How many right backs could Manchester United have played last season? To a competent level; Neville, Fabio, Rafael, Brown, O’Shea. This season some of those players are no longer there but Chris Smalling has had added the role to his armoury, and Phil Jones can also play there. Targeting a versatile, aggressive, competitive defender like a younger Gabriel Heinze or Pablo Zabaleta would be an effective contingency signing.
I have warmed to Ignasi Miquel, a tall fresh faced defender who makes instinctive interventions and accurate passes. Unfortunately, he lacks acceleration or recovery speed. As a result, our creative midfield trio need to wait for him to catch up with play and get level with them to have a left sided outlet. Without that outlet, as Arsenal were against Manchester City, teams will be able to suffocate our midfield on the ball and force a change of possession.
At Barcelona, Xavi always has a speed merchant like Dani Alves available to pass to. Not having to wait for the pass allows them to maintain a high tempo and stretch teams. With Kieran Gibbs, Santos, Miquel, and Vermaelen it is difficult to argue that Arsenal need a new left back this January on a permanent deal, but from this perspective you can see that Arsenal will not be able to play a game that creates gaps without a quick pair of full backs. It was time for him to go when he did, but Emmanuel Eboué’s positional versatility and acceleration is what Wenger should be looking for this January. Incidentally, one of Eboué’s best games for Arsenal came against Real Madrid where he marked Robinho. Robinho, now at AC Milan, would be running in behind Djourou in the forthcoming Champions League game. I am not sure Arsenal have a third back-stop player that could handle Robinho’s brains or mobility.
The fact that Arsenal need a striker of quality is something I feel Arsène Wenger has recently acquiesced to. Gervinho continues to work hard and frustrate, losing the ball in important situations but, also, making chances. His great statistics do not hide the fact his performances remain unfulfilling or dominant. Theo Walcott failed a major test against Manchester City, and that was bitterly disappointing. However; Walcott remains a hungry winner, with rapid foot speed over 40 metres and improving composure. If he renews his contract I would forecast him getting fewer matches next season due to the imminent explosion of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain onto the first team stage on a weekly basis. I suspect the way that young players like Walcott, Cesc Fábregas, Robin van Persie, Abou Diaby, and Gibbs have all been affected by injuries in the early part of their careers has, along with a strong forward line ahead of him, allowed Wenger to be patient with Oxlade-Chamberlain.
If Arsenal can find a forward that can play across the front line, then our season can end with a degree of attainment. Failing to sign such a player, or two, would be ignorant of the shallow reserves at Wenger’s disposal. Lukas Podolski is an incisive and athletic weapon that can score the type of goals that I thought Carlos Vela would, or that Jose Antonio Reyes did all too briefly. Podolski can sweep hard, low shots across the keeper from 15-30 yards whilst running at speed from the left flank. As I mentioned in my last article on him, the negotiation team made an attempt to discuss the transfer with FC Köln. Arsenal have been quoted a figure that Wenger is reluctant but not completely against spending on him. Will it happen? As always with Wenger, he will look for the best option financially once he is properly convinced there are no solutions in the current squad.
Mario Götze is among two or three players that Arsenal will look at this summer to improve the creativity through the midfield, but with Wilshere and Diaby to return I do not see a playmaker being signed permanently at this stage. If Wenger can secure a talent from a French league that he feels can enrich his options in this area on a loan deal, then he probably will. Yoann Gourcuff is outrageously talented , tall, graceful player with the passing range of Xabi Alonso and the touch of a young Bergkamp. Whether Wenger can rescue and revive this dormant world talent on a temporary deal to find his finest form, will depend on the same factors that they always do; injuries at the parent and loaning team, costs, obligations to sign permanently or otherwise, implications for international tournament football for the player, and guarantees of game time.
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