A Look Through The Transfer Window (Winter Edition)

 THE TRANSITIONAL PERIOD

So here we are, 9 and a half years after moving into the Emirates stadium. Another transfer window has slammed shut for the 15/16 season and for me this has been the most painstaking one yet. I feel disillusioned, I feel confused, I feel somewhat betrayed by the football club I love so much. I invest so much time, so much money, so much of my life into the Arsenal and the very least I expect back is the will to want to improve and compete with the best.

I completely bought into the long-term plan, the transition from the Highbury to the Emirates Stadium simply had to happen to allow Arsenal to have any chance of competing with the worlds best. Years and years went by where we had to sell our best players and reinvest just to keep us in the top 4, its my belief that no other manager in world football could have achieved what Arsene did during that spell. We came close to trophies, we were desperately unlucky on so many occasions, times were “hard” due to our recent success but in reality things were not that bad. Since then we have been fed statements, speeches, promised that we can compete with the very best clubs in the world. I’ll never forget that day 2nd September 2013. The dream became a reality, Arsenal completed the signing of a truly world-class footballer, in fact the best Number 10 in world football for a whopping club record fee of £42.5m. The reigns were lifted, The Arsenal were back, we managed to not only complete a move to a world-class arena, not only attract one of the best footballers in the world whilst retaining our champions league status. We managed to achieve all this with our own money. Since the Ozil signing we have managed to add to that with the sensational signing of Alexis Sanchez, we’ve net spent £98m in the last 2 seasons, winning 2 FA Cup titles in that time, things clearly improving, Wenger has built a fantastic squad that had been desperate for 2 major additions in 2 positions over this season…

THE TRANSFER WINDOWS

After the non event of the summer we’ve finally done a bit of business in the shape of Mo Elneny who has been described by Arsene Wenger as being a “box to box midfielder”. For me the key positions we HAD to strengthen were at CF and DM. Francis Coquelin was a revelation last season at DM, but that is 6 months. Also if Coquelin is injured & Oliver Giroud is injured can we really rely on Mikel Arteta/Flamini & Danny Welbeck to win us the premier league title. If Arsenal want to be a football club who are challenging for premier league & champions league titles those 2 positions were hugely important. There is a list as long as my arm of target that have moved clubs who would have improved Arsenal’s squad, we currently have ONE, just ONE actual out-and-out CF at the club. Arsenal were the only club in the whole of the top 5 leagues in European football who didn’t sign an outfield player in the summer, we have spent less than virtually EVERY single club in the premier league, this is meant to be a club who are striving to compete with the world best. A club who want to reach the pinnacle of European football, in fact call themselves a European Super Club. You are telling me that a team that finished 12 points behind last seasons champions, a team that were embarrassed in Europe could not buy any player in world football baring a keeper and Elneny? We desperately needed to deliver this season over the 2 transfer windows, Arsene has put all his eggs in one basket, this was the big chance to improve the team & it’s passed us by, we are again an injury away from being in a battle for 4th place.

THE CURRENT SQUAD

So here is what we are left with; personally I’m of the opinion that we have a fantastic squad but we have clearly left ourselves short in 2 positions.

The Defence

    Mertesacker-609809In goal Petr Cech is quite simply world-class, saved us on numerous occasions this season so far he has been huge, Ospina for me is a very good keeper and will only improve when learning with a world-class experienced Petr Cech each and every day. At left back we are more than covered, the hugely improved Nacho Monreal has bopped Mr Gibbs out of the starting XI but I feel both players are good enough to challenge for the premier league title. Delighted with the 4 center backs, and for once we actually have four center backs. Big Per a leader and a giant at the back, vastly underrated and his experience will be key, Laurent Kosciely we all know on his day is as good as anyone, from the first moment Gabriel put on an Arsenal shirt I could tell he’s going to be one of europes best in the next few years, his aggressive nature, no-nonsense tight defending style is perfect for the premier league and finally Callum Chambers is a superb prospect and comfortable fourth choice. Right back is a position that is slightly alarming now Hector Bellerin one of the best full backs in the premier league this season is now a lone ranger, Callum Chambers can be utilised there but doesn’t leave me with much confidence if needed over a long spell. In summary I think the back 4 are more than good enough to compete on all fronts.

The Midfield

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First position I’ll start with is in defensive midfield. Francis Coquelin has been a revelation since coming into the side, providing us with some much-needed grit, intelligence & positional awareness. Personally I would have singed an additional defensive midfielder to compete with Coquelin. Mikel Arteta is a very tidy footballer, have always been a big fan of him but its a huge risk to possibly rely on a 33-year-old who has been out for 8 months previous with a recurring injury. That aside we are staring down the barrel of Flamini who should quite frankly be thrown in the bin, doesn’t matter if it’s the cardboard, bottle, or general waste just throw him in there, we’ve won just 16 of a possible 33 points with him in the side . In the what i would call box to box role we have Aaron Ramsey, who for me is one of the best in Europe in this position. Jack Wilshere looks like this season for him may be a non event, Rosicky ruled out for an additional 6 weeks so he may well have kicked his last ball for Arsenal, the addition of Mo Elneny as described by Wenger was an additional box to box midfielder. Finally we have the number 10 role. Quite simply we have 2 absolute stunner’s for this position a genuinely world-class footballer in Mesut Ozil & one of the most naturally 2 footed players you will ever see at the Arsenal Santi Cazorla. Is this midfield good enough to compete? If we can steer clear of any additional injury to Coquelin then yes I’m convinced we can go on and win the title.

The front three

Arsenal-Theo-Walcott-Olivier-Giroud-Alexis-Sanchez-main

On the left of the trio we have Alexis Sanchez, everyone knows he is a world-class footballer, the only other option to Alexis for me is Danny Welbeck who is currently out injured. On the right of the trio we have Theo Walcott, one of the most devastating right-sided players in Europe. Joel Campbell has impressed this season and could play either wing, We also have Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. At centre forward we have just one centre forward in Olivier Giroud. Despite Walcott, Sanchez, Welbeck & Joel Campbell all being able to play there I wouldn’t be entirely confident if we had a long-term injury to Giroud, still feel we needed another CF.

 

 

GETTING THE BEST OUT OF WHAT WE’VE GOT

4-5-1 / 4-3-3 .. an expansive, attacking, aggressive formation that can be used to devastating effect, and in fact has been used in recent times by Arsenal side who have torn opponents apart, in my opinion there are a few really KEY points that make this formation work they are.

    1. Intelligent wingers who provide width but also advance infield when the time is right to act as an inside forward.
    2. A disciplined, simplistic defensive midfielder who doesn’t go chasing possession but is always seeking & preventing danger.
    3. A ball carrier in midfield, someone who can drive the team from box to box.
    4. A world-class ball player, someone who can see the runs from the wingers, who can control both the tempo and spark the brilliance
    5. A target man of a striker who can link play and get in goalscoring positions. 
Lets elaborate on those points, firstly point 1, In Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott we have 2 players both on the LW and RW who are as good as anyone out there. The record speaks for themselves, Alexis hands down is a world-class player, always finds himself in those positions is always busy and can always produce the spectacular. Theo Walcott has been outstanding from that wide right position, his level of intelligence is far superior to any other player we have when it comes to making incisive and dangerous runs from outside to in across defences. Opposition drop the line 5 yards when Theo is about creating more space for the number 10 to operate and the box to box midfielder to drive into. At the moment we’ve been playing narrow inverted wingers. We need to stretch the pitch move the ball across create the space for our midfielders to operate and strike when the time is right.
coq wozPoint 2, in Francis Coquelin we have found that, the guy is a machine. Not just tactically intelligent he is extremely mobile, very strong and fair in the tackle, commits when he has too, good in the air and more importantly than anything else unlike Flamini he doesn’t go chasing possession. He is making that position his own, compliments the other midfielders brilliantly and provides that real solid base to both start and destroy attacks for and against us. Despite people slating his footballing ability he is actually vastly underrated on the ball, take a look at his 50 yard ping that set the first move going in the FA Cup final, surprisingly skillful and comfortable in possession.
Aaron-Ramsey-Arsenal-captain
 Point 3, My man, my captain elect. Aaron Ramsey has the lot, no longer a boy he’s the man now, at 6ft tall he isn’t slight he can carry the ball and make things happen, he covers so so much ground and defensively is stupidly under-rated. He is extremely intelligent and skillful to come with it. He proved in that season he can have a similar effect to Frank Lampard when going forward, the timing of his runs is outrageous, his brilliant link play with Giroud was clear to see and the way he eats up the space created by width is magical. We need this Aaron back and with the return of Coquelin he will now come into his own. Cazorla despite being one of the most wonderful 2 footed players i will ever see just isn’t cut out for this position. He doesn’t contribute enough going forward (Just 1 goal from open play in 94 matches) he can’t drive the team up the pitch, and always looks to be in the same positions as the often incoming RW when we play inverted wingers.

 

Mesut-Ozil

Point 4, I wasn’t lying when I said world-class. Mesut Ozil is God, for me technically the greatest player we’ve had play for the football club since Dennis Bergkamp. He is angelic, the way he glides beautifully into space, picking up the ball in dangerous areas, at the drop of a shoulder opening a whole pitch. The guy is a footballing genius whose brain is always 3 passes ahead of the one he is making, he’s chance creation and assist record isn’t a joke, he is simply world-class. With the width of Walcott and Sanchez and the target man of Giroud, added with the runs from deep of Aaron Ramsey you will see the true world-class player that is Mesut. Every single match I know how lucky I am to see this man in an Arsenal shirt.

 

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Point 5, although not everybody’s cup of tea I absolutely love Olivier Giroud. The man it so so so under-rated, we’ve killed his game recently, he is a 6ft4 man of immense quality, his deft touch, his ability to bring others into play and not just that his goalscoring prowess makes him one of Europe most dangerous strikers on his day. If you take a look how many moves, goals and assists he has contributed too he really is up there. Without wingers and crosses coming into the box he will always struggle, his ability to get across his man at the front post has seen him score a number of goals, just like RVP used to. I really, REALLY wish we would supply him again, allow him to link with Ramsey and Ozil, allow him to set up Theo and Alexis, and allow him to get back to his superb goal scoring form.

 

I desperately want to see this formation again. See that exciting brand of football and get the very best out of our players. If Cech is out we have Ospina. You can choose between Monreal and Gibbs. We have 4 very decent center backs to choose from. Bellerin really has to stay fit for the rest of the season. Coquelin HAS to stay fit for us to stand any chance. You then make a choice between Aaron Ramsey or Mo Elneny (Jack Wilshere) . Its Mesut Ozil OR Santi Cazorla in the number 10 role. Theo Walcott OR Oxlade WIDE right and Alexis Sanchez OR Danny Welbeck WIDE left, Joel could contribute either wide position aswell. Clearly we have been left short up top and at DM but here is to a fantastic end to the 15/16 season. Keeping players fit and challenging for honours.

 I would love nothing more than to see Arsene Wenger lift that premier league title again, with Pep now heading to City, United will strengthen, Chelsea will drastically improve, Liverpool are on the up and Spurs hitting some consistency it could be now or never for Le Professor.

To match feature SPORT SOCCER WENGER...Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger of France holds up the Barclaycard Premiership Trophy outside Islington Town Hall in north London in this May 16, 2004 file photo. Ten years after being greeted by the headline "Arsene who?", Arsenal's hugely successful manager Wenger will certainly be able to savour the milestone which awaits him on September 28, 2006. The Frenchman has transformed Arsenal in terms of the football they play and, off the pitch, has been a driving force behind their modern training complex and the new 60,000-seater Emirates Stadium. To match feature SPORT SOCCER WENGER THIS PICTURE CAN ONLY BE USED WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF AN EDITORIAL FEATURE. NO WEBSITE/INTERNET USE UNLESS SITE IS REGISTERED WITH FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION PREMIER LEAGUE. REUTERS/Lawrence Lustig/Pool (BRITAIN)

 

 

 

Warren Ratcliffe

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