So, Arsenal’s summer transfer business:
Good – Sanchez, Chambers, Debuchy and yes, I am very pleased with Welbeck.
Bad – How many defenders should a title challenging team actually have?
All through the summer, everyone with an opinion about football said that Arsenal needed a new striker. Pundits, pub bores and plenty of fans, all said Giroud wasn’t up to the task and we needed an upgrade. Perhaps. Plenty of others, particularly Arsenal fans, said we needed a defensive midfielder. The almost mythical DM we’ve all dreamed about ‘since we never replaced Viera’ as the cliché goes. I’d be happy to argue both points above, but broadly agree.
The striker situation is more complicated. Giroud, for his many faults is a decent player who got 16 PL goals and created more. Yes, he misses too many chances, yes, he can appear as if he’s running through glue and he frustrates. Is he World Class? No. But he did a decent job, and I believe he was always going to be the plan B this year.
Wenger has said several times he sees new signing Alexis Sanchez playing through the middle. He has plenty of form in successfully converting wide players, and in the 2nd half against Besiktas we saw a glimpse of how this might work.
Alexis was undoubtedly the high point of the window for Arsenal fans, a genuinely exciting prospect, bought early for big money. How very un-Arsenal. You only needed to be around the Emirates on the opening day to see what a difference in atmosphere his signing had made. And to see the number of shirts with his name on flying out of the club shops.
Add to that, the fairly straightforward Sagna replacement, Mathieu Debuchy who looks very decent; the surprise capture of Cullum Chambers from Southampton’s conveyer belt, and serious competition for Szczesny in goalkeeper David Ospina and you’d say we’d had a very good window wouldn’t you?
No. No, you really wouldn’t.
Even before we agreed to let Thomas Vermaelen leave we were short of cover central defence. This we knew, right at the start of the summer. Surely, given that timescale we could have signed a replacement?
With TV gone we have only 2 (TWO) experienced CBs in Koscieny and Mertersacker. Calum Chambers may well be versatile and his early dislpays filling in at this position have been greatly encouraging. But he’s played his entire fledgling career for the Saints at Right Back. All 20 odd games of it. Is he really our 3rd choice CB?
But it gets worse.
Check out the Arsenal official website and you will see that we have a total of SIX first team defenders. We are currently playing in four competitions. Not replacing Vermaelen is just staggering, and when you look at the defence you would probably only say that Kos, Mert , Debuchy and Gibbs would be considered first choice.
Gibbs is currently injured.
Chambers offers decent enough cover and enter Nacho Monreal, to complete the six. Currently doing a decent shift standing in for Gibbs, he must also apparently be seen as our 4th choice CB. I’m not sure whether he has ever played there.
Just to recap: Koscieny has had a couple of niggles already this season and his style of play means he picks up bookings. Mertesacker played about 50 games for us last year and then all the way through the World Cup. He may get a little tired as the season wears on. Dubuchy; good, let’s hope he stays fit. Gibbs is injured. Chambers; very promising, very inexperienced. And Nacho. I like all these players, but are they really enough? Is that a defence to challenge on four fronts?
I sincerely hope I am wrong, but that looks like being one injury away from being a crisis, and it’s all been so entirely avoidable.
So, the early business – great. The moving on of all the deadwood (Bendtner!) And the squal payers who were not deemed good enough (15 in total, I think)- all good. The late, late signing of Danny Welbeck – great. He’s undoubtedly a better option than poor Sanogo. But this transfer window has been a failure due to a glaring oversight at the back.
Yet again, it seems that Arsenal are just a couple of players short of a serious challenge. So familiar, and so very frustrating.