The 2012/13 Premier League season has certainly had its fair share of ups and downs for Arsenal. A string of disappointing results in the league and in cup competitions brought forth a chorus of "club in crisis!" shouts from the media -- and even from some supporters. But now, nearly halfway through the season, we find our Club sitting fifth in the Premier League table and through to the knockout stages of the Champions League.
So what can we make of all of this? To help figure it out, we once again turned to our panel of supporters in the USA and Canada to find out their views on what has happened so far and what lies ahead in the second half of the season.
For Christmas this year, we decided to give our panel the gift of naming a player of their choosing to join the Club in January. Any player from any team in any league around the world. But much like that family member with the really expensive tastes who half-jokingly asks for a Rolex, we figured we might also need to have them name some other options.
Question: Who are the dream targets on your January wishlist... and which players out there do you think could be more realistic options?
Dear Santa, may I have Casillas; Lahm, Ramos, Kompany, Alba, Iniesta, Pirlo, Xavi; Ronaldo, Messi and Falcao at Arsenal in January? No? Did I just list the 2012 World Team of the Year on my wishlist? Perhaps...
Even though I would have any of the players I've listed so far join the club in a heartbeat it's important to take several things into account when making transfers in January and I'm sure most if not all of the above will be cup tied in Europe. Maybe the club can take a stab at that list next summer.
That being said, there have been several names floating around the transfer rumour grape vine that have interested me. It is important that we make an addition in the attacking front in January especially with Gervinho and Chamakh potentially leaving for the AFCON. I had always felt that we were short a centre forward since the summer and although Thierry Henry returning for a loan would be a great short term solution to this issue and will certainly boost morale in the club, it is important the club has a long term solution in mind as well.
A player I feel would be a useful addition to the Arsenal squad is the frozen out Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente. The Spaniard's contract ends next summer and he has expressed an interest in playing in the Premier League. At 27, the forward has been capped by the Spanish national side and would fit right into the Arsenal system. Another interesting forward being linked with the club is AC Milan's young star El Shaarawy. The 20-year-old has had an amazing start to the season, scoring 13 goals in 16 Serie A appearances and is currently top scorer in the league. Yes, the young Italian would be cup tied in Europe but this means he can play a bigger role in the club's league exploits. Even Arsène has spoken glowingly about his abilities and how he would be a great fit with the Arsenal system.
In addition to the attacking front, I feel it is also necessary for Arsenal to beef up its midfield. Some of the more interesting players being linked with the club include Everton's Fellaini and PSV Eindhoven's Strootman. Both players would be astute additions to a squad that I feel has been missing a midfielder of the defensive ilk since Song's departure over the summer. Although Arteta's done well in that role, I feel it is necessary to have some depth in this position as we cannot rely on the Spaniard and Diaby's unspecified return all season. Fellaini has proven himself in the Premier League and this in addition to his versatility in being able to play both a defensive and offensive role in the midfield will make him a great addition to any top English side. On the other hand, Strootman stands out in the sense that he can not only play as a defensive midfielder but also in any position in the back four. This versatility and his young age (he's only 22) also places him top of my wishlist.
What other dream signing would there be but Lionel Messi? The best player in the world. Who wouldn't want him? But there is as much chance of Arsenal signing Messi as there is of Arsenal signing me. But as I'm willing to bet my life's savings that Arsenal will not sign Cavani, Falcao, Ronaldo, or the ghost of Garrincha, I'll focus on more realistic targets.
A realistic target might be Atletico Madrid striker Adrian Lopez, who can also play on the wing. He can score goals and is available. But a more intriguing La Liga player whose contract is winding down (see, it doesn't just happen at Arsenal!) is also a distinct possibility for the Gunners: Fernando Llorente. The Atletico Bilbao striker has mere months left on his deal, and has proven capable of scoring goals (115 in 244 matches for Bilbao over the last 8 1/2 seasons). Some might argue that his skill set is too similar to Olivier Giroud. I find Llorente to be more composed on the ball and better able to strike a ball with his feet, something we haven't seen much of from Giroud this season. Like Giroud, he won't be outpacing Usain Bolt in a sprint anytime soon, but he can do what a Number 9 is supposed to do: hold up play and involve his teammates in the attack, and put himself in positions to score... then score.
In my opinion, Arsenal also require significant additions in midfield. The papers and websites continue to float the name Kevin Strootman, a 22-year old Dutch midfielder currently with PSV Eindhoven, who has asked to be sold in the new year, and since been scouted by Arsenal chief scout Steve Rowley. I have not seen nearly enough of Strootman to make a judgment of my own, although I think it is reasonable to assume Arsène Wenger's interest is genuine.
That said, a player I think would make a very good fit in the Arsenal midfield is Everton's Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian is tall and powerful, yet has good touch on the ball, and can finish with his feet and with his head (and Arsenal can certainly use more players capable of scoring goals this season). At 25 years old, Fellaini is at the peak of his abilities, is well-seasoned in the Premier League, and can be combative when necessary. He also recently planted a Zidane's Response (that's a headbutt) on the kisser of Arsenal fans' pantomime villain Ryan Shawcross, so Fellaini is already my hero.
He would not come as cheap as an unknown quantity, and David Moyes will be loath to part with his midfield general, but as the adage goes, you get what you pay for. I think we've reached a point where Arsenal desperately need to add to the squad if we're to challenge on any front this season. It's time to loosen those purse strings.
Dream: Falcao, probably going to cost Chelsea £40m and £150,000 a week in salary. Probably worth it. All he does is score goals but with 21 goals in 17 games, what more do you want?
Realistic:There's a Colombian forward who plays for Porto named Jackson Martinez who is a powerful player with silky touch and has scored the goal of the season in Liga Sagres. Top quality player who has scored 14 goals in 18 competitions. Will probably come to the Premier League next season.
Dream: Who has 6 goals, 5 assists,can dribble, never turns the ball over, crosses like a wide player, passes at 90% rate, and tackles? Toni Kroos.
Realistic: Do you know how hard it is to find a wide player? Someone like Ljungberg, who relishes the wide role? No one wants to play wide any more. I would pick Goetze but he has moved in to the middle and all the wide players in world football are kind of terrible or over 30. Re-sign Theo Walcott, he's Arsenal's most effective wide player at the moment.
Dream: Etienne Capoue is a big midfielder with great vision who plays a bit of an unorthodox passing style. Very strong in the air, solid defensively, and reliably efficient in possession. Buying him would free Mikel Arteta to play further up the pitch where he led Arsenal in key passes last season.
Realistic: a backup keeper, someone willing to play backup. Kevin Hartman from FC Dallas would be a superb choice.
My dream January transfer signing -- if I'm allowed to do this -- would be a toss up between Marouane Fellaini and Wesley Sneijder, the former for his uncompromising physical presence in midfield and the latter because of his exceptional vision and goalscoring threat (although it should be noted that Fellaini has also added this attribute to his game as of late).
Based on past form Sneijder would edge it out because of the uncertainty he brings to any offense -- he's just as likely to shoot (and score) as he is to deliver a defense-splitting pass -- but on current form I believe Fellaini would be the better asset for Arsenal. His direct play and warrior-like manner of scoring goals would provide an obvious offensive advantage, but more importantly I believe his physical dominance would be a tremendous psychological boost for the rest of the Arsenal team.
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