Transfer Deadline Day for most Gooners was a generally miserable affair. Many had hoped for two or three more players and ultimately we signed none (unless you count that 17-year-old Macedonian goalie).
I’m not going to lie, I too was disappointed, I had hoped for a few more players myself but only for numbers as a few injuries could scupper what this team is capable of achieving and my stance on that has not changed. I believe this team is capable of winning something this year, more than I have believed in other teams we have had since the Champions League final.
If we look at things rationally we can point to the sale of two starters and the purchase of three starters so we are technically one better depth wise and the other players we have moved on couldn’t really be considered squad players so we’ve done well to improve the team (in my opinion) as well as reduce the wage bill which will ultimately allow us to retain our best players and sign better ones too.
I’m of the opinion that our squad is good enough, deep enough with a few tweaks to playing positions (more on that later) and generally better than last season (maybe not man for man in each position but overall) to do something this season but if we are concerned about depth there are a few players we can still sign despite the transfer window closing.
I’m going to get so much stick for this but before you ridicule me in the comments section, switch off from the blog and unfollow me on twitter (as happened the last time I mentioned this) please stick around for the explanations. I’m going to suggest players we could still sign and reasons for and reasons against. This is not an endorsement of any particular player, just suggestions of free agents who could bring certain qualities to the club now the window has closed.
The players are Craig Gordon, Owen Hargreaves and Michael Owen. Now I only mention these players because they are available on free transfers and based purely on technical ability they could bring something to the club as squad players. I must stress that this is about squad depth not about starters nor is it an admission that these players are the best available to us and ones we should buy. Right, now that’s out of the way let’s have a look at the players.
For: He is experienced and talented and would provide great back up and competition to Szczesny.
Against: I’m not convinced we need a new keeper, even for competition, as Fabianski is an excellent challenger and many who have watched both of our Polish keepers at their best would agree that Fabianski is the more talented keeper but lacks self-confidence and the ability to forget mistakes quickly which Szczesny has in bucket loads and what makes him the better keeper.
For: I don’t think any sane football fan would ever question the guys talent but they can rightly question his fitness/injury record. He was good enough for the Champions as a back up player and as a squad member on a PAY AS YOU PLAY deal (sorry for the capitals but whenever I mention PAYP people spout wage figures at me and wages are mostly irrelevant on PAYP. If they’re playing they get paid and that’s good because they’re contributing) so I think he would be fine for us as back up and could help out if we ever need to rest Arteta or if we lose him to injury. Coquelin for me is Arteta’s back up but an extra body wouldn’t hurt.
Against: Injuries. We could waste a squad place on a player who may get injured.
For: He had the best shot to goals ratio of any United player whilst he was there. Has a big-game scoring pedigree. Has world-class off the ball movement and easily drags opposition players out of position which would be of benefit to Arsenal. Has a better games to goals ratio during his time at United (1 in 3) than Chamakh (1/5.25) and Park (1/6) have during their time at Arsenal. He is experienced and home-grown and would probably accept a pay-as-you-play deal. I see no reason why he wouldn’t take a PAYP deal with us over regular money elsewhere because he has plenty has turned down big money moves overseas and I think he’d like to look back and see his career was Liverpool, Madrid, Newcastle, United and Arsenal (all big clubs) than the first four and Stoke or Wigan (not that those clubs are in for him).
More importantly he can actually finish. How many chances to Arsenal make in a game that go begging? How many times have we got the ball in the box and screamed at our players to shoot only for them to pass the ball again? Owen is a natural finisher and that is something you do not lose. I don’t think he’ll be a starter but someone to come on in the last 15 minutes of a game, stretch the defence and maybe tuck away a late goal is exactly what we need.
There are many logical reasons to take someone like Owen on and mostly emotional arguments for not.
If you think about ever needing a player to score an important goal for you is there anyone better than Michael Owen?
Sir Alex Ferguson on Owen – March 2012 (Yes, just a few months ago)
Strength in depth is something Arsenal have seriously lacked over the years and how many of us can honestly say we fancy Chamakh to get a goal when he comes on? Owen has a history of doing this and has done so very well at United. Sure he didn’t play much last season but when you have a younger version of Owen like Hernandez hardly getting a game because the Welbeck/Rooney partnership worked so well it’s no wonder. No-one creates chances like Arsenal do nor as many and hardly anyone has the finishing ability to put them away like Owen does and has done for years and recently.
Against: Injuries. Injuries again could be an issue but there is also another reason and that is I think we have the depth upfront if we move Theo across or at least utilise him there. Some say that he doesn’t deserve a chance upfront because he doesn’t do it on the wing but that’s not true. I know he’s one of those players who split the camp but I would suggest that it is precisely his position that stops him from scoring as much as we’d all hope for. As a wide-man though his stats aren’t that bad, only one other “winger” scored more than him and that was Bale. VDV scored 11 but he played a number of matches as a second striker. Theo has not been scoring like our wingers of the past but that’s a mix of being played out of position and the formation we play. Theo’s shots on target % is just as good as the top scorers in the league last season so that suggests that he’d be more dangerous as someone tasked with scoring more goals than creating them. It’s widely believed that if Walcott played as the main striker with a slightly withdrawn striker he’d score a lot of goals and I personally believe the lad deserves the chance to show if it’s true or not. His crosses that found a team-mate % was poor but I think that furthers the point that he is not a winger.
However, as a winger he has been generally quite good, in fact he stacks up against the “top” widemen in the league. Gareth Bale had a combined 21 goals & assists last season. Mata had 19, Theo had 18, Nani had 18 with identical scoring/assists figures (& many claim him to be better), Valencia had 18 (mostly assists and mostly from crosses which furthers my claim that Theo is not a winger), Young had 15 and Nasri had 14. We may feel Theo is inconsistent but his inconsistency provides results as good as anyone else so imagine how great he’d be if he got that consistency. For that reason I feel he deserves his chance upfront and I think he’ll get it. He was promised striker time when he signed his last contract and that may be a sticking point for this one or why he wants more money. I think he’s been re-promised it.
Some have said that PAYP deals would still cost us a low basic salary but if we signed all three of those players and paid them all £10k a week plus their appearance fee we’d only be committing to £30k a week for forty weeks which is only £1.2m. We paid Almunia twice that and we paid Park 1.5x that. It’s not an insignificant sum but in the grand scheme of things it’s a very small sum for what I would call “insurance” players. Players we’d be signing for more depth and in case something happened. If they play they get more money but that’s okay because they’d be contributing and I’d rather pay a player to contribute than to just sit on the bench like we did with Park last year.
So those are for and against arguments for each player. If I’m honest the only one I’d actually want is Owen and I’ve said this for a long time. The others are available on free transfers too and as such are not restricted by the transfer window so are options for any club and options we can consider if we feel there is a need. Is there a need? I don’t think so.
Defensively we look strong and I’ve said for a long time that our defence will improve the more they play together and the more consistency we get in our starting back four and they’ve shown that against two very good defensive teams who soak up pressure brilliantly and counter-attack very well. Liverpool will be a sterner test but Liverpool have problems scoring themselves and they’ve been a bit suspect in defence so far this season. Man for man we have a top class defence in my opinion. We have three top class centre-backs, two class left-backs, a world-class right back and a very good back up. Jenkinson gets a lot of stick but he’s been sound so far this season and those that have picked on him clearly haven’t been watching and are just assuming he hasn’t improved.
In midfield we have a lot more options that last year and despite losing Song I feel we have greater balance as the return of Diaby gives us a real box to box player and Wilshere’s return will give us a boost and a new option in either attacking, box to box or pivot roles. Cazorla has looked sensational so far and will only get better the more he acclimatises to the league and to his new team-mates and he has excellent competition in the form of Ramsey, The Ox and the return from injury of the resurgent Rosicky. Arteta in my opinion was by far our best player last season and probably our most important too. He will boss that holding midfielder role for a few years yet and we have decent cover in Coquelin and Frimpong.
Our wide options will boast Walcott and Gervinho and we’ve since added the impressive and dangerous Podolski to that and we also can use Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Cazorla out wide and as of writing we still have Arshavin who is still a wonderful footballer and may have returned from his loan in Russia with an improved attitude.
Upfront we have Giroud, Podolski and Chamakh. Chamakh has had his critics too but let us not forget how well he started for us and how his drop in form and contribution coincided with the return to fitness of a certain Dutch bloke. Marouane may have felt that he had no chance of getting into the first team so maybe played with a touch of despondency. With that other guy out of the picture he may improve and be an asset again. I’ve already mentioned Theo upfront and we can add Arshavin to that if needs must and if things get really bad we have plenty of skilful players in our reserves and can recall one of our loanees if things get that bad or failing that it’s only 4 months until the January transfer window.
I’m not devastated that we didn’t sign any more players and I’m not any less confident in this team because of it. I think we have good depth and balance and I still believe we’ll be a force this season.
Things might not have panned out how many of us wanted but that’s no reason to feel any less confident about this season. Arsène Wenger clearly felt that there we’re no last-minute panic buys (let’s face it, most TDD deals are panic buys) that could improve the squad and that’s why he didn’t buy anyone.
Like the boss, I don’t believe we need anyone else but if we are that desperate there are options out there.
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