, Arsenal need a left back. Santos’ was signed to do the job and has never convinced and whether it’s his on or off-field antics something is keeping him from first team football. This is more pressing for me because Gibbs is injury prone and Vermaelen is not ideally suited for the role. Left backs are hard to find and everyone wants me to say Leighton Baines but I’m going to suggest Argentinian Pablo Alvarez from Catania instead. Or Baines!

In the midfield I am surprised by the number of people who don’t believe that Arsenal need a holding midfielder. It’s been something on my list for 5 years and while Arteta has impressed greatly, he’s not ideally suited for the role, and given his history will not be able to play 50 games there for Arsenal this season. Coquelin seems like a nice kid and I’m sure he’s loyal but he’s not been impressive for me. He’s always going too far forward and he’s not as tidy with the ball as needed for a position like that. Last season I recommended Yann M’Vila and I’m sticking with that recommendation despite  his France ban and the drop in form this year. His problems are not with his technical ability or footballing intelligence, they are off-field problems, and they are hurting his performances on-field. He  is  still the same technically gifted, positionally disciplined, hard tackling, defensive midfielder with a great field vision that he was last year, he just needs a change of scenery. Ettiene Capoue has been stellar for two years and I wouldn’t turn him down but my intuition tells me that M’Vila is a more gifted footballer.

No one would turn down the big name signing of a out and out striker like Falcao or Cavani. That said, signing either would mean dropping Giroud to the bench or changing the lineup to play two strikers. Doing the former is fine but doing the latter would require Arsene to buy actual wing players as the Gunners have none. Unless you really believe that Arsenal could play a front line of Podolski (wing), Falcao, Giroud, and Cazorla (wing). Maybe you do? I tend to think that they would all try to go to the same spot  in the middle of the pitch simultaneously and form one weird ball of forwards — “Palcoudla”.

Podolski has a lot of caps for Germany and plays out wide for them but it’s patently obvious that he’s not physically equipped to deal with the sprints required to play as a outright wing player in the Premier League. Arsenal have no winger on the right, unless you want to put all your eggs in one Ox cart, stick Cazorla out there (he could do it but would be wasted a bit), or hope that Theo can somehow magically become a better defender.

Given the above, the question is “Do Arsenal need a forward or a winger?” I would say the latter: a left wing player would provide width, dribbling, pace, and defense down the flanks. This would free Arsenal to make tactical changes, play a 4-4-2 with Theo and Giroud or Giroud and Podolski. And would give Arsenal options to play Cazorla on the right or in the middle of  4-3-3.

The big name players right now are Andre Schürrle on the left and Mario Goetze on the right (though Goetze likes to play… centrally). Both of these players have great dribbling skills, great vision, expansive passing range, dangerous crossing, and will do the dirty work. Both are also going to break the Arsenal transfer record: Bayer turned down a £20m offer for Schürrle from Chelsea. The reality is that it’s hard to find anyone who wants to play wide. Perhaps that’s why Arsenal don’t have any and why so many teams are adopting the 4-3-3. Miyaichi is a real wide player, though he has been struggling to impress at Wigan and has only come on as a sub. Don’t count on him getting a start for Arsenal this year.

The point of this three day and 5,000 word exercise was to show that Arsenal are not just in need of one player, there are a number of positions which the club is weak. Arsenal have two of the best midfielders in the world right now in Cazorla and Arteta and there are plenty of forwards in this club who are willing to play centrally and even one center forward willing to try to play defense (Podolski). But after that, there’s a lot of gaps in the Arsenal midfield due to injury and other issues and none who are able to play wide. Also, there are some scary issues with the only width that Arsenal have in the fullbacks area. And, there’s the not so small issue with keeper that has never been really resolved since Almunia deposed Lehman.

Maybe I’m wrong. I will be the first to admit it when I am. But there’s a stern test of the squad depth of this team between now and the close of the January transfer window: 11 League games, mostly against mid-table teams, mixed with League Cup, Fa Cup, and Champions League matches, will almost certainly decide the season.

Qq

P.S. — Felliani

I was remiss not addressing many Arsenal fans’ desire to recruit Fellaini for the holding role at Arsenal. He fits the bill in many ways: big, aerially adept, and a hard tackler (e.g, “broke his own ankle stamping on someone in a Merseyside derby”). The problem with Fellaini is that he’s not playing in a defensive midfield role and really hasn’t been for a year and a half at Everton. This raises a lot of questions for me. Would he be happy doing the dirty work for Arsenal in order to let Arteta be more creative? That’s a tough sell. Once a defender gets a taste for goals and the Hollywood feeling of offense it can be hard to reign them back in (see Alex Song Billong and Vermaelen). But more difficult that that would be a transition from outright starter at Everton, who gets to play any role in midfield, to backup for Arteta at Arsenal. I don’t see him doing that. I also don’t see him as a legitimate #10 (which is sort of what he’s doing for Everton). That’s another big reason why I chose M’Vila: not only is he very conservative in terms of positioning he is also trying to rehabilitate his career and might accept the backup role/more purely defensive role that Arsenal need someone to play.

Also, watch for Fellaini today; Moyes will almost certainly use him to mark Arteta out of the game which might be in Arsenal’s favor, actually.

68 thoughts on “Where could Arsenal buy? Pt. 3: Forward — plus recommendations

  1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Frode

    I agree there is too much focus on getting an out and out striker. I honestly don’t see the appeal of that. Putting Falcao into the team would be great, but the balance of the team would still feel off. Personally I would rather focus on flexible players who can play across the front three and behind the striker. I would like players like Jovetic, Willian, (James) Rodríguez, Lamela… They will all be difficult to get, but at least simpler than Götze (or Reus, who I like just as much) I think…

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      I tend to agree that Podolski needs to be explored more in his likely useful role as a striker.

      Particularly if we are expecting to play more on the counter to catch teams that like to leave themselves a little more exposed.

      However I do think we have room for one more striker. If one of Podolski or Giroud goes out of commission with a knock, we will be light particularly with players who can establish some presence up top (Discounting of course the for sale list of Chamakh, Bendtner and Park which is likely reason why we have not added at the moment)

      Therefore I would prefer us to have the back up all the same and someone with preferably a little speed on hand (if you like an in between to Podolski and Giroud)

      Leandro Damiao(23) is my pick albeit there is issue with price, I don’t think he might be as pricey as often stated.

      He is a hardworker, has great technical ability, is quick, durable and strong in the air. The complete package. Yes we can fuddle around and get someone -else for less that close to matches his all round ability but I do think we need someone intelligent like him with the assets to play with flexibility (I believe he also plays out RW which balances out Poldy)

      That said I am not sure if Wenger will pick a striker out till the summer when he can offload our retinue on the unwanted list. Trying Podolski in the striker role (which he did for first two games) seems to me a logical option for now.

  2. Vote -1 Vote +1Teampossible

    A really nice read, Tim, I honestly admire you for finding the time to write this. In another universe, this would have been your full time job and my guess is you would have been pretty well compensated for it.

    As for the subject, the only conclusion it has left me with is that now I feel this team is even less equipped to cope with this season than I believed.
    I don’t think Arsene will buy a goalkeeper, a striker is also a no-no pretty much for the same reasons you mentioned.
    As for the only part I find critical, which is the Arteta role, why do I have this feeling that Arsene isn’t even interested in searching for a Song type of player?
    He sold the Cameroonian without a single explanation, but it is pretty apparent he never intended for Diaby to take his place.
    So that leaves me pretty confused, to be honest, and the only explanation I can find is that this club has to sell players in order to buy players, and we practically sold everyone we could (for now).
    If during these transfers, the club managed to somehow find a balance between the ones it sold and the ones it purchased – great.
    If not – we get what we get and try to adapt.
    So, my guess is we won’t be seeing any new arrivals in January, apart from maybe Henry.
    And this year, I’m not so sure that that is gonna make a difference at all.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      As Wenger has mention, the game is more technical now and even the fullbacks are required to have some skill on the ball as teams have switched to 4-3-3 thereby pinching the outlets out wide with the fullbacks in favour of playing through the Cbacks.

      Consquently, there is no traditional holding “DM’ of the classical sort any more. Most teams are now moving toward a player (Pirlo) who can keep positional discipline but play the pivot role and redistribute from deep whilst pressing further up the pitch.

      Therefore Arteta whom I am sure has come as a surprise to all of us with the efficiency he has tackled his new role with.

      I don’t believe anyone last season would have envision Wenger switching Arteta successfully to his current role.

      Therefore I do believe what Wenger is looking for is someone who can recycle the ball efficiently whilst providing sufficient positional discipline in front of the Cbacks.

      Likely the reason why we were looking for Sahin when Song was sold off.

      Diaby could perform this role for us but as we all know he is an injury liability.

      Coquelin is still not there yet.

      Therefore Wenger must be keeping an eye out for any possible options on market.

      I’m not sure about MVIlla. Whilst he is defensively solid, he doesn’t seem as offensive minded a player (just yet anyway). Capoue looks to be progressing well but needs to take out some of the rougher edges in his game. He can also cover at Cback which is a plus and we lose none of Diaby’s height or physicality.

      Regardless, we do need the back up but I suspect if we don’t find the value in January, a loan is a viable option.

  3. Vote -1 Vote +1Nikki

    I have read all your post on “Where could Arsenal buy” and I would say that it is logically true. Arsene also said that he didn’t quantify on how many he would potentially bring in January, unlike past season one or two players shorts.
    I think that Arsene might brought forwards (Striker or Winger) and fullbacks, hopefully a DM. A new player for DM position will almost certainly be bought by Arsene if Arteta injured. Almost certain because it could be like last season when we didn’t have fullbacks but Arsene refuse to add.
    I predict Arsene might have a go for Baines and Zaha (Both British and one is a senior which complement Gibbs and one is a junior, although seems a bit cocky, which complement Podolski). I would love Cavani (Falcao seems out of hand because I rarely heard Arsene buy players he scouted and come close in the past, that he could bought cheap before) Schuerle, and M’villa but it might be out of touch.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Baines is too expensive. Zaha to me seems a smoke screen. he is inexperienced at this level and we have enough players developing through, unless of course Wenger has in mind to turn him to and out and out striker (which is a big question mark)

      Cavanni would be nice but looks out of reach.

      MVila will depend on pricing and what he offers going forward. Capoue may be a better option to price.

      I don’t think we’ll get Schurle.

      If we get one addition in January, consider us lucky.

  4. Vote -1 Vote +1SGF80

    Hypothetical:

    We buy M’Vila (or another top DM). We then play him behind 2 (assumed formation). Those 2 would have to be Wilshere and Cazorla. I’d have Wilshere play the water carrier when needed. I like Arteta a lot, but you can’t reduce Cazorla’s threat to accommodate Arteta in the team. Arteta can’t play wide (mobility issue), so he is dropped (kills Arteta?).
    I’m happy for Walcott to play wide right (or someone with a lot of pace but techinically better than Walcott – Utd have Valencia, Chelsea have Moses etc). Goetze is a good shout but would probably narrow the game too much. So we need to maintain that width somehow. Ditto on the left. A little taboo, but someone with the same qualities as Gareth Bale would be perfect. Powerful, runs with and without the ball and would stretch the game. Clearly that’s not an option, but food for thought.

    So, buying a DM would likely change the formation/personnel in other areas and would probably mean that retaining Walcott is of greater importance? Who else is going to be running on to the through balls that Jack and Santa will provide?

    Ps. How have Utd not taken Bale as the long term replacement for Giggs? That’s got to happen this summer, right?

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Again more hypothetics.

      Bale is too expensive.

      Gotze is unlikely. BTW, we have Eisfeld coming through and the position Gotze plays in his stack full. More likely, we will need someone out wide who can deputise through the middle if need be.

      Again, I;m not sure on MVilla. If Wenger wanted him, he would have moved for him last summer. Likely, MVilla being more defensive may slow our game down.

      Remember, we have only let in 13 in the league this season where we have biased now more to the defensive where as we are having trouble at times scoring.

      Therefore the emphasis must be on transition and attacking more efficiently where defense will follow a more organic path with internal refinement.

      So I don’t see MVilla just like I didn’t think we were going to go for Melo.

      Sahin’s pursuit gives you an indication of the sort of player Wenger may be after.

      That he (Sahin) is still on loan to end of season and may come available subject to the whims and fancies of Real may suggest Wenger will prefer to wait to next summer to make a decision in case Sahin becomes available like Santi a season down.

      In which case as I mention, if there are continued concerns (which there are), then a loan may be the best option to cover.

  5. Vote -1 Vote +1Nikki

    Oh, actually i hadn’t noticed it first but there’s noting you, Tim, said on our match with Everton. Not to be too demanding but your insight is often helpful in building perspective of the match and the players. Maybe a little words on Baines and Fellaini and what we could expect from them. But it’s just an option and feel free to not do it because other things need to be done.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Nikki

      Thanks for the P.S Tim. I’m pretty sure it’s not because what I said but the result is the same thing.

  6. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Bobo

    I would feel much better about the future if Walcott’s situation were settled. He is young, talented and entering his prime – pay him. Maybe tell him to cool his jets on the talk of playing striker, but he should get paid.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      On Walcott…

      I would have preferred we did the business early and sold him in the summer, get someone in who was committed from start of season without all this contractual nonsense and the continued devaluation of his price.

      That said, since he is with the squad and showing application/results, I thought Wenger foolish not to have played him.

      I think Wenger likely has opted to drag proceedings into start of the season because he is privately agreeable to come close to matching what Walcott is asking for. Likely though, he will weigh this against the players coming through (Gnabry, Chamberlain, Ryo) and what may come on offer for Walcott before making a decision.

      If he gets a reasonably good price for Walcott, I think he will sell him.

      I like Walcott and am happy he has come good in last season. But ultimately, if we have to replace him, he is replaceable (yes even with the number of assists and goals he has provided)

      OTOH, if we decide to keep him, it will likely be best for us as he is consistently providing and scoring at the moment. So big decision ahead.

  7. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

    I wish Wenger felt the same way. I really don’t see us buying anyone in January. Diaby will somehow happen to make his return in January, and Wenger will once again use this as an excuse not to buy a midfielder; then, when questioned about a striker, will tell us that he just bought two “top, top” class forwards in the summer, “so, no, we will not collect strikers.” Then he’ll say that January is a terrible time to buy…which is true, actually.

    Guaranteed.

  8. Vote -1 Vote +1Jop

    Fagner? I remember him. Played for PSV a while back, when Farfán was still there. Although he was only young (18 or 19 I believe) he didn’t get much playing time and they’d often play Farfán (a winger by trade) at right-back over him. 5 years is enough time to mature though.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Definetely an interesting option put forth by Tim and worth watching.

      We may end up with issues on both flanks with fullbacks.

      If we can retain Sagna for another 2 seasons, that’ll be great but likely, he will leave.

      A pure fullback may be the best chooice although we also have option now at LB I believe to play the captain there as an alternate. In which case there will be room (sans Djourou and Squillaci, with TV out wide) for another Cback.

      Miquel will likely graduate to Djourour’s spot in the summer but we should also be keeping tabs on Yanga Mbiwa this season. He is extremely versatile ableto play across the entire backline AND as that traditional DM many have been hankering for which could be an alternate back up arrangement.

      Non of these issues at the back likely to resolve until the summer.

      1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1courtesyofwengermite

        …although FAGner may not have the best name when you consider the wealth of material ready made for opposition choruses. And at 5’6, he is a little short where we need some height at present.

  9. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1T-Town

    Tim, thanks for taking the time to write all this. I feel the single most important position is a DM. I also want to share that the top two places top recruit this type of player in Europe are France and Italy in that order. In France, this type of player is culturally revered, and the league is maybe slightly less tactical than Italy, but much more physical than both Germany and Italy. I know it sounds counter intuitive. It’s no coincidence than there has been so many players from Deschamps, to Mvilla, Capoue, etc.
    I am comfortable however with the keepers.

  10. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Todd Parker

    I think buying a Gotze to play middle and putting Cazorla out wide would be an amazing bit of tactical amazingness:) Then have Jack and Arteta with Gotze if you want to go out and out technical. I think the tactic there is keep ball is the best defense. That said, I agree, for 5 years I have been screaming for a legitimate Defensive midfielder, not the “most defensive of our midfielders,” a true DM and M’Villa is the guy for me. If he goes that route push Arteta up and Jack at attacking and put Cazorla out wide. That is also mouth watering. I do not think Cazorla out wide is wasted; I think he would be instructed to act like a false 9 and he would come infield and I think your points of putting in a defensive shift are significant. This is the modern game, keeping the ball is the Arsenal Way and putting someone like him out at the wing position because the middle is stronger through player acquisition could be quite the coupe.
    There would be squad rotation as well, but that is perhaps the way to go as a default.

    Lastly, I disagree about Fellaini. Well, I agree and disagree. I do not think he would want to be the DM, but I also do not think he needs to be and I do not think he would back up Arteta per say either. Arteta needs rest, that has been one of your points. Squad rotation is key, but I do not think Arteta would be used the same way if a destroyer was placed further up field. It would give Arteta a break. He could still be a deep lying playmaker but would face less danger in defense of his back 4. I think you use Fellaini higher up the field for more danger with Giroud on crosses but mainly as a new tactic to destroy the other teams ability to play before their attack can start. For me Fellaini is the best in the world at this-defending as an attacking central midfielder (acm). In other articles Fellaini has been oft described as a destroyer higher up field who as a ACM can do a defensive shift to neutralize a deep lying playmaker that so many teams try to play through. Think of how teams try and play us by marking Arteta out of a game. Buy Fellaini to go into Man City so Yaya has no joy, Chelsea so their dangerous front 4 cannot get service in the build up (through balls to Oscar, Hazard, and Mata), Man U danger up front can’t get service, etc. This is the idea of the “advanced destroyer” and Fellaini is also strong enough on ball, technical enough, and offers danger in attack because of his strength and stature both in the air and on the ground. This could be a game changer because he is one of the few “unmarkable” players on the planet. I in fact think Fellaini for this reason to change how we approach play as a team could be the best signing possible.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      We won’t be able to get Gotze or Fellaini. too pricey and not realistic.

      Out wide, if we are looking to add some ability (technical) to the direct pace of some of the younger (less developed) options in Chamberlain and likely Gnabry (if Walcott leaves), the player IMO who could provide that is Konoplyanka at Dnipro.

      He can play across the midfield and as a playmaker, quick feet, amazing shot from range, good vision. Likely he can replace both Walcott and Arsharvin.

      With regards DM, for reasons I have given further up in the post, we may likely be in need of someone more technical See Sahin pursuit) to suit the way we play.

      Some two seasons ago, I suggested we get Riccardo Montolivo from Fiorentina (out of contract and available for free). Wenger opted for Arteta instead likely because he had brought in so many (panic) buys last minute that he preferred the solidity of a purchase familiar with the immediate impact necessary in the English game.

      Montolivo is now out of our reach but he typifies IMO the sort of ‘pivot’ all rounder we need to cover Arteta. Sahin comes close but his paymasters have him on the leash at the moment. Likely, Wenger will wiat out the season to see how the situation develops this coming summer if we have another Santi on our hands.

  11. Vote -1 Vote +1GoonerNC

    I think we desperately need a fullback who prefers one side but doesn’t mind covering the other. I think that’s priority number one, as unsexy as that is. I think backup keeper is right behind there, especially as Sczczcsczesney seems to get hurt frequently enough and is currently carrying a knock.

    I totally agree with you about Podolski’s ability to play striker. That’s why I see the need for either a winger, or a CM that’s creative enough to push Santi out wide (where he is also amazing) or play out wide themselves. I think that’s why Götze would be genius for us. We could, depending on the game, either apply a lot of pressure through the middle or through the middle AND from the wing with Santi.

    And yes, I’d still love Yann M’Villa. Who is cheaper than ever. Surely that’s as Moneyball a signing as ever there was for Wenger.

    So that’s… let’s see… four players. Three of them could be had for something like 15-20 million total (two backups and Yann). The “special player” would be upwards of 30. So… you know… total outlay of 50million in fees alone. I’m sure we can count on that happening in January.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1GoonerNC

      Also on the agenda… re-sign Sagna and Walcott. I’m a fan of having as many players as possible that makes the other team say, “Oh s***!” Theo’s “Oh s***!” quotient is off the charts.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

        Walcott…another consideration could be to offer a year’s extension.

        I’m not sure if this could be done but he will only be 24/25 when the contract is up and if he continues on current trajectory settled with us, will only continue to gain in value.

        it will afford us time to assess the development of the younger players coming through, settle in a replacement if need be.

    2. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      1) We need cover for the striker position . Podolski as striker only in certain tactical situations. Likely, what we need is someone quick but who can still provide some presence(physical) in and around the box. Leandro is worth tracking. I believe Spurs tried to get him but failed at 20m ballpark and on account (of course) of lack of that thrid spot CL trophy.

      2) RW. Walcott’s situation needs to resolve. If he is sold, then likely Wenger will promote Gnabry from within whom we all know is talented but raw. Chamberlain is also still slightly rough round the edges (not surprising considering Theo only came good last season @23) and both are quick direct players. With Arsharvin also possibly needing replacement (if we ever use him again which we should), we could well do with a technical player with speed to complement/alternate with Santi bearing in mind Rosikcy may leave in the summer with Ramsey taking over (or Eisfeld)…again both still maturing.

      Konoplyanka to me is worth watching if Dnipro (Ramos) doesn’t have his head stuck up his arse about pricing. The Ukraninian is both quick and slight of feet and more importantly plays right across the midfield.

      Worth noting at this point that in general (Giroud, Szsc and Per apart) most of the players in ur squad are versatile in a number of positions. I therefor think likely that Wenger will prefer to opt for the multi-positional player which suits the ever changing dynamics of our squad better rather than the more traditional uni-dimensional ones.

      3) ‘DM”. For want of better word. Yes we need someone reliable to alternate for Arteta. Also bear in mind Arteta is not young and likely needs to be replaced in 2-3 seasons max.

      Again, I think we can take some clues from Wenger’s pursuit of Sahin in the summer to the sort of player he is looking for. Likely IMO, he will wait out as much as possible to see how the Sahin situation works out this summer. Till then, we are better off with a loan less we load on now and take up the wage structure.

      On that note, Coquelin’s development must also be accounted for. he put in some impressive performances for us last season and has been played in fits and starts this season. He will continue to develop and will likely be given at least another season to come good (bearing in mind Song started to look the real deal for us only at 23).

      4) Fulllbacks. Again something that will resolve in the summer depending on Sagna’s decision (likely to leave IMO). Vermaelen looks solid enough for LB alternate to me. Which may leave a position to fill for a proper RB. Some of Tim’s suggestions are interesting to say the least and bear watching.

      However if Vermaelen is recycled to LB for a ‘regularish’ berth as the captain, then we may have a position in the middle at CBack for another player, regardless of Miquel likely succeeding Djourou.

      Another versatile and aggressive Cback in Yanga Mbiwa is worth following to see if he keeps up his level from last season. He can play across the entire back line and as a bonus for us can also fill in as a makeshift DM in the more traditional sense if need be.

      5) Keeper. I don’t see movement in our keeper situation. Likely one of Fabianski or Mannone may leave which means the other will be the regular (and reasonable if unspectacular) back up. Third choice likely to graduate through academy in either the young Argentine or Shea.

  12. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    I will just trust Wenger to get it right. The January window, surprise me Wenger. We played AV and Wenger gives the obligatory comment that he looked at Benteke but had Giroud. Thank goodness we had Giroud because he is a much better player dribbling with the ball, holding up the ball and passing the ball than the Benteke.

    We have not replaced the things that Song did with Arteta. No disrepect to Arteta but I get very annoyed watching him and Ramsey get brushed off like flies when they go in to ‘body’ up players. Arteta is not holding off his defender to make the play he wants to like Song use to do. So now we’re seeing Giroud dropping deep to be that physical presence in the MF that the other three are incapable of.

    Is Platini a joke (rhetorical)? An expanded Champions League to 64 teams is like making the competition more like the FA Cup.

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Old wound. Ouch.

      Yeah I hear you with Song. he was just coming good for us with capabilities both in defending and supporting our attackers, weighing in with a decent number of assists. With 3 years left on contract, it seemed criminal how we rolled over but I suppose we are not privy to the minute going ons behind the scene.

      Ramsey is better played in the Rosicky role IMO where he should be heir elect (pending Eisfeld’s strong challenge), both men having to displace Santi first.

      Jack is better as second midfield linking as he can carry the ball through by feet (in lieu of Diaby).

      I’m not sure if we can sell Diaby given his salary and injury record so he may linger on as a expensive ‘bonus’ for us in coming season(s), but it should not detract us from getting someone-else in to help in the link role/Arteta alternate.

      Difficult decisions and I trust the manager has a good target list beyond our own mediocre knowledge to add someone into the mix in this position. If Sahin’s pursuit was anything to go by, then we know at very least that behind the brave words, he knows that we are a bit short in the department.

  13. Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

    What a pathetic goal to concede. Sczcesny does okay at distribution, but sometimes–like just now–he throws too quickly to players under pressure, which results in a loss of possession in a highly vulnerable area.

    One positive thing: It was a beautiful assist from the Arsenal player for Fellaini’s goal.

  14. Vote -1 Vote +1Not Arsene but Love Arsene

    Makes a lot more sense to me than yesterdays read. :) Left winger and DCM (not CDM as we don’t have one) as well as a Left Back would be the buys for me. Would be surprised if Arsene bought even one in those positions though…

  15. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Not Arsene but Love Arsene

    Dissapointed with Arteta’s performance today. Been outplayed by Fellaini and conceded dangerous fouls/pulling shirts which a better defensive midfielder would have gotten to before. Hoping for a tiring Everton in the second half because I don’t think there is much more this team can create against such a fiesty Everton.

    It’s seriously funny how often teams fight back after early Walcott goals. Tim have you looked at this before? Would be delighted if you could.

    Cazorla also seems to have been completely outmarked. Rosicky for Cazorla at 60 anyone?

  16. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1craig

    Dear Arsenal,
    You’re just not that good anymore. No Song + No Diaby + No RVP + 50% of Jack Wilshere = no one can hold onto the ball under pressure long enough to make crucial passes. No one can step in and win 50/50s in mid-field. Result: passing game is broken, pressing game is broken, puts pressure on defense.

  17. +12 Vote -1 Vote +1Teampossible

    “Well, I’ll take that point against Sunderland, the players still need time to gel”.
    “Well, I’ll take that point against Stoke, it’s a tough away fixture”.
    “Well, I’ll take that point against Fulham, they are a good side”.
    “Well, I’ll take that point against Aston Villa, the weather was shit”.
    “Well, I’ll take that point against Everton, it’s a difficult place to come to”.

    There is a proverb from where I come from, and loosely translated it goes something like this: “A dick has no shoulders. Once the head is in, it’s too late to stop it afterwards”.
    And that is how we get used to mediocrity, my friends.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +11niltothearsenal

      Well said, and we all resemble those remarks. I also think of Alfred, Lord Tennyson: ” We are not now that strength which in old days moved heaven and earth…”

  18. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    Everton pressed or MF until they were just ‘thin’ men. Fellaini all over Arteta. Arteta could have easily been call for a PK. Wilshere could have taken this game off as well for all his impact. Good Ramsey against AV. Bad Ramsey today. Nice assist on the Fellaini goal Rammer. Walcott after the goal just never saw the ball enough and we rarely saw Walcott on camera after that.

  19. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    Is there a point Gervinho to what you were doing out there because if there was, let me know.

    Giroud needs to work on getting his feet quicker to act.

    MOTM: Szcezesny

    Let’s face facts and this shit is what it is ladies and gents.

    How come Sagna never goes deeper than the 18yd line?

    Gibbs also looked like shit today. Since when do you get a lazy yellow card for pulling back Jelavic when you spot him 50yds and still catch him. Ridiculous.

    Best player on the field was Fellaini.

  20. +1 Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    Szcezesny was the only player to save us from a below mediocre performance.

    Seriously? This is it? This is all our vaunted manager and highly touted players can come up with?

    Everton bossed us around the pitch today and were unlucky not to get all three points.

    I don’t what else to say. Heading to the LCBO* and it’s only Wednesday.

    (*The liquor store)

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

      Ugh, the LCBO. I lived in Toronto for three years, and never understood the iron grip of provincial control over liquor. No other province in Canada (so far as I know) has such strict control over how people can access booze.

      One thing I love about the US: booze is available everywhere, all the time!

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Caribkid

        Shoot, Liquor was not allowed to be retailed in Georgia on Sundays until 6 months ago. Did a photo shoot for the COC in NE georgia late last year and 3 counties were still legally “DRY”. Had to drive to the Carolinas to purchase liquor.

        Now, LCOB’s are open on Sundays.

        Forget that crap and go to Jamaica, where every grocery store and super market sells a full line of fine booze. Now, that’s what I call accessibility :)

  21. Vote -1 Vote +1Jimmy

    Unless the team is considerably closer to 4th spot by the end of december, I think it will be hard to sign any quality talent in January. Most players that we want to buy will be cup-tied, and they will want to wait until summer to see if Arsenal will make the Champion’s League.

  22. +6 Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

    Cazorla’s starting to get that “wtf am i doing here” look Cesc habitually wore in his last season. fair point away from home in a difficult venue, but Teampossible’s excellent comment above sums up the new feeling of being an Arsenal supporter. People warned years ago that we were becoming a bigger Everton. Looks like we’re almost there.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1courtesyofwengermite

      The board is going to lose a fair proportion of viewership overseas particularly nulling the work put in over two summers touring at this rate.

      There doesn’t seem to be anyone of calibre to Santos to share his load and that is the problem. He becomes immediate focal point to the opposition defenders and its too easy to shut us down.

      Wenger has got to bring in one more articulate player to pair with Santos. Ramsey isn’t it.

      Maybe Rosicky…

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

        completely agree with you (about Santi, not Santos!) he is being run into the ground. he’s so much more durable than 19-24 year old Cesc was, and it boggles the mind that he is still so fit after so much international travel and every minute of our season. that won’t last, and when he breaks down, i fear it could be for longer than Cesc’s periodic breakdowns. another consequence of selling Song, who had some creativity about him, and who was strong and physical enough (he always shackled Fellaini, for instance!) to liberate Santi from the donkey work he is currently obliged to do.

  23. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Caribkid

    What everton did so brilliantly today was basically bypass our MF with long balls to Fellaini who started their attack in the final third and exposing the back 4 which along with CZ, has to be commended for a decent job in keeping the score level. We also need to give almighty thanks to Jelavic who did everything right except score.

    This tactic basically took our MF out of the equation and they never found their rhythm. Once again, Ramsey’s lack of defensive nous was exposed and he resorted to being “Mr. giveaway”.

    As early as the 25th minute I kept thinking that we would bring on a tall, strong tackling DM to double team Fellaini with one of the back 4 but then realized we didn’t have any on the bench. No Song, no m’Vila, no Capoue, no Diaby. Oh well. Maybe a 4-2-3-1 with Coq replacing Ramsey? Forgot that AW doesn’t make changes before the 70th minute unless there is an injury.

    While Everton looked like scoring at any given time, although we had good spells of possession we very rarely threatened. We were lucky to get the draw and I guess 1 point garnered is better than losing all 3.

    5 wins in 14 games puts Wenger in uncharted waters during his tenure as manager.

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1courtesyofwengermite

      Can’t agree with you more.

      I thought it an option for us to go 3 at the back with Per, Koscielny and TV. Vermalen to patrol just ahead and man mark Fellaini (to as much as we man marking) in concert with Arteta.

      Keep Gibbs and Sagna as wing backs. Walcott and Gervinho (or Arsharvin) out wide. No Ramsey.

      But Koscielny got the knock in a any case and we had no one to deal with Fellaini like Diaby last time we met.

      Poor return 2 out of 6. We will be scraping for fourth at this rate.

      not sure what the aversion to playing Arsharvin is (other than trying to sell him in Jan) but we are paying for it. We needed more invention up top to follow the easy start.

    2. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Eurazian

      Speaking of defensive midfielders – Arteta almost gave away another stupid penalty again. Happy to take that no-call, but if it was the other way around I’m sure we’d be up in arms over it.
      Is this one aspect of his new deeper role that he hasn’t quite got to grips with? He may be a great passer, but he’s not blessed with great speed, or with the power of Song or Diaby to muscle players off the ball legally, so he seems to be prone to hauling people down from behind. Not a good way to play, particularly when it’s in the box.

      1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Caribkid

        Like Tim and many of us have said here before, we have no DM’s in the squad. We have MF’s who play in that position. Asking Arteta, Ramsey or JW to play in that position is just plain ridiculous.

        The only team in my realm of knowledge to ever do this with some degree of success is the Dutch team of the mid to late 70′s. Even Barca has their intimidation factors in Busquets, Song, Mascherano, etc.

        Our CB’s will always be exposed when we use this type of strategy, especially since we utilize our WB’s to provide width offensively.

      2. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Song

        Busquets nominally starts most of Barca’s games as their deepest midfielder but he certainly isn’t a typical pacy, physical defensive midfielder. He and Arteta play a similar type of game. He’s just not exposed as often because Barca keep possession so well and they press so intensely when they lose possession they either win the ball back immediately or can put numbers behind the ball. Song does give them an option to play a little differently. We lack options.

  24. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Yan

    Re: January window, I need to get this out of my system: I really don’t think that champions league football matters at all to most footballers. It is their aycheck that they’re after. In any case, big names aren’t our thing.

  25. Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Song

    Considering the well documented deficiencies in the squad and a draw against one of our true peers, I’m simply hoping for fourth and looking forward to the summer. Because the club and Arsene are setting expectations fairly high for the summer transfer window. The club have trumpeted the new Emirates deal to the heavens with glee. Gazidis has practically wet himself proclaiming that going forward, Arsenal will be able to compete financially with every club. And Arsene has complained to the press in timely fashion about how he has been hamstrung by the clubs financial position while patting himself on the back for keeping the club in the Champions League. Granted, he deserves that praise but I guess soon we’ll see if the club are willing to spend the money necessary to upgrade, rather than simply tread water.

    And at the end of the day, if we don’t finish fourth, it would represent poor value for money. Maybe I’m just hopelessly biased but looking at our peer group, WBA, Spurs, and Everton, I don’t think any of them have an overall better squad than we do. We have deficiencies but so do they. This squad is currently underperforming given the talent on hand and if we finish the year out of out of the Champions League, that has to pinned on the manager.

  26. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1dy

    can we look at the team in another manner ? I mean they’re actually over performing giving the lack of talents with most players.

  27. Vote -1 Vote +1Jop

    Another nail in our coffin of mediocrity.

    Really hoping for a good draw in the Champions League, one final hurrah before we bow out! (Until 2015 when the competition is doubled to 64 teams! Perhaps that’s the Board’s angle, drop to six or seven, reduce costs but still play in the CL from 2015 onward, cheeky bastards =P).

  28. Vote -1 Vote +1Jop

    I wonder how are our points hauls distributed over a typical season? Can we reasonably expect our position to improve? I’d imagine the trend would suggest yes, that we’d finish the season higher than the 7th position we currently occupy. But, based on how tired and clueless our play has looked at this early stage can we expect more games to really change this in any other way than detrimentally?

  29. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Greg

    Missed the game last night.

    Thanks for these posts, Tim, I enjoyed them and they give food for thought. As you point out, what looks like a deep and versatile squad quickly boils down to a couple of players (Arteta, Cazorla) being overworked and everyone else contributing too little. Upgrade Santos and Coquelin, and replace Arshavin with a proper winger. That’s a plan I could get behind.

    I don’t think I want to lose Diaby. I can live with a player being injured a lot if I know what he adds when he’s on the pitch, and I think the big guy is basically what we’re missing when we are ineffective. Rosicky I have similar feelings about.

    The problem for me is the trio of Ramsey, Wilshere and Ox. At least two of them need to step up and reach the next level where they are consistently excellent. I know this is an impossible demand to make, but these guys have been chosen as the future of the club, and we badly need them to contribute on the same level as some of their colleagues.

  30. Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

    I like the discussion about how defensive midfielders are no longer needed, especially when you see teams like United and City field two of them at a time when the occasion calls for it.

    Defensive midfielders are no more dead than wing players are dead or sweepers are dead. Just ask Juventus.

  31. Vote -1 Vote +1Kevin Sweeney

    Great set of articles.
    Only thing I might add is the possibility of throwing Santos into the left wing position in front of Gibbs. Not absolutely ideal, but he obviously likes to get forward and could provide some rest/rotation if Gervinho is in Africa and Giroud needs a rest. He looked horrible this season but I thought he looked OK when we got him last year and I’d be less worried about his missed tackles on the wing than in the back…

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