So yesterday evening the world imploded after Thierry Henry said on Sky Sports “Arsenal need to buy four players, they need that spine,”
This led to all the old internal fighting between fans to once more rear its ugly heads. As Wenger-Loyalists came out and derided the legend, even going as far as questioning his legendary status. At the same time, those they wish Wenger to leave got behind the great man, saying that even if Wenger’s greatest achievement ever, a man who idolises the manager, can see Wenger’s fault, then surely he can not be wrong.
So was Henry right? Do we need to buy four players? Do we need a new spine?
My first thoughts on this are simple. Four first team players are hard to blend in with the current first team. We have seen it with Manchester City in the past. We have seen it with Manchester United this season, who struggled to fit Rojo, Shaw, Blind, Herrera, Di Maria and Falcao into the side (yes, I know that is 6). Sides need continuity.
I am very much from the Sir Alex Ferguson school of thinking. You should buy no more than 2 first team players a season, to ensure continuity.
Of course, it could be argued that as one of the players Henry is talking about is the goal keeper, we would only be adding 3 first team players, which is not a lot more than 2 (just 1 more in fact). And it is plausible, you could add 3 out field starting players, and it not effect the team continuity – although again, I would doubt if you could do it if it was the spine. It might work if it was, say, a left back, centre midfielder and winger, but a centre back, centre midfielder and striker? That would be a big upheaval.
So I am certainly in the “We should not sign four first team players” camp. However, this does not believe I do not think we do not need four new players, just that I do not think we can blend four new players into the team. There is a difference, in my eyes, between wanting to sign four new players, and needing four new players.
So do I think we need four new players? Well let us go through the spine of the team.
At the minute, we have David Ospina and Wojech Szczesny battling it out for the number one shirt. I am of the opinion neither is currently good enough to be first choice goal keeper.
David Ospina is a good, solid goal keeper, and he has done very little wrong since he took the number one jersey from Szczesny. But I do not see him as a game winner. His lack of height worries me (although he is taller than Shay Given). I see him as a very able number 2.
As for Szczesny, he has disappointed me. When he was a teenager, he showed so much talent. He lost it when he first broke through, but last season he took massive strides forward and was looking like the real deal. He was on par with the likes of David De Gea as one of the best young keepers around. This year he has regressed and gone back to his silly ways.
He is still just 25, and there is certainly a top goal keeper waiting to break out. But can we afford to wait for him to mature? Probably not.
That leaves us in a situation where we have a good number 2, and someone who could be a number one in the future. We need a number one.
What makes the situation perhaps more clear cut is the availability of Petr Cech in the summer. Whilst he has not played much for Chelsea this season, he is still a top class keeper. He will be 33 in the summer, which used to be the peak for goal keepers. He could do for us what Edwin van der Saar did for Manchester United. He would have a good 5 years still ahead of him. Other than him, I do not see too many goal keepers in world football that would perhaps improve on what we have.
The probability is that Szczesny will leave, and Ospina will be kept as number 2, and a new keeper would be bought in. So in the case of a goal keeper, I agree with Thierry Henry, we do need an extra goal keeper.
I honestly do not think we need an extra centre back. In January we bought Gabrial Paulista, who has barely played since he joined. Before his signing, I would agree, we were a centre back short, but with his signing, that position is now set. In Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gabriel and Chambers, we have a solid set of 4.
This is perhaps where the thinking of not adding too many first choice players comes in. We could have waited to the summer to buy Gabriel, but we move in January. This puts us in the situation where, by August, he would have been with the club for a good 7 or 8 months. He will be set. Therefore we would not have to worry about trying to get another player to settle within the team/squad.
Some might argue that we still need another centre back, that Per Mertesacker is not good enough. These people are misguided. Just because he is no good on FIFA, it does not mean he is not a good defender. And infact, he is brilliant on FIFA, if you know hoe to defend, rather than rely on pace abusing. No one ever questions John Terry’s pace, and he has been the stand out centre back in the league this season.
In a sense, Henry is right, we do need to strengthen the defence. But it has already been done with the signing of Gabriel. We now just need him to settle and then break through.
Despite the progress of Francis Coquelin, we are still short in the middle of the park. Coquelin has been brilliant, but he has only done it for 6 months. It would be dangerous to think he is the solution, and we do not need to strengthen in the area.
With Diaby set to be put down leave, Flamini being sub standard, and Arteta being ancient (although he is still just 33), we clearly need someone to come in and compete with Coquelin. To take the pressure off him. To replace him when suspended. To play alongside him against top teams.
There is a whole host of names that can be mentioned with this position. Morgan Schneiderlin is many people’s favourite. But there is also his team mate Wanyama and Kondogbia at Monaco. Add in long term favourites Sami Khedira and William Carvhalo, there are plenty of options out there.
I would still keep Mikel Arteta. He is club captain, and, whilst he might not make it onto the pitch too often, he does a lot of good work behind the scenes. A lot of this blog has been about continuity, and Arteta is part of that. He knits the team together on the training ground, helps new signings settle, and puts an arm round young players when they join in with first team training. He is also often found at Hale End passing on his experience to the youngsters. He is a future manager and still has a role to play at the club. Also, he is still good enough to play against 60% of Premier League sides at home, which adds squad depth.
In the past we have been too quick to let go our senior players. It is important that we keep hold of Arteta.
What that would mean is Arteta would be 3rd choice, and we would then have Coquelin vying with the new signing to start week in week out. Strength in depth!
This one is contentious, and has created a great deal of debate and has created a great deal of debate amongst many people from She Wore. There seem to be various aspects to this debate:
- Giroud is not good enough, we need another striker, ideally someone with pace
- Giroud does not have pace, but he has pace around him, he plays with his back to goal and brings the quick players into play
3) We need a world class player, who can do both what Giroud does, and bring players into play
All 3 arguments are valid. They are all correct, and incorrect. How?
Well for the first, yes, Giroud does lack pace. It is his weakness. This means he can be easy to defend against. He also does not have the ‘X factor’. He is not going to beat 2 or 3 men and score a wonder goal. But that is also not his game. He is big and strong. He can hold up the ball, bring others into play, and when in the box, can hold of players and score.
When we had Henry, we moaned we did not have a big man. A fox in the box. Someone to hold up play. Now we have Giroud, we moan we do not have a pacey man, someone to beat players. It seems you can not win.
Giroud plays for the majority of the time with his back to goal. This then allows the midfield to form behind him. Were we to get rid, and buy someone with pace, we would have to change the way the side plays. They could not longer get close to the front man, there would be nothing to feed off. We would have to play deeper, counter attacking football, with the ball being released quickly to the likes of Sanchez, Walcott and our new striker. However, as Welbeck has shown, it is not all about pace when it comes to playing upfront.
Playing with your back to goal, or facing goal, are two completely different skills, which require completely different attributes, and completely different team set ups. I am certainly in the camp of ‘we keep the team set up’. For me, that would be no new ‘speedy’ striker. No Lacazette, No Aubameyang. We have seen with the experiment of Sanchez and Walcott up top, having a quick bloke with little strength does not suit us.
But we can still potentially improve on Giroud. An option could be to sacrifice a bit of his height and strength, for a bit more pace. When put this to the group, 2 names came up. Cavani and Higuain. Two long term rumoured targets. Neither are as good in the air than Giroud, but both are better at running in behind. They could be genuine options, and if available, should certainly be explored.
A third option, and where I firmly sit, is that we do not need a striker. In Giroud, we have the best in the world at what he does. Plucking the ball out of the air and brining others in to play. His goal record is up there with most of Europe. Is he any worse than Diego Costa? His goals per game this season would indicate no. Yes, he could run the defence better, move the centre backs about a bit more, try and create a bit more space than others, but he is still improving.
What Giroud does is bring out the best in Sanchez and Ozil. So perhaps what we need to do is build on his, and the sides strength. And to do that, we need to focus on our right forward, rather than our centre forward.
Since returning from injury, Walcott’s performances can be described as tepid at best, and with just 12 months left on his Arsenal contract, time is running out. The front line can be strengthened but signing a top draw right forward, rather than a centre forward. In the same way Sanchez on the left side improved teams.
Not only are their more top draw right forward’s, this will strengthen the side a lot more than a striker.
3 names spring to mind as soon as we start talking about a right wing forward. The first is Raheem Sterling. He has struggled recently, but this is more to do with Brendan Rodgers than Sterling. He is class, and still just a kid.
A second name, who we have been linked with for some time, is Marco Reus. He would be another one who would immediately improve the forward line. Yes, you could question his injuries, and he would be more expensive now that he has re-signed a contract removing the release clause, but his talent is unquestionable. Add in the fact that he can also play down the middle, giving us the option to play him centrally if Giroud is not working, it would be a top signing. With 53 goals in 114 games, mainly from out wide, we would be massively improving the forward line,
A final name that is in fine form at the moment is Antoine Griezmann at Atletico Madrid. He only signed for them last summer, for £24 million, but has gone from strength to strength, scoring 25 goals this season. Traditionally a winger, he has spent most of the season playing up top, alongside Mario Mandzukic.
At just 5 9, he would struggle up top alone in the Premier League, in the same way Sanchez and Walcott have done. But play him to the right of Giroud, with Sanchez to the left, you would have a dangerous front 3, with Giroud acting as the ‘pivot’ that Brazil made famous with Fred at the World Cup. And to top it off, Griezmann is French.
Like Reus, he would start outwide, but when chasing in the game, we could push him further down the middle.
A final option would be to change formation. Go 442. Sign Griezmann or one of the speedy forwards previously mentioned (Lazacette being my first choice) to play alongside him, rather than replace him. The old ‘big man little man’ combination. For me, this would mean to much upheaval of the team. Sanchez would be deeper. Ozil out wide. Do we have the central midfield? And City have shown playing 2 in the middle just does not work.
So to respond to Henry’s statement that we need a new spine, I tend to disagree. What we need is to replace a few vertebrate’s a new shoulder blade.
What I do wish for is that every time we fail to win, or an ex player or pundit makes a comment, that the infighting stops. It seems we as a fan group can no longer have a sensible debate with each other. It is embarrassing. We all want the best for the club, even if we want to go down a different route. It always seems we are 1 draw away from a catastrophe.
We are all entitled to our opinion. Mine is that we need 3 new players – a goalkeeper, a defensive midfielder and a right forward. What is yours?