It never ceases to amaze me how quickly Arsenal supporters will chuck their toys out of the pram.
Indeed reports from the Islington Gazette suggest unprecedented numbers of passers-by suffering teddy bear related injuries in recent days – and a spate of car windshields shattered by flying rattles.
The reason? Arsène Wenger telling journalists that we’re not close to signing anyone yet.
Despite the fact that the squad has been touring the Far East for the last few weeks; and despite the fact that the Premier League does not begin for over three weeks; and that the transfer window does not close for almost five weeks… it seems that Arsène’s comments have tipped some fans into near despair.
Don’t get me wrong – I understand it. The perception that we have handled the last two summer transfer windows with all the finesse of Ryan Shawcross doing flower arranging (“bad dahlia – me punch you”) is pretty widespread.
It happens to be wrong. We did partly screw up the summer before last, but still managed to acquire Per Mertesacker, Mikel Arteta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (two great players and one great player-to-be). Last year we landed Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud (one smash hit and two qualified successes).
And now supporters think this is going to be another summer without a “big name” signing.
I happen to think there are still some surprises to come this summer and that we will be among the teams making a big move in the market: not necessarily for the players with whom the press are linking us, but top players nonetheless.
In the meantime I would suggest that fans be more aware of how the media are playing them like a prize fiddle.
But let’s play what many would consider to be the “worst case scenario” game and consider how we would shape up against our major rivals if we DON’T buy any top players before the window closes.
In those circumstances I suggest our first choice first eleven might look like this:
Is this team good enough to beat a full strength Manchester United, Manchester City or Chelsea?
My feeling is that it’s a team that could beat any of those three on its day – but I have a couple of reservations.
Starting from the back, I think there are still question marks about both Szczesny and Fabianski. However, it’s possible that the younger Pole’s spell on the bench last season has cut out any complacency issues and this may be the season where he starts to fulfill his potential.
I’m not worried about the rest of the defence, which showed in the latter part of last season how focused and stingy it can be. In the BFG and Kozzer I believe we have the best centre back pairing in the EPL.
But reservation number one comes in when we move forward to the holding midfield position(s). It was clear last year that we had not quite worked out how to use Jack Wilshere. But use him we must – he is going to be one of the greatest English players for decades.
I can see him starting alongside the ever-reliable Arteta as part of a double-pivot, both of them tasked with snuffing out opposition attacks, but also with allowing each other to get forward when opportunity arises.
Ahead of them, Cazorla has already shown what he can do in the attacking midfield position, so there are no worries there.
Then we come to the front three: if Theo Walcott has as good a season as he did last year we will have no room for complaint. If he does even better, then we can truly celebrate his coming of age.
On the left hand side, Lukas Podolski had a bit of an in-out season and did not convince everyone that he’s a wide player. However, he is a fantastic finisher and was carrying a long-term injury which (he says) is now fixed. Again, we expect him to step up in his second season in England.
Finally we come to the spearhead of our attack (and the subject of yesterday’s impassioned Post from Mickydidit), Olivier Giroud.
The hunky Frenchman has been on fire in our pre-season tour and should also be ready to move up a notch in the new campaign. However, is he going to turn out to be the prolific goal grabber that most title-winning teams have in their ranks? Can he do for us what Brave Sir Robin did for ManUre? Or what Aguero did for Man City? Or Drogba for the Chavs? I would love to believe it, but this may be the one area where we a little bit short in the 2013/14 season.
And before you shout, I have not forgotten about squad depth. Even if you think this first eleven can be a match for anyone, we all know that injuries and suspensions will take a toll and that we will have to rely on other players frequently.
We have some very strong players in our wider squad: Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Rosicky, Jenkinson, Vermaelen, Monreal to name but six. But we could certainly do with some back-up on the striking front and, possibly in defence too.
My conclusion is that we are not strong enough to seriously compete for the title without at least one key addition in attack and a couple of other squad players. I don’t care whether the new striker is the most famous player in the world or is someone of whom we have never heard (remember the young Nicolas Anelka?) provided he does the business in front of goal.
What do you think?
Can we compete without top class additions?
If our current squad stays mostly fit, can we do it?
Over to you.