Monreal Is Cause For Renewed Positivity
The transfer window has slammed shut and Arsenal have managed to sneak in a deal for Peter Crouch lookalike aka Spain international Nacho Monreal to the delight of some supporters. To the chagrin of others it seems that one was not enough and whilst I agree that the team needs further strengthening I have woken today with a renewed positivity.
I feel I have always been good at looking at the positive side of things, especially when it comes to Arsenal, whilst maintaining a reasonable degree of balance. I have never identified with any group or acronym that exist nor will I probably ever. I am an Arsenal supporter and my opinions are my own and not defined by others and I’d like to think the majority of Arsenal supporters would see themselves the same way.
I think we have the makings of a special team. The current squad I think are good enough to make the Champions League spots and good enough to win the FA Cup too but probably a few players away from title winners. The players that will “complete” our squad will hopefully arrive in the summer and I’m quite confident that hopefully is actually certainly.
Arsène said that he almost signed one more player and I wouldn’t want to speculate who but I think it would have been a big money move.
We were close to one more signature, it did not happen because of the desire of the clubs to sell or not sell. It is only linked with that.
Arsène Wenger – 01/02/2013
The signing he did make I feel has really added to our squad despite being told yesterday that Monreal lacking a YouTube video means he is a bad player!!
I must admit that I haven’t seen much of Monreal but what I have seen I have been impressed with. I’ve watched Malaga this season because I heard we were scouting Isco but maybe it was really Monreal we were scouting… or both. Monreal looks reasonably solid as far as attacking full-backs go and his crossing ability is excellent so I’m banking on a few assists for Giroud and a quick adaptation period.
I think it’s fair in saying that collectively Gooners were hoping for a goalkeeper, a centre-back, a left-back, a defensive midfielder and a striker. We got the left-back and I’m sure we were trying hard for the others.
It’s not easy to buy a player in any window but it is especially hard in January. The teams you are buying from have a better idea of what their realistic target is for the season, for example ours was to win the league and now it is to finish in the top four. We can argue all day long about what our ambition was at the start of the season but I don’t think for one second it wasn’t to win the league. Our main ambition every season is to win the league; finishing in the top four is our minimum goal. So, the selling team know what their target is so selling a player could damage that so they’ll need a good reason to sell such as needing the money (Malaga) or the offer is too good to turn down (Anzhi for Samba) and they’ll need to be able to find a replacement or have the depth to cope without a replacement.
The sort of player I think we, the supporters, want Arsenal to buy are not the sorts of players that are easily replaced. The sorts of players that are available, the likes of which QPR and Newcastle signed, are not at the level of the players we want/need. I hear a lot about our squad not being top 3 quality etc yet only Ba has been signed by a top 3 club and that was only because he offers something different to what they have already.
If we signed Ba, as Wenger has said, we would just be signing another Giroud and based on contribution this season and factoring in experience of the league I think we have the better or at least more effective player.
I’m all for competition for spaces and strength in numbers but I am often told that we need to have different options to combat different opposition. So if we had Ba and Giroud we’d have two players competing for the same spot to offer similar styles in a finite number of games that will play to those strengths. Where does the run of games come to gain consistency? I’m not anti-Ba but I can see valid reasons for not buying him.
We’ve had a whole month to do business and some may think we didn’t try hard enough but I disagree. It’s not easy to do business in January and especially not if you are a top team or challenging for a top four spot. Who did City sign? Chelsea signed Ba but they sold Sturridge, they had two strikers and they still have two strikers. United signed Zaha but he won’t play for them this season so that doesn’t really count. Spurs signed Holtby but that was because Sandro is out for a few months otherwise he’d be signed in the summer. Arsenal signed Monreal early for similar reasons. Everton signed a young defender, John Stones, from Barnsley. Where is the top top quality? Where is the superstar?
Arsenal have worked incredibly hard I feel since the departure of Cesc to tie down important players to long-term contracts where possible and sign talented and experienced players.
We now have a team full of players on long-term contracts and going into the summer we only have one player of real significance entering his last year and that is Sagna and even then I could argue that despite his run of games he’s not really our no.1 right-back any more. Or least hasn’t been performance wise.
We probably could have done with another keeper because it seems that Szczesny is a little comfortable and lacks a challenger to his spot. We probably could have done with another striker to offer competition for places and a different option to Giroud but where was the quality? That said, I think we have an option, made possible by the signing of Monreal.
With Monreal and Vermaelen probably taking the left-back spot until Gibbs is fit enough to fight it out with Monreal I think we could push Santos higher up the pitch. His defending at times can be abysmal but he is not a fundamentally bad player. His attacking instincts are excellent and his defending in one-on-one’s is adequate when he concentrates. He has had some blinding games, or halves of games (Chelsea 5-3) and could be an asset to the club in an advanced position.
Other bloggers have written about it in more depth than I will but Santos could play the left-sided role, as backup, allowing Podolski to have a rest or potentially play more games through the middle. The signing of Monreal offers us better rotation in defence and attack and potentially more options through the middle.
We also could have had bought a centre-back but apart from depth I’m not so sure we need one. Vermaelen is getting back to his best after a rough start to the season but even with players out of form our defence has been much improved. Yes we are still conceding goals but we also still have the joint 4th best defence in the league. We can look at statistics all day long but the only one that truly counts in the goals conceded stat.
Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs and Sagna have all taken their share of flack this season but I still don’t think we have a bad defence. For me, not one of those players mentioned isn’t good enough for Arsenal. They are all very good defenders, each with their own strengths and each with their own weakness. Can they be blamed for other teams exploiting that effectively? Is any defender infallible?
Oddly enough, I don’t think another team has exploited individual weaknesses that much. I’m struggling to think of a time this season that Arsenal have conceded a good goal. As a unit they’ve played well but individual errors or a string of separate individual errors or sheer bad luck has been the cause of most goals conceded I feel.
Take Liverpool for example. The first goal was a slip, a horrendous mis-kick and then an unlucky deflection off of Ramsey that he had no chance of controlling. Who got the blame? Going by my timeline on Twitter it was 70% Ramsey’s fault (what isn’t?) and 30% Mertesacker’s fault. Sagna slipped, the ball was passed behind Mertesacker before he could get to the ball (even Theo wouldn’t have got to it) and Vermaelen mis-kicked it and it’s Per’s fault? Come off it.
The second goal started in midfield with too much space and not enough tracking of men and then it was poor defending by one player and another unlucky deflection off Ramsey into the path of Henderson. It was calamitous but credit should go to Henderson for persisting.
If we can cut out or reduce the individual errors then our defence is good enough. Sure we could still do with another centre-back but I’m not so sure we could have bought one in January. If we did they would have to be a superstar and as we’ve established it’s not easy to buy those in January or they would be backup. We could have bought back up but we have three good centre-backs competing for one spot and maybe Wenger doesn’t want more backup, maybe he wants someone of top quality. Squillaci hasn’t had a sniff this season and we haven’t heard from Miquel in literally a year (last mention of his first team exploits in an Arsenal.com article). Koscielny was probably our best defender last year and he’s hardly getting a look in. Why pay for something of similar or lesser quality than Koscielny to sit on the bench when you can wait for the summer and buy someone of better quality?
Wenger said a while back that we have two players for every position and I think in a sense he is right. We have enough bodies to put out two teams and overall I think we have enough quality in both XI’s to achieve fourth spot and the FA Cup.
We have quality and competition for places in all positions, or enough to see us through until June.
Arsenal have worked hard to reduce the squad size so we have quality over quantity and are setting us up so next season we finally have both.
For years we have been “a few players away” from winning the title and every time we have come close we’ve seen a player force their way out or refuse to sign a new contract and it has pegged us back. What is now some of our first choice quality could become our competition and backup to even more quality with summer signings. An experienced goalkeeper, a centre-back and a striker will complete our team but they have to be the right players and if that means waiting for the summer then so be it.
Next season will finally be different. We no longer have a need to sell. We have money in the bank. Our best players are on long-term contracts and none of our players have Barca-DNA or little boys inside them.
As long as we make the right signings and a good starting base we’ll do great things and it starts with getting behind the team as my friend Adi over at Positively Arsenal says.
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