‘Hold on world, world hold on,
It’s gonna be alright,
You gonna see the light.
And when you’re one,
Well you get things done,
Like they never been done,
So hold on,
From ‘Hold on’ by J. Lennon
The season has finally ended: thank god! Seldom have we looked forward more to the end of a season as this one. The Bolton away game smothered the last bit of a fire that started to go out rapidly from the moment we lost to Brum in the CC final a few months ago. The torture is now over; or is it? Unless, the BoD acts quickly and decisively in the transfer market, the next few months will become even more unbearable with (the dread of) key players leaving and the agonising shenanigans regarding new players joining us or not. Furthermore, this year there is no World or European Cup to distract us from the continuous and highly-addictive media frenzy on the comings and goings of players: you know, you should not check Newsnow, Ceefax, the newspapers etc all the time, but you just cannot help yourself. In times like this, like in John Lennon’s simple yet wise words above, we need something to hold on to.
This post is not about an in-depth analysis about what went right and wrong this season. Others are more thorough, qualified and patient than me to do this. Before I go on, it is important to state I am as disappointed as any other Gooner that, once again, we have not won a major trophy this season. This should have been the year for us, at least domestically – just like it has turned out to be the year for Milan and Ajax in their countries who finally both won their first domestic championship since 2004 (YES, a 7 year wait as well) – but it was not to be. We will have to wait another year, maybe longer, and it hurts like hell. Recently, it has also become a lot harder to speak to fellow Gooners, as everyone is so disappointed and there is so much division between us on whether Wenger should go or not. These are testing times for all of us.
Yet, when I start thinking about next season, and I have been doing so for the last 4 weeks, I cannot help but feel mildly optimistic. There are real positives to take from this season, which combined with the fact that we are a young, ‘evolving’ team, should provide us with a solid platform for next season. And now I have put the cat among the pigeons – big style!!
- Best away-form in the league.
- We have started to beat our big competitors again, albeit at home and not away.
- Koscielny and Chamakh had decent-to-good first seasons, taking into account how hard it is to come here and make an impact straightaway.
- Song, Sagna and Fabregas had a good season, although Cesc has performed a little bit under what we have come to expect of him, he still had a decent season (see previous AA post ‘Not Getting Enough Cesc’).
- Wilshere, Szczesny, Djourou and more recently Ramsey made great progress this season and look ready to become first choice players for next season and beyond.
- Vermaelen looks finally recovered from his injury, and should be ready for next season to lead our defence.
- RvP has had an incredible few months and kept scoring goals for fun when almost everybody else stopped performing altogether. He looks ready to captain our side in the next season.
- Nasri and Walcott have shown this season that they are getting very close to becoming top-quality players. Nasri perhaps more than Walcott, who especially during the first half of the season was simply unstoppable. Walcott appears to be a somewhat slower developer, but has shown enough this season to suggest that more and better is to come from him (and the key question is: is he a winger or a striker?).
These positives form a solid platform but it is obviously not the finished article; improvements/additions are required. However, it is a (rapidly developing) platform nonetheless that not many of our competitors have in place, especially if we are able to strengthen our squad with a couple of both experienced and quality players.
In this post, I am not lingering on about the negatives, especially not about the players who did not perform and most of us feel need to leave the club: not because I don’t care about it, but I would rather focus on our strengths this time. I am also assuming that Fabregas and Nasri are staying, but if they leave this would create one or two extra vacancies as per below, although I cannot imagine Arsene will ever let both go at the same time.
If the positives are translated into our first eleven for next season, it looks like this (4-2-3-1):
Sagna Djourou/Vacancy Vermaelen Koscielny/Vacancy
Theo/Vacancy Fabregas/Van Persie Nasri/Arshavin/ Vacancy
In a 4-4-2 formation it would look like this:
Sagna Djourou/Vacancy Vermaelen Koscielny/Vacancy
Theo/Vacancy Fabregas/Wilshere Song/Ramsey/Vacancy Nasri/Wilshere
Both formations, 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2, need strengthening by filling the vacancies.
As a minimum, we need to recruit externally a tall, strong, fast, yet technically competent partner for Vermaelen. He should compete with Djourou for that position. I have no doubt that Wenger will spend in this area. I would really like to see Koscielny compete with Clichy for the LB position, as he reminds me of Lee Dixon. However, if Clichy were to leave Arsenal, we might need to spend the money we get for him on a replacement, as Gibbs is not ready yet. Koscielny is also a good replacement for Vermaelen, if and when he gets injured or suspended.
The centre of midfield has a great future with Song, Wilshere and Ramsey and Fabregas (at least for the time being). I also have high hopes from Frimpong. However, we need to add an experienced central midfielder who has won a few top prizes in his career, to support Fabregas (or replace him if he leaves), even if it just for a couple of years. He should help to mentor our talents to improve our mental strength when the going gets tough, so we can make the final push towards winning cups. This will be the hardest position to fill, especially if Cesc should leave us. Ideally, I would also love to recruit another quality winger, whether Arshavin is staying or not, but would understand if Wenger would try to fill this position from within his current squad (given the great number of talented midfielders he can pick from and needs to keep happy).
Finally, I am quite happy with our current strikers, especially with Van Persie and Chamakh. Both Chamakh and Bendtner did not get many opportunities to prove themselves in the second part of the season, and I believe there is more to come from them. In 4-4-2 we would see a lot more of them, no doubt about it.
4-2-3-1 has worked well for us in away games and against our main competitors at home. We should build further on this during the next season. Our home form needs to improve drastically but with a strengthened defence, more experience in midfield, and a more adventurous attacking formation of 4-4-2 against the ‘lesser’ teams at the Emirates, we should make progress here as well. Yet, Arsenal does not need to break the bank: £25-35m (not including possible sales proceeds) should make a big difference.
Although we have gone through a few difficult years, the future is still looking good and we should ‘hold on’. However, we need to learn from the past and move forward. As the Hindu proverb goes: ‘There is nothing noble about being superior to some other men. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self’.
Come on Arsène, show a bit of humility, do not be scared to adjust your course, and make the necessary changes. Your loyal fans deserve it.
Written by TotalArsenal