I have heard fairly consistently since this summer’s article outlining how Arsenal need to invest £120m and that the club needs to buy more than one player that no, I am dead wrong, just one player will do. Interestingly, it’s never the same type of player that anyone agrees on: one month it’s DM, one month it’s striker. It has also variably been fullback(s) and goal keepers that people say are the one piece that Arsenal are missing. And then there are the few weirdos out there who want a wing player. You know, a real one, not a converted center mid.
Offense 7/10: Szczesny fits exactly into the Arsenal system in that he rolls the ball out at a high rate, passes well, and even his long kicks (mostly to Sagna) aren’t terribly terrible.
Defense 8/10: Szczesny has only allowed three goals and already has three clean sheets including a 4 save game against Villa. Making saves at a 77% rate, marked improvement from last term’s 64%. Definitely looks like he has improved over last season.
Offense 6/10: Keepers are normally low percentage passers, he’s one of the best but is still below Szczesny in this category.
Defense 5/10: Chronically incapable of claiming the ball on crosses. Tendency to go on walkabout. Does own a 68% saves rate and has three clean sheets, which is how he gets a 5.
Fabianski: No data available. Constantly injured.
Verdict: ££ — Mannone did OK, but he’s not an equal to Szczesny and won’t put the Pole under any threat for his starting place. Fabianski never convinced before and has since been injured. My opinion is that Arsenal still need a backup keeper/player who will keep Szczesny on his toes.
Offense 7/10: Massively important player for Arsenal’s system. Passing fullback who can get up and support the forwards. Averages second most completed crosses per game. Important outlet for Szczesny to kick the ball to.
Defense 7/10: Looks to have lost a step this season and is still one of Arsenal’s best defenders. Oddly, only has one interception in four games. Possibly due to teams targeting the Arsenal left back.
Offense 7/10: See “Sagna”.
Defense 7/10: Injury prone but when he’s in the game he is an absolutely vital fullback for Arsenal. Leads the team in interceptions, 2nd in tackles, (see “Sagna”).
Offense 6/10: Annoyingly all the announcers pronounce his name “Kul”, listen for it next time. Crosses as well as Sagna, tops all fullbacks in successful dribbles per game, but annoyingly turns the ball over too easily. Also “only” passes the ball at an 85% rate.
Defense 7/10: 3rd in tackles per game, etc. See “Sagna”
Offense 5/10: Arsenal’s most efficient crosser, has completed 5 of 9 attempts (Gibbs has 5 also, of 37 attempts), 87% passer, only has one successful dribble, leads all Arsenal fullbacks in being dispossessed.
Defense 4/10: Teams targeted Santos and as a result he was dropped by Wenger and Vermaelen played instead. Doesn’t block, doesn’t clear the ball, and leads Arsenal in number of times the opposition have dribbled past him.
Vermaelen, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Djourou, Squillaci
No need for extensive breakdown here: Arsenal have 5 center backs and three are first team starters on most top clubs (David Luiz starts for Chelsea, Johnny Evans starts for Man U — try to tell me Vermaelen or whomever you hate right now wouldn’t start on those two clubs). Djourou was half decent at one time but never plays, Squillaci is never going to play for Arsenal ever again.
Verdict: ££££ — Arsenal have a “selection headache” in center back at the moment. But given Gibbs’ injury problems Arsenal need a left back who is better than Santos or we risk relying on playing a center half out of position. Also, Arsenal MUST re-sign Sagna or buy a right back. Thus, fullbacks must be a top priority for Arsenal in January.
Part two tomorrow: the forwards.