The Squad Has Depth And Window Judgement

By Daniel Cowan
In Arsenal
Sep 5th, 2013

It was a tough summer to be an Arsenal supporter and the club took a lot of stick from some very unhappy supporters. Rival supporters and especially the media, revelled in the disharmony surrounding Arsenal on social media.

To make things worse there was a lot of in-fighting amongst the Arsenal faithful and to many, not attacking the club was cause to be attacked. There was no middle ground, you either slagged off the club or you were endorsing “mediocrity”. I, like many, tried to stay on the fence.

I don’t think I have endorsed or accepted mediocrity at Arsenal under Wenger but then again I don’t think we’ve had anything like mediocrity at the club in the past 16 years but that’s for another day.

Throughout the summer I maintained that I would withhold judgement on the transfer window until the 3rd of September so I guess now is as good a time as any to pass my “judgement”.

In simple terms, I think it was a successful window albeit an extremely tense and incredibly frustrating one.


Mesut Özil

I’ll start with Özil; Mesut’s signing on the last day of the transfer window was cause for much elation but the perpetual moaners and those who like nothing better but to groan and lament are enjoying insisting that it was all a shambles and regardless of how good Özil is, it’s papering over the cracks and we are still “weak” all over the pitch and we should have done our business earlier.

Alongside withholding judgement I also said that I would prefer to wait until the last minute and sign players of absolute quality rather than settle for less just to get it done early.

I admit to going into the last week of the window and worrying if we were going to sign anyone of note as by that point it had become abundantly clear that the early rumours of Cesc and Rooney were not going to come to fruition.

At that point I wished we had maybe signed some “lesser” players like Cabaye and Fellaini earlier in the summer so we were stronger and settled but with the arrival of Özil I feel the club did absolutely the right thing.


The fulcrum

It would have been impossible to sign Özil earlier in the summer as it all seemed to hinge on Bale. Madrid wouldn’t sell without having Bale in their clutches and Tottnum wouldn’t sell Bale if they knew we were going to get the better end of the deal. They sell their only world-class player and we buy a world-class player in arguably the area we needed one the most.

George and Ronan on Positively Arsenal spoke an incredible amount of sense in their latest podcast when they said that our biggest problem last year was creating chances. Özil is a genuine solution to that problem.

Some say that we need defenders but as the PA chaps said, and I totally agree, it is insane to suggest that the defence that conceded the second fewest amount of goals last season are defensively inept. It is asinine in the extreme to even contemplate labelling our defence as rubbish because they are anything but.


Not weak by a longshot

Maybe I am being harsh on those that incorrectly believe that we are defensively weak or susceptible. Maybe it is years of having a less than great defence programming people into believing we cannot improve defensively but let me assure you that we have.

I wrote a blog last summer defending our “shambolic” defence and explaining why I felt we had conceded so many goals and detailing why I felt we would be better. I even wrote about why I felt Mertesacker could be at the heart of a new “famous back five”. I seem to have a penchant for backing under fire players like Mertesacker and Ramsey and enjoy it immensely when they repay my faith (and that of others) by proving all the doubters wrong. I had a conversation this morning where someone maturely admitted they were wrong about Mertesacker but crucially they were glad to have been wrong. And I have conversations like that all the time.


Three of my favourite players. Great defender of two and hope it doesn’t become three

So the defence isn’t the issue and with the amount of goals our first choice front three scored last season I can’t say it is our strikers inability to hit the back of the net. George is right when he says it was about chances created. Strikers will miss chances but if you make enough of them they will score and last season we didn’t make enough of them.

I honestly believe with the addition of Özil that we have a team, nay a squad, capable of challenging for honours this season. I don’t fancy Manchester United because their midfield is truly awful for a team of their stature, their new manager has nothing like the ability of Ferguson when it comes to dragging average squads over the line and I don’t think Van Persie has another 30 goals in him this year as Dave Seager wrote in this blog a while back.

Tottenham have far too many new players to mount a serious challenge this season but I think they could be a force next season. I don’t think their new players would have strengthened our first XI but I do think as a squad they have enough to be serious top 4 contenders next season and moving forward. It’s Arsenal’s job to ensure they build on the revolutionary potential of our Bergkamp-esque signing and not let Tottnum close the proverbial gap.

Copyright and Clive Mason

Too many new players

If we are to be serious title challengers this season, and I believe we can be, then our competition will mostly be the benefactor backed boys in blue and what an incredible feat it would be for a self-sufficient club, led by a self-bought talisman, to win the title ahead of the oil boys.

Many believe that our squad is not good enough in terms of numbers to cope with a title challenge but I disagree for a few reasons. Firstly, we only have to stay competitive until January to strengthen further. Secondly, no team has picked up as many points as Arsenal this calendar year nor have the form Arsenal have had since March. Lastly, as many have pointed out including Dave Seager on his blog and Queen of Suburbia on twitter talking about Barca and Bayern, you only really need a core squad of 17-18 players, with 16-17 outfield players.

Arsenal have that in: Szczesny, Sagna, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Monreal, Arteta, Flamini, Ramsey, Wilshere, Özil, Rosicky, Cazorla, Walcott, Podolski and Giroud.


We also have, in some cases when fit, the following: Oxlade-Chamberlain, Diaby, Bendtner (I’ll come back to him), Fabianski, Viviano and Frimpong.

In addition we also have young players in the first team squad that are able to step in, on the odd occasion, when needed such as: Ryo, Zelalem, Sanogo, Gnabry, Eisfeld, Yennaris and Akpom.

I’ve heard that we needed to buy a new keeper and some don’t consider Viviano to be of the calibre they wanted such as Casillas or Begovic. I’m not saying that Szczesny is as good as those players but as he continually proves, and did in the North London Derby, he has world class potential. Most people recognise that he his biggest issue is a lack of competition. Some would agree when I say I rate Fabianski as the superior keeper but not the superior player and despite looking to have got over his confidence issues it’s impossible to challenge someone when you are unlucky with injuries.

What Viviano brings is greater competition because we have three keepers, hopefully with at least 2 fit at any one time, who are roughly at the same level. It’s not competition if you are vastly better than your rival for the no.1 spot. Szczesny will have a much better year this season because the defence is constantly improving (that Per tackle in the NLD, oh my) and he’ll need to stay at the very top of his game because it’s not just Fabianski breathing down his neck.

Some said that we are short in defence. Maybe at the moment we are a tad short but it is a temporary problem. Bringing in a permanent solution to a temporary problem is a cause of “deadwood” and we’ve been in positions in the past where we’ve had to do that.

Vermaelen will be back soon and that makes 3 top quality CBs fighting for 2 spots and Per and Laurent are probably the best partnership in the league. We also have Sagna who has performed admirably at centre-back and if push came to shove Jenkinson could even do a job there.

We can only play 2 of those 5 players at centre-back at any one time and we only have 23 games, plus 1-2 COC games before we can buy and register another player. It’s not inconceivable to believe those players can last until January. We could fall foul to injuries as we have done in the past but injuries are part and parcel of the game and overloading the squad with insurance players is another cause of deadwood.


Plenty of defenders

We have 9 players who can play as fullbacks, made up of natural fullbacks and versatile players; Sagna, Jenkinson, Gibbs, Monreal, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Flamini, Ramsey and Yennaris. And that’s just the first team.

In our “double pivot” we have four senior players; Arteta, Ramsey, Wilshere, Flamini, Frimpong and Diaby. In some games, maybe later Champions League group games if we qualify early or if in a pinch before January we also have Rosicky, Zelalem, Eisfeld and Yennaris.

Attacking midfield is covered by Özil, Cazorla and Rosicky. Other options include Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Wide forward/midfield is covered by Walcott, Podolski, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Ryo, Gnabry and even Gibbs/Monreal in desperation.

Striker is where some feel we are weakest but we have Giroud, Walcott, Podolski, Sanogo and Bendtner and that’s before we even get to young players. Bendtner is an interesting one because he cuts an extremely unpopular figure with Arsenal supporters.



I am not a massive fan of his attitude but I have no doubts about his quality. There are many who would label him as rubbish but I think some people just get into a mindset that doesn’t allow them to see the wood for the trees.

Bendtner’s record is incredibly good. He can and does score goals, important ones too. He scored 8 goals for Sunderland last season and Sunderland were absolute cack. You let Özil and Cazorla set up him and even as a substitute we begrudgingly use over the season I guarantee he’ll get double figures in all competitions.

Nicklas Bendtner’s problem is he thinks he is better than he is but if he took a good look in the mirror and said “Nic, you’re not TGSTEL but you’re a bloody good player, sort yourself out son and make something of your career” then I think he’d be a great asset to any team. I believe he has done that too, maybe foolishly but I believe it nonetheless.


I think his willingness to go to Palace shows he is maybe turning a corner and wants to prove himself again. I have a few mates who are close to Palace as I’m from that part of the world and whilst I cannot say this is gospel I believe them when they say that Palace would struggle to pay him half of the reported £52k a week he is on at Arsenal.

So where are we lacking depth? Maybe we could have another top quality striker to complement and compete with Giroud but we already have one of the best strikers in the league in Giroud. He’s had his critics but already this season you can see he has improved upon both his strengths and weaknesses. That goal against the Spuds was technically superb.

All we need to do is get to January, and be in a good position, and we can make the signings we want and need. Arsenal may have player a risky game this summer and to many they may have left it too late but the Özil signing is a signing of intent and one that will attract the level of player we want at Arsenal. It seems we tried to bring in a short term solution in Ba, who would have been decent backup, but why should we be held to ransom for a player we only want for insurance purposes?


Like he never left

The recurring theme in the squad and this blog about the squad is versatility. We have an incredibly versatile squad and Wenger re-signing Flamini was, in my opinion, a fantastic piece of business.

I admit to feeling he was maybe past it about 12 months ago due to his repeated injuries but he impressed me with what I saw of him last year at Milan and he obviously impressed Wenger.

I will probably write another blog on Flamini another time as I fear this one is long enough as it is but he showed me enough against Spurs for me to feel extremely grateful for having him at the club once more.

So don’t worry about depth at Arsenal for the moment because January is the target for this current squad and we have more than enough quality and depth to get there.

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About "" - 509 Posts

I am a South London born Gooner now living in Leigh-On-Sea, Essex. I'm a husband, daddy, podcaster, trainer enthusiast and aspiring author. My work is my passion and for that I will always be grateful. Here is where I write my thoughts and views on Arsenal Football Club, the greatest team the world has ever seen.

25 Responses to “The Squad Has Depth And Window Judgement”

  1. meaner says:

    Majority want a bus of defenders. That amuse me.

  2. Niyi gunner says:

    One of the best article have ever read on arsena.. This is not optimism,is just the fact!

  3. Sam-Gooner (@Sangbaran) says:

    Very very optimistic post IMO.
    To justify depth you have included names like Yennaris(Not ready) , Frimpong(Not good enough), Diaby( Perma-crock), Sanogo(!!!)
    Yes I will agree our top 14 is as good as it gets , keep them fit and we are in with a shout for a trophy.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Yennaris has performed admirably when he has player, Diaby is class when fit, Sanogo you can’t pass judgement on yet and Frimpong can do a job. The point is not that these are super class players but that we have enough bodies who can fulfil a purpose until January if needs be. The likelihood is that we won’t need them but if we do between now and January then we have options.

  4. king says:

    Great… Your Analysis is complete! you made me believe bendtner might work! We are not that bad then!

  5. Colynz says:

    The versatility of the squad is absolutely amazing, and i agree that the depth of the squad is totally controlable. It ached the whole of last season the lack of creative quality. Like whenever Cazorla played a central role, all the opposing team had to do was mark him out and we were settling for a bore draw. Until Rosicky came back from injury and provided a bit more options. A handful of our goals last season came about one single rare moment of impulsive initiative from one of our players and we’ve lacked that since we sold Fabregas and Nasri. Özil is an absolutely phenomenal signing who would perfectly fill that void, with Cazorla and Rosicky also proving constant creative threats, who are they going to mark now?! I passionately have the feeling that we will be up there come the end of the season.

  6. Samuel says:

    Great to read a posative blog really had enough of all the doom talk this summer I thought we were a much better team than we had credit for

  7. LonelyGunner says:

    Awesome. First time on this blog and impressed by the entry. I checked the previous articles and I am floored: smart and prescient. The only Arsenal blog that does not have to retract 90% of what was written pre-Mesut signing. Well done.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. Please do leave comments on any of the old posts that you enjoyed. I’m always up for debate/chat and read every comment made.

  8. David Biggs says:

    You have hit the nail bang on the head I could not have put it better, I totally 100% agree with your estimations and to me, Ozil aside the best signing in the Premier League the TW was Flamini, I was gutted when he left and when I heard he was training with Arsenal to get fit I hoped we would bring him back such is his drive and versatility…

  9. Fattcheeked says:

    Good read. Agree with all of what’s written. I don’t really think we’re short in the CB position. 3 top class CBs in Per, Kos and TV5 and Sagna able to fill in there if need be. Chelsea have one RB, César Azpilicueta, and 4 CBs- Terry, Cahill, Luiz and Ivanovic. Ivanovic can fill in at RB. This is basically the same situation we have at our club but I don’t see any reports saying Chelsea have a shortage of players in defense.

    More bodies are good but I’m struggling to think of many decent/cheap CBs who’ll be ready to be 4th choice. As we saw with Djourou, 4th choice CBs rarely play which leads to loss of fitness and form inevitably leading them to being called deadwood by the fans. I’d rather we mould Hayden to be the 5th choice option at CB after Sagna.

    I think we’ll be monitoring Giroud’s development till January, at least, to know if to bring in a top class CF for the starting spot or a back up for him. If he continues this way, I think he’ll need a backup, not a replacement. Think if Bendtner regains fitness and form he’ll be a decent option till the end of the season.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Sadly we won’t see people saying anything about Chelsea because it’s only Arsenal they want to put down but even if you get them to accept the point you have correctly made they’d probably just retort with “yeah but Chelsea have won trophies”.

  10. realarsenalfan says:

    Love ur article, agree with all that was written especially about Bendtner and Flamini. Let us all go out and support our Arsenal Football Club

  11. Femi says:

    Nice write-up! Thats why I have an assuring confidence that this team is a B.O.M.B.Come to think of it,the team chemistry has improved notably and thats the template for any team to function as a team. E.g, Dortmund beat bayern earlier in a cup game by 4 to 2,on paper,Bayern is the thing but getting to the field,dortmund shown their coherent coordination to pip the bavarian to the cup. That is what is gonna happen this season as arsenal did not tampered with the core team,it brings understanding nd that will work for us.

  12. Hiroonakamura says:

    what happens if Giroud gets injured for 2 months tomorrow? Walcott as striker? then who plays RW, Rosicky who shouldnt play there? Özil who left Real because they put him there?

    Squad depth isn’t big enough imho

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      We have Sanogo & Bendtner if worst comes to worst. If needs be & Theo is up top we play Santi RW and we have Gibbs/Monreal/Rosicky who can play on the left or even Ryo or Gnabry for either flank. I already dealt with that in the blog.

      It might not be ideal but ALL teams have to cope with injury, eg Utd had Valencia at RB last season & Carrick at CB.

      Don’t forget that when Flamini was last here Rosicky played left & Hleb right and they were a decent midfield. Flamini is also a record holder in the CL for clean sheets which he gained whilst playing out of position.

      As I said, not ideal but we can cope with it. If we get multiple injuries then we are screwed but new signings can’t counteract shitty luck like that and again, it’s better to focus on your core group whilst waiting to make significant improvements than to buy numbers for insurance purposes as it leads to deadwood. More deadwood = less money to pay the wages of the big players we actually need.

  13. Sam A-Mensah says:

    Very good read. Very well debated and points made. It is true getting rid of deadwood and rushing to bring in more because the facts are ignored is asinine (I had to use that word).

  14. SW16Gooner says:

    An excellent article. Well observed and not driven by team bias! I, too, am fed up with the whiners who say that Ozil only ‘papers over the cracks’ but you only have to see the reaction of those in the game who can be taken seriously, to realise the true impact of the Ozil signing. Take Mourinho, for instance. His blocking of the loan move of Ba to Arsenal, because he was scared stiff of the competition that an Ozil-Ba combination would provide for Arsenal, shows how much he understands the impact of Ozil. He wasn’t concerned about the strengths or weaknesses of the Arsenal defence, just the awesome fire power that Arsenal now have. And it is tempting to assume that those who believe that Man United’s signing of Fellaini was just as impressive as the Ozil signing, if not greater, are just Man United fans and sympathisers struggling to accept that a Moyes led United has probably lost its allure to world-class talent. Until, or if, Moyes proves himself to be the successor that Ferguson believes him to be. In the mean time, the Ozil coup will hopefully be the long awaited catalyst to Arsenal signing incredible talent once again.

  15. Tokunbo Alabi says:

    Your article is one of those articles I really enjoyed as it made an in-depth analysis of the team, its strength, its likely weaknesses, and its versatility. It is a realistic but optimistic analysis. I can’t but agree with you on it. The only place I’ll gamble on is fitness and form of Bendtner as a backup for Giroud, hoping he can get down to earth and improve.

  16. Michael says:

    I am absolutely delighted to come across this article! very good, I have been trying to convince people that our squad do has depth and i will now refer them to this article to show it!

  17. wun says:

    Actually the fulcrum was Gervinho. Roma bought Gerv, they sold Lamela. Spuds bought Lamela, sold Bale. Real bought Bale, sold Ozil. Gerv’s greatest contribution to Arsenal!

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Haha, maybe. I think Bale would have gone without Lamela joining Spuds as they’d have gone after another player.

  18. Mohamed says:

    Your article is just spot on! Most people’s mind have been screwed up to think that in football, cost is synonymous to quality. It might be most of the time, but definitely not all the time. For instance, Ozil cost us half the price of Bale. I actually think that in reality, the reverse should be tthe case. If I had to choose between Ozil and Bale, I would whisk Ozil away with a Concord jet.
    The ingenuity of Wenger is oblivious to many Arsenal supporters. I think that it is about to become obvious. Our team is becoming ready to explode. The fact that we are building on last year rather than re-buildinig a gain is a factor that many have not reckon with. Ramsey is showing that he has stepped up – already winning three man of the match award in five games. Wilshire will offer more that he did last year. Podolski will be inspired by the presence of Ozil in Arsenal. Giroud is set to repeat or even surpass his record of doing better in his second season at any club he has played for. Szscesny will be pushed to perform better because of new competition and a better defense in front of him. Opposing teams will start to be afraid of us more than in recent years. Generally speaking, things are looking up for Arsenal.
    To put is succinctly, I agree with your analysis. I read almost anything Arsenal, but I think that I will mark you blog for special attention.

  19. waiyuen leong says:

    An excellent piece of detailed write-up of all players and I feel that Arsenal can go much further with new players moving in like Ozil, Flamini to strengthen all angles of the team. Fans have no fear of such drastic change when Arsenal are in strong financial situation.

  20. bc says:

    I see it that we have a core of 22 players

    The 3 keepers, the 7 defenders and 12 further up players arteta ramsey wilshire flamini diaby walcott chamberlain rosicky ozil cazorla podolski giroud.

    Then we have the 7 first team back up of frimpong zelalem gnabry ryo bendtner park sanogo

    Only then do we dip into the academy which consists of some 50 odd under 21s but includes some highly promising talent like martinez bellerin boateng hayden ormonde-ottewill yennaris olsson eisfeld toral afobe and akpom.

    I have to admit I would like to see 2 more defenders a winger another midfielder and a striker at the expense of diaby and some of the kids, but for now I would be happy for wenger to promote bellerin hayden eisfeld or snap up a couple of out of contract players till january.

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