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Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Three-Transfers Road to Improvement: Arsenal

an article i wrote on bleacherreport

In this fourth part of the series on how clubs in the Barclays Premier League could strengthen their side ahead of the '09/'10 season, I look at what many term as the greatest club in the world. Yes, I will be looking at Arsenal (alright, alright, I admit that the "many" refer to Arsenal fans).

After what has been a largely unsuccessful season, where we were out of the title race before it even started, got spanked by Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League, and lost meekly to Chelsea in the FA Cup, improvements are a must for Arsenal.

Anybody who thinks this side are good enough to win the title next season, probably also think they have a chance at getting together with Angelina Jolie, Megan Fox, Jessica Alba, and of course Adebayor's favourite girl, Beyonce Knowles. All at the same time. In the same room. On the same bed. Wearing...OK, I digress.

Basically, major improvements are needed for Arsenal, but I will try my best to highlight the three most important areas to strengthen.


With Adebayor sulking around in London like Nicolas Anelka did years ago, I think it's time that he moved on. He used to be an unpolished striker who worked his socks off and thus gained the admiration of some of the fans.

Then, a goal-laden season finally rewarded him for all his hard work, and it seemed at one point of time, that Adebayor would be the one that we could rely on for goals.

Unfortunately, the work ethic that endeared him to the Arsenal support has now left him, and he seems the most unenthusiastic and unmotivated on the pitch. That is not easy, considering he shares the pitch with Abou "my style's like Berbatov, I just don't have half the amount of skill" Diaby.

As such, he has to go. Who will replace him though? Here's a few suggestions.

Roque Santa Cruz has been something of a success in the league. Adding an aerial presence for Blackburn, he has also been a calm finisher when the chances present themselves to him, and on top of that, he's a willing chaser.

The problem with him is his injury record, and with the Arsenal physios already dealing with permanent resident Tomas Rosicknote, Santa Cruz might not be the best signing, despite his quality and his desire to leave Blackburn.

Also, Mark Hughes has been known to be a keen admirer, and with the Manchester City bosses (who reportedly just renovated their homes and used 20-pound notes as wallpaper) financing any move, Arsenal might not be able to win a bidding war if it happens.

As such, I would suggest we go for a Manchester City cast-off who I think would be perfect for us—Jo.

Out of favour at Manchester City, he has proven to be very useful for the Toffees, during his loan spell at Goodison Park. He adds a physical presence to the side, and has good skill to get him out of tricky situations.

That is an impressive combination that few strikers can boast of. His hold-up play is excellent, and his finishing is quite good, definitely on par with Adebayor's or even better.

In terms of availability, I think it would not be a problem at all, as Mark Hughes does not get on with him, and with the club boasting 15 world-class players in each position, they should be quite willing to sell him.

Given that we have a limited transfer budget, and the bulk of it should be spent in other areas which I will elaborate on later, I think Jo would be the perfect signing for us.


Currently, we play Cesc Fabregas + either one of Song, Diaby, or Denilson here.

Of the three players after Fabregas (I will do Diaby a favour and count him as a player for the purposes of this article), I think Song and Denilson have shown a lot of potential, but perhaps it is unrealistic to expect them to step right into the first team of a club chasing titles at such a young age.

In fact, I think even Fabregas needs someone experienced in at the club, to help shoulder the burden of running the midfield. There are a few candidates, and I will take a look at them now.

First up is Xabi Alonso. We were close to signing him this season, we didn't - he went on to have an outstanding season at the heart of Liverpool's midfield, we went on to do battle with mighty Aston Villa for FOURTH spot.

I think he is the player we should look to sign again, as he will take the creative burden off Fabregas, and he is also willing to sit in his own half to provide the extra body in defence when necessary. The problem is that having seen him excel this season, would Rafa Benitez still want to let him go?

Well, if he refuses to sell Alonso, we could then look at another one of our supposed targets, Gareth Barry. What I like about this transfer is that, it not only would strengthen us, it would also weaken Aston Villa.

Barry would also add some much-added energy to the Arsenal midfield, something that Diaby could never provide even if his life depended on it.

I think Gareth Barry would be an ideal signing for us, but if the price goes too high, as it probably will, considering Martin O'Neill would not want to let him go, we can perhaps consider Fernando Gago, who is himself an accomplished passer of the ball, and also not afraid to put in a challenge.

With Real Madrid going through major changes at the moment, we might also be able to pinch him on the cheap.


Lastly, we look at the position that desperately needs reinforcements. This is an area of our team which is practically crying out for help, arms flailing in the air as it realises that its ship is going down, and the life-buoy it was given has holes all over. Here, we have William Gallas, Kolo Toure, Philippe Senderos, Johan Djourou, and Alex Song.

Alex Song's best position is still in midfield, in my opinion, so that leaves us with four players. Djourou is too young and inexperienced to hold down a first-team spot for me, and so we are down to three realistic options.

William Gallas, since being stripped of his captaincy, has, to his credit, improved a lot. To be fair, we really missed him in the recent cup games, and had he been around, I'm sure we would have put up a tougher fight. However, he does have some bad history already, and I don't believe he will stay at Arsenal.

Kolo Toure looks a shadow of his former self. His decision-making was never top-notch, but in the past, his pace made up for it. Now, his pace is not as devastating as it used to be, and his decision-making seems to be getting worse.

Philippe Senderos looked to have a lot of potential, and I still think he is a good player, so he should stay, in my opinion. I also hope that Paolo Maldini has been giving him tips on how to defend, and also look good while doing it. OK, that's pushing it a little, poor Senderos would never look good doing anything.

Of course, you might have wondered why I left Silvestre out of this discussion. My answer to that is I am actually wondering why you actually had to wonder why I left Silvestre out of this discussion.

We need to stop getting bullied at the back, like we were against Stoke. Remember that game? It was truly dreadful.

I think we could really do well with Daniel Agger. Not Rafa's favourite player, Agger has declared his intention to leave to secure first-team football before. He is strong in the air, yet is a good distributor of the ball, and possesses one hell of a long shot.

He would be the perfect signing for our defence, but once again, Rafa Benitez might not want to strengthen a rival by selling Agger to us.

As such, we might have to look elsewhere in the league, and I think we could certainly use the physical presence of Christopher Samba in our defence.

An absolute monster in the air, Samba would be the solution to our problem of getting bullied by physical (big, rough, ugly, talentless) strikers like Kevin Davies, Kevin Davies, and did I mention Kevin Davies?

Being a Blackburn player probably also means that if we really want him, we can get him, as Sam Allardyce is not the kind of manager you would reject Arsenal for.

If we can get big Christopher Samba, I think he would forge a very decent partnership with Kolo Toure or Johan Djouorou, as Samba will clear the aerial threats, while Toure can mop up behind him.

If Senderos has somehow become very strong and defensively sound after a season at AC Milan, then we could perhaps try and pinch Sebastian Bassong from Newcastle, as he looks like a William Gallas in the making. The ability, not the big talk and the crying on the pitch.

So that's it. If Arsenal commit the summer transfer window to signing players in these departments, or even get the exact players I've talked about in this article, then I would be a very very happy man indeed, and perhaps we won't be out of the title race by September.

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