I have been in a fairly reflective mood over the last two weeks. With it being an international break, there has not been much to talk about on Twitter, bar the usual attention seekers, and those that seem to be unable to accept that both Wenger and Graham are Arsenal legends. As a side note, you can say you love Graham & love Wenger, you don’t have to like one or the other.
Anyway, with a European tournament being so close, like many, I have spent hours at work writing down my England squad for Euro 2016. The natural progression for this was to start thinking of what I think the Arsenal squad should look like for next year.
Obviously it is a pointless task, as what Wenger thinks we need an what the rest of the world thinks we need always seem to be a distance apart, but I thought I would share my thoughts with you.
Cech / Ospina / Macey
Petr Cech is undisputed number one.
David Ospina, whilst he has his critics, is the best number 2 in the country. He might come to the decision that he wants to leave to play regular first team football elsewhere, we cross that bridge when it comes.
With squad limits, you want a 3rd choice keeper – who is unlikely to play a game – to not take up a squad place. In Matt Macey fulfils that criteria. He will replace on loan Emiliano Martinez as the 3rd choice stopper, with Martinez either being sold, or replacing David Ospina as second choice.
Wojciech Szczesny will likely continue his rehabilitation abroad. The Pole is still just 26 so has 10 years ahead of him as a goal keeper, and could comfortably return at some point as back up to Cech, or even to compete with Cech, as long as his ongoing attitude problems have been adjusted. He was recently dropped again for smoking after Roma lost 6-1 to Barcelona in the Champions League. Another season on loan will give Arsenal some thinking time.
Bellerin / Jenkinson
Koscielny / + 1 / Gabriel / Mertesacker
Monreal / Gibbs
Arsenal look well set at right back. Hector Bellerin is someone who has made that position his own, and will go on to be one of the worlds best. He could be Arsenal’s right back for a decade or more. In Carl Jenkinson, we have someone who has shown on loan at West Ham that he is Premier League quality. Maybe not good enough to be first choice, but he has Arsenal DNA and would surely be happy sitting on the bench for the club he loves.
The centre of defence has been a worry for much of the season. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny is our best partnership, but there has been a constant nagging feeling for some time that Mertesacker is not quite up to scratch. The fact we have chopped and changed the centre pairing so often this season dependant on the opponents shows we need to make a decision, and get a settled back 4.
The general consensus on Gabriel that, like Mertesacker, he is not a long term partner for Koscielny. Good player, but too similar is my feeling. Both are aggressive and enjoy attacking the ball. You need a partnership, and there’s has failed to materialise.
What that results in is we need a new first choice centre back. A partner for Koscielny. That would then move Gabriel to being Koscielny’s understudy for when he gets his usual half dozen minor injuries a season, and Mertesacker being the understudy for the new centre back.
As for Calum Chambers. He has struggled to get game time this season and I wonder whether we are wasting his talent. He has played right back, centre back and centre midfield this season. 38 games on loan in the Premier League playing centre back next year will show to the club if he is good enough to be invested in for the long term.
At left back, it is as you were lads. Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal fighting it out for 1 position as equals. I would not mind seeing Arsenal sign Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell in the summer. He is young and talented. But, like with Chambers, sitting on the bench for 12 months would not see him develop. Sign him, loan him out and next year, and then 2017 he replaces either Monreal or, more likely, Gibbs with the view of challenging for first team football.
Coquelin / + 1
Cazorla / Ramsey / Wilshere
Francis Coquelin has been key at the back, but we are clearly one short. There has been talk about Granit Xhaka. It has been clear for so long that we need another enforcer. Ideally someone who can play a duel role. Tackle and pass.
Coquelin can’t pass, the rest (Cazorla, Ramsey, Wilshere) are not great at the defensive side of the game. If we can get someone in who can do both, it would give us a lot of options. Even if he can not defend as good as Coquelin, or pass as good as Cazorla, as long as he can do the reverses better, he would be an asset.
That would enable us to play Coquelin plus him against the better sides, giving us a better defensive wall whilst not going full defensive. Or play the new guy plus one of the 3 passers against the lesser teams when we do not need a fully defensive player.
Cazorla, Ramsey & Wilshere should all be kept, for now. They all provide something to the side, and something different. And with all 3’s recent injury records, you do need to keep them all around.
Wilshere is one to keep an eye on. For me, next season is his last chance at Arsenal. He will be 25 during next season. Another year spent majority on the side lines and we are getting into Diaby territory where people are saying “if he gets fit he is a player” but he never gets fit.
Mesut Ozil is our lone Number 10 but I do not feel we need to have back up for him, with Wilshere, Ramsey & Cazorla all able to play that role.
Alex Iwobi should be loaned to a Premier League side. Rosicky, Flamini and Arteta told thanks and goodbye.
+1 / Campbell / Gnabry
Sanchez / Oxlade-Chamberlain
No need to speak about Alexis Sanchez. He is a class act.
Joel Campbell has proved this season he is worth keeping around. Whilst I do not think he is quite good enough to make an impact at the highest level on a regular basis, he is a good squad player. And someone who would be useful coming off the bench to provide a different direction – a left footer playing on the right.
With a sad heart, it is time to say goodbye to Theo Walcott. I would not be too upset if both Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain left, but it is important that we do not let too many go. Therefore, the Ox for me get’s a last chance. Next season. To show that he can stay fit and contribute.
As for Walcott. He is deteriorating at a rapid rate. The latest injury seems to have knocked off a bit of speed from his legs, and a lot of confidence. Cash in whilst we can.
As for Serge Gnabry, the way he has been treated by Tony Pullis is nothing short of disgraceful. Pullis has a habit of signing attacking players, then not playing them. It is pointless. The loan deal in hindsight is baffling. He will be 21 in the summer, so perhaps too old for another year on loan in the hope he gets game time. The man who looked so good as a 17 year old a few years back will now have to prove his place in the squad whilst being within the squad. I would certainly give him another year.
What that then leaves us is to find a Sanchez on the right. A marquee signing. A Griezmann. A Reus. There are plenty others out there. An alternative could be Danny Welbeck. Depending on what we sign up top, having Welbeck outwide drifting in the same way he does for England could be an option. Especially if we get a striker like Daniel Sturridge who will also drift out wide. There will be plenty of space. I would prefer we signed someone though.
+1 / Giroud / Welbeck
How long have we needed a new striker for? Years. That’s the answer. Absolute years. Whilst Olivier Grioud and Danny Welbeck are good options, that is what they are, options behind a first choice striker.
Giroud is a great plan B. Welbeck is a good option. But neither are going to get you 20+ league goals. We need someone. And that is all I have to say on the matter.