One thing that has struck me in last couple of weeks is the quality and quantity of our squad and the real reasons why we’ve been unable to sustain our challenges for trophies this season. I’ve often thought that we needed a player here or needed a player there and it’s easy to say that we need to buy, buy, buy. But with more reflection, it is apparent that we have a significant amount of players in various different positions – all with varying skills. The question comes down to the quality of the players we have rather than the quantity and we’ve got to look at the squad, player by player and think about whether they’re good enough or not.
Arsene, naturally, will have to do the same thing.
Normally, this type of article is reserved for the summer, post season, but with our very saddening collapse at the end of the season and our very emphatic losses to Chelsea, United and Barcelona throughout, my cogs have been rolling and running and I’ll divulge myself now.
I’ll start off with a comment that Arsene made yesterday about the quality of the squad and ambitions for next season… he took time out to mention potentially signing players from Real Madrid, which was a bit random…
“It was surprising that they [Real Madrid] got rid of Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben, who have both done well in the Champions League. Maybe it’s worth waiting outside their stadium and seeing what players they let go this summer!”
… but he did continue to talk about improvements we’ve made this season…
“I feel we have made huge steps forward this year compared to last year and the year before that.
“We are not far away. We were fighting for the Championship and missed the key moments against Barcelona to knock them out of the Champions League quarter-final.
“I know we have to answer the demands of the people. But this year I feel we have appeased our fans a lot. We have always shown a great attitude, a great response when needed.
“We have convinced people that we are making progress and improvement. When you listened to people at the start of the season they were writing us completely out of the race, so we have improved a lot.”
And he will be the first to rue some of the opportunities we’ve missed this season… before the run in, we knew if we won our remaining games that we be able to challenge for the title, but the draw against Birmingham and the losses to Sp*rs and Wigan were points we never thought we’d lose. It’s amazing what a blessing in disguise exiting the Champions League earlier would have given us.
The problem, I feel is the lack of depth in our squad, but it’s hard to envisage that we’d be without our three first choice defenders at this time of the season in Gallas, Vermaelen and Djourou. Having known that Djourou was out for the season even in January, an extra man in that position would have been very beneficial as a player like Silvestre, making mistakes at the rate of knots may have simply been the downfall for us this season, but of course, it’s not that simple and it’s easy for us to say this in hindsight.
Our goalkeeping situation is officially in crisis and it’s a position that everyone in football knows we’ve got to look at this summer.
My first signing would be Joe Hart, currently at Birmingham, on loan from Man City – young, with experience and English – whether or not he will be available is another story altogether. We could potentially fund this transfer by the sales of both Almunia and Fabianski.
Add in a central defender of the impressive Gary Cahill, the current Bolton centre half – a player who has seriously excelled since joining the lancashire outfit – he looks solid, a no nonsense defender and someone I think would compliment Thomas Vermaelen. With the departing Gallas and Silvestre, his wages would be covered and add in Djourou, Nortvelt and Campbell, who has really proved himself and that’s 3 quality centre halves, a golden oldie and a youth prospect.
In midfield, one player who has impressed me is James Milner and he could do a better job than Denilson or Diaby next to Alex Song and Cesc Fabregas. Milner has been inspired at Villa and I would love to see him in an Arsenal shirt next season. Whether or not players like Denilson or Diaby will be on the way out if we did see him is debatable – there’s no point training them just to let them go. Maybe a bit more competition would make sure that they knew that they would have to play well to get into the side – something you feel they don’t have. I really don’t think Diaby is worried about his position.
The fourth player I’d like to see come in is Frank Ribery – now, he is probably out of our price range – well, if Eduardo does go to Lyon for £8m, we would have a little bit more to spend on him, but Ribery and Arshavin on the wings would be something very exciting. Throw in Walcott who would probably get loads of games considering how many injuries we always suffer every season. Whether Ribery will be priced out by our rivals remains to be seen, but you think if no-one has gone in yet, he may be available.
Finally, up front, it’s clear that the striker pool we have isn’t good enough. Yes, Van Persie is our best striker and can contribute a lot, but Niklas Bendtner is still learning his trade and we can simply not rely on him for large parts of next season if we’re going to try and win something. Eduardo looks like a spent force and God only knows what has happened to Carlos Vela. The striker I’d like to see brought, which links nicely to the Real Madrid exodus this summer, is Gonzalo Higuain – he looks a bit special and has been awesome for Real Madrid. But, as Real Madrid are, they’ll probably try to sign Rooney and get rid of the Argentinian.
You’re probably asking how on earth we could afford these players… well… Arsene has an answer for you:
“For a while we were not investing maybe because we had built the stadium but I think our financial situation is now becoming much stronger and we will be capable to buy the players we need to buy.”
But before you get excited about the prospect of Higuain, we may be close to signing a slightly cheaper alternative in Maroune Chamakh, who has also been very impressive for Bordeaux this season. Arsene said this:
“We will announce the deals after the league [finishes]. He is one of the players who has a good chance to join us.”
And it’s obvious that Arsene knows we need to freshen up and also increase the quality of the squad. If you could sign 5 players, who would they be?