Now that the holiday gift-giving season is behind us, it’s time to finalize our next wish-list.
Arsenal closed out the summer transfer window on a high note, bringing in Mesut Ozil in the final hours. But even as Gooners around the world celebrated the addition of one of the top players in the world, there was some concern over moves that were not made.
Even after picking up injuries to several key players in the opening weeks of the season, Arsenal fought their way to where we are now: top of the table at the season's mid-way point. With the January transfer window now wide open, Arsenal have a chance to bring in a reinforcement or two as they continue to fight for the Premier League title.
We turned to our panel of supporters to find who they would like to see the Club bring in for the second half of the 2013/14 campaign.
Question: What names or positions/roles are on your January transfer window wish list?
Picking an individual is really tricky. There are always players we think will be a good fit for our club, but given that we are not proper scouts we are likely to miss some of the intangibles that make one player a success and another a complete and utter failure. Would I like to see Suarez in the Arsenal red and white? Of course, 19 goals in 15 league matches is fantastic (at the time of writing)!
But let us be realistic and understand that while the suggested treasure/war chest may have the money to pry him away from Liverpool the return on investment on a £50 million transfer is going to be really low, so Wenger is unlikely to set a new transfer record. So, I avoid discussing individual players and focus on the roles that need supporting.
Buying a lot of players -- say five -- could be destabilizing to the squad, especially if players in the starting XI are displaced. Buying one player is likely not going to be enough to guarantee the title returns to Islington. I am not saying that the current squad is incapable of winning the title, I am just saying that the smart transfer spending is not on one player or five players. I'm going somewhere in the middle.
We need a winger with solid crossing skills, but also the panache to cut into the middle and shoot. There are many players who fit this bill in Europe.
Arsenal have seven defenders: four full backs and three centrebacks. One of the centrebacks was injured against Man City and could have missed a few games, Laurent Koscielny (luckily he's back). Arsenal could have been thin at defence for a short while. It is not a hole that requires a massive spend to bring in a player, but Koscielny, Mertesacker and Vermaelen are all about the same age. I'm suggesting that Wenger buy a younger defender around 23 years old who can play the odd match. He does not need to be a starter at his current club, but he does need to have that calibre.
The reverse thought to this process is we buy a right back to challenge with Jenkinson, thus allowing Sagna to move centrally if needed. I prefer my former suggestion as Sagna is the first choice right back and if you're first choice in one position, you could get injured there and never be utilized as the second choice player in another position.
Holding midfield is an area of paramount importance. Mathieu Flamini has been a revelation since coming back to North London. I did not expect his presence to be so effective or for his personality to be so assertive in matches and in the dressing room. Mikel Arteta has been a lovely ambassador to the club, but I worry about his pace as football is getting faster. Finding a player in his early 20s who can learn from Flamini and be subbed in for him if the Frenchman gets into discipline trouble too early in a match, is definite task for Wenger. Imagine if the Flamini of today could teach all he knows to the Flamini of yesteryear.
Striker/Winger, everyone says striker, 'Arsenal must buy a striker.' Or "If Giroud gets injured, you're in trouble," I get that quote from a lot of people. If Giroud gets injured, I feel that Lukas could step into the middle. Podolski is out of practice centrally, but we saw him handle that role at the start of last season. Bendtner has scored two for Arsenal and had an onside goal against Man City called back; there are options at striker; even Sanogo could be an option (he could start versus Coventry). Theo was injured stepping into that role which creates a new issue.
At winger, Arsenal are a bit short. Right now we have The Ox (just returning), Gnabry, and Podolski. Theo is now out of the picture this season (#GetWellSoonTheo). Now, Gnabry is not a full-fledged first team player for me yet, he is likely to be thrown into the mix regularly with Theo out. That said, on the wing we are light, and getting lighter with Ryo rumoured to be going out on loan. Oxlade-Chamberlain may not be fully match fit until the end of the January window, barring any setbacks, and even then I'm not sure if we should be setting any expectations on him. It is his first major injury and his mental strength in recovery is being tested.
We need a winger with solid crossing skills, but also the panache to cut into the middle and shoot. There are many players who fit this bill in Europe. Now, if you had asked me in September, I would have mentioned that this new addition cannot be cup-tied but as we have drawn Bayern Munich, our life in the Champions League should be shorter than we would like to believe. Being Cup-tied is less important, being able to come in to our system and contribute is the most important factor in buying a winger in January. Just for argument's sake I will name Insigne (Napoli), Rodriguez (Monaco), and Ibarbo (Cagliari) as feasible options.
Remember, if you pick a specific player to fill a void, you neglect Arsène's ingenuity in selecting a player capable of filling one role and moving an existing player to another role. Also, if the player you have chosen is not transferred in, you might feel aggrieved by the club. This is why I pick the roles that need to be filled and come January I would like to see Arsenal sign three players:
• a young (22-24 years old) central defender who is on the cusp of breaking into the starting XI;
• a young (22-24 years old) holding midfielder with the movement of Flamini and the desire to learn and improve under the tutelage of the Frenchman;
• and a winger with strong crossing skills who is ready for the first team.
I don't think Morgan is completely off-base in his answer. However, I feel I must refute a few statements. For starters, claiming that because Bendtner scored against Hull and almost scored at City makes him a viable option at striker is off-base. I personally don’t think that Bendtner wants to be at Arsenal, and had the manager been able to acquire someone else at the deadline, he'd be almost scoring for Palace. He is currently an "option" at striker because we have literally no one else.
Equally, positing that if Giroud were out of action, Podolski could replace him isn't exactly backed up by what we've seen prior, but more to the point, we would need to completely overhaul our offense to accommodate such a change.
While prior to the Newcastle game Giroud hadn't scored since a brace against Southampton, his hold-up play has been invaluable (see his role setting up Podolski's goal at West Ham on Boxing Day). Giroud can bring others into the play; Podolski does not possess such ability. And Podolski is extremely one-footed, more so than even Giroud, and is at his most effective on the left, providing service to Giroud and being allowed freedom to move without the ball and get into striking positions.
If I had my choice, I'd be looking for a top-top quality player who could excel on the wing and as a striker, but it might be easier finding a unicorn than getting such a player in January.
With Theo's injury, the wing went from being quite strong even without Oxlade-Chamberlain, particularly because Walcott and Podolski are our best two wing players, to being an area of need. However, Santi Cazorla has been deployed almost exclusively on the left wing this season, where he split time last season when not played as the No. 10, which has been the exclusive domain of Mesut Ozil since his signing. Santi can play on the right wing as well.
With Santi, Podolski and now Chamberlain back as options to choose from, I think wing is on the border as far as an area of need. Gnabry can contribute in a pinch, especially if he can capitalize on his sterling performance against the lot from down the road. Central midfield has enough strength in depth that Jack Wilshere, once thought irreplaceable, is not assured of starting on a regular basis.
I do however agree that adding another central defender would be a smart play, either in the form of a veteran willing to compete for minutes, or a younger defender to bring along behind our current triumvirate. Additionally, we cannot afford an injury to Mertesacker; the BFG can play with either Koscielny or Vermaelen and allow them to shine, but playing Kos and Vermaelen together has not been our best option. Another option here is vital; I am completely opposed to playing Sagna out of position, except in case of emergency (Sunderland away last season) or if there is no other choice.
If I had my choice, I'd be looking for a top-top quality player who could excel on the wing and as a striker, but it might be easier finding a unicorn than getting such a player in January. In the end, what it comes down to is need; Arsenal have struggled to score goals at times this season, and Giroud has been profligate with chances too often of late, likely because he has been fatigued, and due to a knee issue he's been nursing since the summer.
The cupboard, when it comes to strikers, is bare apart from piece-meal center-forwards or striker-by-committee (pardon all the hyphens). I'm sure we'd love to see what Yaya Sanogo has to offer, but expecting anything from a player that young, in his first season in England, and having been injured since August is unrealistic. I have no doubt Arsène Wenger has plans for poor Yaya, but if we are forced to rely on him in a season in which we have realistic title aspirations, I fear we may come to regret it.
If there is only one area where we would be wisest to strengthen in January, it is at striker.
I think Morgan has done well to outline the areas in which he thinks Arsenal need to invest this transfer window to sustain a title winning challenge. However, instead of the adding in the centre back position, I think it is important that we ensure that the right back position is secured at the end of the window and at the very latest by the end of the summer. Fans are desperate for the ever so reliable Sagna to sign a new contract and hopefully he and the club can come to terms soon. Jenkinson, in my opinion (and I’m sure many others too) is still quite a while away from becoming first choice in that position and I will feel relieved to have Sagna in that role until the young corporal is ready.
Another position which many fans are desperate for a new signing is striker/centre forward. This is also a position that the club had been actively trying to recruit for last summer with the admitted bids on Suarez and Higuain. I’m not sure if they will be successful in securing the signing of a truly world class striker in the January window of a World Cup year but one can always hope.
Overall, I don’t really think Arsenal will be very busy during this transfer window and I don’t think many other clubs will be either.
With the unfortunate news that Walcott is out for the next 6 months, thus missing the second half of the season and the World Cup, the club is faced with whether it should buy a winger to replace him in the meantime. Is there a need for a new winger? We have done pretty well without Theo for much of the season and Ox and Podolski's returns in addition to Gnabry's emergence have meant we are not terribly short in terms of bodies on the wings. We will miss the goals and assists Theo provides though but this could also mean there is a chance for someone else at the club to step up. I think we should be more concerned that we will miss using Theo as an option in centre forward.
Overall, I don’t really think Arsenal will be very busy during this transfer window and I don’t think many other clubs will be either. Unless something truly special happens, most players I would expect us to target will likely not want to change clubs during a January transfer window right before the World Cup. I’d very much like to be proven wrong though.
The views expressed above are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect those of Arsenal Football Club or Arsenal Media Group.Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 11 Jan 2014