This has been a roller coaster season for Arsenal, to say the least. Losing Fabregas and Nasri early in the season without finding able replacements, seeing the team get beaten horrendously against Manchester United, but equally, beating both Chelsea and Tottenham plus climbing up to 3rd place in the English Premier League, have more than make up for the early disappointments. As a fellow armchair manager, I was guilty of turning to Football Manager (game) whenever results did not go our way in real life.
In the game, I could do no wrong as manager of Arsenal. But then again, it is just a game. So with about 8 games left to go in the current season, and with Arsenal just fighting for the Champions League spot, I hope that for next season, we could be in a better position to finally break the duck after 7 barren seasons.
Arsenal has never been big spenders under Arsene Wenger in general, although there were a few exceptions along the way. But for next season to be a success he would have to spend big but it is not all that gloomy for Arsenal, as I hope he has plans to discard some of the underperforming players at the club, and recouping some fair amount of transfer fees. Among those who are deemed surplus would be Arshavin, Vela, Chamakh, Park, Almunia, Squillaci and Benayoun.
Ideally, the club would require a back up goalkeeper for Szczesny, another defender, a midfielder and a backup striker for van Persie. Here are my best bets for next season and for the Gunners to finally breakthrough and win something for a change.
With Szczesny being a huge influence at the back, I doubt there will be anyone replacing him anytime soon. So what Wenger need would be to find a capable second string keeper, seeing that Almunia will no longer be with the club, Fabianski would need some challenge for his spot to keep him on his toes. My recommendation would be Paul Robinson. He might not be performing well for Blackburn and based on statistics for this season, probably the worst keeper in the league in terms of saves per shot. But his experience would prove to be a good cover when needed.
A surprise would be to get Michael Vorm of Swansea, who is on the other end of the scale as compared to Paul Robinson. This unknown Dutchman has saved around 70-75% of the shots on target he has faced so far. But would he be willing to be number 2? Or would Arsene place him as number one? Knowing Wenger, I think he will just skip this part and stick with the status quo.
As any fervent Arsenal fan would tell you, this has been the team’s weakest spot for the best part of the last 7 years. And we have seen countless of players been brought it but none have been able to plug the gaps. Not to mention our fragilities at set pieces. This season the back four has seen numerous changes due to the amount of niggling injuries the players have suffered. And I doubt it will be any different come next season. Vermaelen and Koscielny have developed a good understanding to be our starting centre backs with Sagna and Gibbs supporting from the flanks. Mertesacker, despite the odd mistakes here and there is a good enough cover. But I still think we need one more defender as cover, perhaps, someone with the versatility to play anywhere among the back four.
We have been linked with Jan Vertonghen of Ajax, but like Le Professeur (Wenger), I prefer to buy unknowns and cheap players. Aldo Angoula of French outfit Evian has proven to be a bargain for his current team, and he is also the reason why they aren’t the relegation fodder as people thought they would be. Averaging 2 tackles, interceptions and aerial duels won per game, these statistics would add steel to the current Arsenal back four. Although Arsene has not been known to go for players older than 30 due to the club policy, maybe he could make an exception for Hugo Campagnaro. This 31-year-old Argentinean, who plays for Napoli, might just fit the bill. Averaging around 3 tackles per game for the last 3 seasons and was just called up to the national squad; he would be an experienced cover for our injury-prone centre backs.
This is the only position where Arsenal has an abundance of players. Even without the forever injured Abou Diaby, we still have Arteta, Song, Ramsey, Wilshere, Rosicky, Walcott, Gervinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain to choose from. With that said, injury is still the major obstacle facing the team’s midfield engine season in season out. For that matter, I would propose the name of Etienne Capoue from Toulouse. Standing at 6’2” he does seem to tick all the boxes. He is young, averaging 3 interceptions per game and with a pass accuracy of 75%, just what we need.
If we have the cash, another name from the French Ligue that has been linked with us for a number of seasons would be a good buy – Eden Hazard of Lille. He has been a phenomenon in France and it is about time he showed that trickery in the Premier League. Rosicky has hit a purple patch in the latter half of this season but age is not on his side and we need someone, a fouriclasse — a talent capable of unpicking a stubborn defence. Ever since Fabregas left (not too long ago), I have been waiting for someone to fill his boots, especially in the first half of this season and I think Hazard has it in him.
On another note, if we needed some older heads to make up the numbers, 2 players from the Premier League playing for some really unexpected sides would, statistically, be good enough for Arsenal. Put your hands together for Alejandro Faurlin (QPR) and Leon Britton (Swansea). Both of them have quite high accuracy for passes; with the latter being number one throughout Europe and the former will be adding some ball-winning ability to the team. The prospect of playing in Europe might just be enough to get them to sign for Arsenal.
Rumour has it that Lukas Podolski would be signing for Arsenal come next season, I think he will be a good foil for van Persie who has been putting a one-man show for Arsenal in the attacking department this season. If you noticed my ‘to sell’ list, we will be short for cover here. But as we all know, strikers are hard to come by and the best ones are usually the priciest. And with van Persie being first choice, I doubt there would be that many who are willing to play second fiddle. Podolski is a bit different; he can play on the left like he did for Germany, which makes him a good replacement for the oft-misfiring Gervinho.
These are just my opinion based on zero experience in real life but 8 years of experience in game life as manager of Arsenal. Hopefully, Arsene Wenger will finally break his own rule of not spending big next season and bring about some changes to the team. We have a good team currently, what we need is something extra to bring Arsenal to the next level and finally put our hands on some silverware!