The future of AFC – They don’t grow on trees you know.

Morning all, following on from some interesting and varied comments on RC78’s team balance post we had recently, I thought it would be an idea to analyse how strong I feel we currently are in each department, to ascertain which positions we feel we need to spend big on, which positions we need to add more moderately priced back up to, and which positions should we defer adding to and be patient while we establish whether we already have what we already need, likely through the rapid emergence of a young prospect?

My opinions are really just that, so I trust and hope that you will all contribute as to what you feel we should be doing in the summer transfer window, and why. Obviously feel free to obliterate and rubbish any of what I suggest.

My pragmatic head says that we will not be able to recruit and get every position spot on and top drawer after half a season with Arteta. I have often referred to us as being at the start of the Liverpool / Klopp route of development towards an end goal of a high quality title challenging squad over the next 2-3 seasons, and that every 6 months more pieces of the jigsaw puzzle should fall into place. As such I would suggest that after this summers TW, and going into next season, we should have plugged some much needed gaps, but may still have certain question marks, and be left waiting to find out whether some of our current players, especially the young ones, can become what is required before we “over-recruit”.

Going through our team from back to front I would say the following:

Keepers – I am happy with our first choice and back up keepers. Leno, Martinez, and even a couple of our youth prospects all look very good to me right now, and yet all still have further room to improve in certain aspects of their specialist position. Any expenditure here would be a waste of funds much needed elsewhere in my opinion.

Full-backs – I am happy with our first choice and back-up full-back options when fully fit (Bellerin, AMN, Tierney, Kola) but would probably play AMN ahead of Soares. AMN has done well recently in Arteta’s improved tactical formations so why would we play someone who couldn’t get in the Southampton team over a home grown lad? Is Soares not a loan of convenience to suit all parties before we get players back from injury and he seeks somewhere else in the summer. If he does have more about him then we will find out, but that will be a nice problem to have. Again I feel overall that this position would constitute unnecessary expenditure in the immediate future.

 Centre backs – this is a difficult one to assess because we have Saliba arriving who, if highly encouraging reports from France are to be believed, seems destined to be a 1st choice CB immediately, even at his young age. Luiz has played well recently and, again if fully fit, I feel both Holding and Chambers have the potential to be a 1st choice CB, and we will have that option on Mari as well once we see him more.

I do feel there will likely be some movement in and out in this position. We have the numbers for this position but may be looking to upgrade in quality. Arguably we need another high quality additional CB as well as Saliba coming in, but then I would say that 2, (or possibly 3), of our current incumbents will need to go. Who though?

Defensive and Central Midfield – At defensive and central midfield we arguably need an Ndidi type player, but again under Arteta’s improved tactics we have looked more solid with both Xhaka and Torreira sitting at the base of the midfield sometimes together and sometimes with a box to box type. Willock and Douzi both strike me as more number 8 or box to box types, and Emile Smith-Rowe could also be added to those two as one of the two positions he could eventually become a key player in. If we do add someone I think we may potentially need to lose one of the above due to excessive numbers resulting in a lack of game time for one or two of them. Again who would that be?

Attacking mid-field options – Looking at the ACM / number 10 and the attacking wide position in conjunction we have a lot of options. At attacking CM / number 10 we arguably need an addition with Ozil’s time left with us being limited, but also his consistent effectiveness in the role being questionable. There are some games where he still seems to be the man but it is not consistent and all successful top teams have a consistent, rather than sporadic, creator in chief. Could Lacazette move there as more of a deep number 10 striker, rather than an attacking central midfielder, as an option that many of us have suggested. That seems to split opinions and I do see both sides of the argument with this.

After that consider our other young options from what we already have. I concur with some others that ESR, a player who I feel has a very high ceiling (injuries and correct development permitting), can become that player. Not only that, but we have a number of other quality young players that at the moment would be considered more as attacking wide players but some of whom may be able to play the ACM or number 10 role.

For me any of Martinelli, Saka, Pepe, Nelson could become a great option at ACM or number 10 as well, but we would need to find out by trying it. Any extra addition to the attacking wide or central positions will thwart one or two of these youngsters and I think 1-2 will be forced to leave before we have even found out how good they can become. That is why I would potentially turn down the pursuit of a player like Grealish, despite the fact that I really rate him.

We don’t lack for numbers in players who can take up attacking wide or central positions; Pepe, Martinelli, Saka, Smith-Rowe, Nelson. If we were to add a creative CM or another number 8 type, I would suggest it would have to be one of a high level of proven quality in the EPL and not just another developing type or someone unproven in the EPL. It would have to be a Grealish or Maddison, if that addition were to effectively call time on one or two of our other young prospects in their development through lack of game time, and therefore their future at the club.

Our number 9 – Now to the final position and the one that I, possibly controversially, think we should be looking at as the most serious and high level investment in this summer….the number 9. That would seem strange bearing in mind we currently have 2 senior strikers in Lacazette and Aubamayeng who most teams would be very happy with. Both of those players have been linked with other high profile clubs, possibly less Lacazette on recent form, but this is the key position in the team where we have the most uncertainty.

We have Martinelli who can potentially play there, but such is his energy and ability from wide and deeper positions I think we would stifle him, with less contact time on the ball, by playing him as a 9. I would prefer to see him continue as a goal-scoring attacking wide player or possibly a central slightly deeper 10 where he can still drop more and get on the ball as well as into the box.

I want to see both Nketieh and John Jules brought more into the first team environment as number 9’s, but it would be extremely dangerous to assume they could step in and replace what Aubamayeng and Lacazette give us. Those 2, like Martinelli, give us great alternative options and possibly top level first choice solutions in the future, and as such should be focussed on in bringing them through. They would, however, require another senior striker, to lessen the pressure on their development, in the absence of both Aubamayeng and Lacazette.

Signing a contract extension or moving our two senior strikers on needs to be decided with both of them this summer (ideally before the Euros), and both have been holding back on signing extensions and maybe have an eye on being elsewhere. Also, from our own end, their ages will be starting to count against them in what they can provide at the highest level and for how long. I wonder whether more than a couple more seasons at the top level will be seen, maybe 3 in Lacazettes case, so this needs to be factored in to consideration.

In addition, despite both being very good strikers, there remain question marks over how effectively we can play them together, or if not together, how we rotate them with each other while keeping both happy with being rotated. That is a lot of stars that need to align for both our current senior strikers to represent our future beyond this summer, and for us not to have a significant need in high level recruitment in this position in the summer. However………..these types of players don’t grow on trees you know.

You only have to look at the January transfer window which saw many top clubs scratching around trying to find strikers to cover them or strengthen them. There seems to a dearth of top quality proven options in a good age group. In our case, and the case of all top EPL sides, we need a striker with both the qualities of being effective at European level, but also to have the right attributes to be effective in the more physical EPL. This narrows down viable options even further for the top 6 EPL teams compared to other top European clubs.

There is one striker I feel fits the bill though, and one I feel could be on the move so will be attainable, and that is Moussa Dembele from Lyon. In the summer he will just be turning 24 so is an excellent age, but still with time to improve even further. Before Lyon he was at Celtic for a successful stint, so has a proven pedigree in a more physical “British” league. He has an excellent goal-scoring record at both Celtic and Lyon and looks quick and very strong, ideal requirements for the EPL. I just can’t see another striker out there, or emerging, that has all of these attributes.

We would not be without competition for him, so we would need to sell it to him that Arsenal is the best place for him for the next stage of his career. If our 2 current senior strikers, or at least one of them, were leaving that would indicate he would be the main man, which is a big selling point. He will not be cheap either which is why I am suggesting that the greatest part of any budget we have, and any funds from other sales, goes on this player.

As I have mentioned we cannot realistically get high quality and expensive upgrades in all areas of the team in this next transfer window but, as I have outlined, I think we can be considered reasonably well covered in most other positions in the squad, if we just retain what we have and bring a couple more young prospects into the fray more. However I feel a top number 9 that can be prolific in both Europe and the EPL is not only currently hard to come by, but will remain so for the next couple of years, so I feel we should go in big and strike now before the opportunity passes us by.

If you made it to the end of this I have one simple question…….what do you think? 🙂

GoonerB

……………. and then RC78, who is obviously not finished with this topic, sent a further follow up which has been tacked on here ……………..

If we do not buy any players and rely on our current crop of young players, our squad could look like this under Arteta in 2 years:

Leno – Bellerin, Chambers, Saliba, Tierney – Torreira, Douzi – Pepe, Willock (or Smithe Rowe), Saka – Martinelli

Do you think that with two years more, this team could fare well in the EPL or do we need to strengthen this summer in key positions with players that are currently above 25 years old but that come with more skills and experiences like Koulibaly, Milinko Savic, Brozovic and Grealish?

So what to do? Give a chance to our youth and hope they develop into fine players or give them less playing time and buy some more confirmed players?

The choice is yours…

18 Responses to The future of AFC – They don’t grow on trees you know.

  1. Thank you to both RC78 and GoonerB for your posts. This is obviously something that we’re going to be talking about for quite a while.

    I love the idea that we may end up with a team filled with Academy graduates but I also feel that there needs to be competition for places and that things can get a bit stale with all the same people all the time. So i think we won’t keep all of them long term, what will be interesting is who keeps pushing and improving and who forces their way out the door.

  2. LBG says:

    Phew GoonerB, my tendency to hold my breath whilst reading your posts…..didnt work.
    I must admit I am puzzled with the idea that the process of challenging Liverpool or for that matter anyone else above us in the League, is a matter of getting new established ( in other leagues) players to produce some kind of speedy renaissance.
    I have stated many times who I would dump, but why a host of players brought in to replace?Save the money ( with the possible exception of a Vieira Mk2 or Mbappe!) and give Mikel a chance to give yoof a chance. I really believe, with time and patience, we have the potential already, to be great again. And breathe…

  3. RockyLives says:

    Thanks GoonerB for a really well thought-out and well argued read.

    I find the majority of your case convincing but I have one major point of departure: instead of spending the big bucks on a new striker, I would spend it on a new ACM/No. 10.

    I believe we have strikers who can score, but we need to improve the service to them and, in this, I agree that we need a replacement for Ozil.

    I know this will upset the many supporters who love Ozil. I love him too, but he just does not deliver on a consistent enough basis and we need someone who does.

    Basically I want a new Dennis Bergkamp, but I know how difficult that’s going to be to find. I don’t follow the Euro leagues closely enough to know who our new creative ACM could be, but that’s where I would direct most investment if we can find the right individual.

    Maybe Martinelli could become such a player in time, but he seems more of a Bale/Ronaldo type to me.

  4. RockyLives says:

    Willock, Guendouzi, Smith-Rowe, Nelson, Saka, Martinelli, AMN, Nketieh…

    Encouraging, right?

    But how many of these will actually make the grade long term at Arsenal? Probably very few. If two of them do, that would be a real success.

    Cast your mind back to December 2012, when Arsenal organised a picture of five of our “young British core” all signing their contracts together: Jenkinson, Ramsey, Wilshere, Gibbs and Oxlade-Chamberlain.

    Along with Walcott they were the Talented Youth Train we were going to ride to glory. And what happened to them?

    Jenks – lovely lad and Arsenal through and through but never quite cut the mustard at first team level.
    Ramsey – a bona fide star who gave us years of good service.
    Wilshere – super talented, but injuries and then loss of form ruined his career.
    Gibbs – decent squad player but injuries and talent level meant he never really made it.
    Oxo – never established a proper starting berth in the team.
    Walcott – a success who did well for us for many seasons.

    So two out of six were hits.

    If we get two or three hits out of the seven young stars listed at the top of this comment we’ll have done incredibly well. And by “hits” I mean they become regular first-choice first team players who stay with us for multiple seasons at that level.

    I don’t mean to sound a pessimistic note, but it’s easy to get carried away with the potential shown by talented youth. And life has a tendency to throw hurdles in the path of a many an apparently golden career.

  5. Rasp says:

    Thanks for that GB, it’s an epic in panorama with surround sound 🙂

    I like to keep things simple.

    Auba is leaving in the summer and possibly Laca. Hopefully Martinelli will sign a new contract. I think it’s too early to make him a central striker so I think we will buy one.

    For all Ozil’s brilliance, he is not the creative midfielder we need so I really hope we buy another Cazorla/Cesc.

    I think we are ok for CD’s and wingbacks.

    If we can progress our very promising youngsters then those are the only two changes I think are necessary. With any luck we can raise significant money selling some of those players who haven’t made the grade.

  6. kelsey says:

    I put up a long comment but it never got approved ?

  7. RockyLives says:

    Hello Kelsey – hope all’s well with you.

    I just took a look ‘behind the curtain’ and I can’t see any comments pending approval.

    Maybe it’s been swallowed by the glitchosphere…

  8. LBG says:

    Hi Fred
    Missed your last.
    Storm brewing! Expecting it to be worse than Ciara today, Sunday and Monday. Cant see it stopping us at the Emirates but, depending on timing, could halt some today.
    The Vines boys are thriving and two of us will cheer on the Gunners tomorrow, hoping for three points anyway possible.

  9. Pat7 says:

    Well done lads for your comprehensive post – a good read.
    Personally, I feel we need a more disruptive striker with good heading ability as per post where we can add to the complexity of defending our attacks which are mainly cutbacks.
    Additionally, someone who can win some of those midfield headers which at present we just watch, incapable of getting in on that action.
    For me Ozil is the past too and Laca/Auba if not both will be gone this summer, so I welcome those wages and income to finance what we need (along with Kola).
    It will be interesting to see whether AMN can fill one of these central roles or whether Arteta sees/convinces him like Saka to have patience and tie down a slot.

  10. RA says:

    Good afternoon, Sailors. 😉

    As fine a flotilla of delectable Posts as any could have hoped for, have amazingly hove into view, courtesy of the inestimable Rocky, over the past few footie-less days, written especially for our delectation and delight, which have been ably supported, analysed and enjoyed by the other AA’ers. [Well.’our’ is a bit misleading as I have been elsewhere, but I have now caught up with everything
    including RC’s and Gooner B’s splendid contributions.]

    Truth be told, the amount of work needed in identifying the roles and values of so many players, who have been joyously categorised into the good the bad and the indifferent has only served to oust me as a uniquely poor fan/supporter.

    You see, for me, every team put out by Arsenal has been the ‘best’ team, at the time of each game, which does not mean I do not mumble and grumble afterwards about certain players ‘not being good enough’ or who have been played in the wrong positions by the then concurrent manager.

    I suppose this could be akin to looking into a Petri dish containing millions of bugs temporarily residing there with one that all the others would be keeping well away from, as a dose of antibiotics is administered to its butt.

    Lackaday, I am just a bigger version of that there bug. 👀

  11. RC78 says:

    I think Arteta will look into Cancelo or a similar fullback. AMN may be moved up or sold -unless we get rid of Nelsson.

  12. Hello RA I was wondering where you had got to, everything ok? How many days has it taken you to catch up 😉

  13. Maxwell says:

    There are two players emerging from the Academy who may well eclipse the others, and whom no one has yet mentioned. Balogun is considered even better than Eddie or J-J. He’s big as well.

    But best in show? Miguel Azeez, who will be an absolute beast in central midfield. Cesc with size and a killer shot.

    We don’t yet know the ramifications for football of the Brexdisaster, but the authorities are already talking of increasing the quota of Home Grown players. Then there’ll be the effects of the government’s new residency rules. All in all, a club with a thriving Academy could be in pole position. Per is going to be central to Arsenal‘a success, and not very far down the line.

  14. RockyLives says:

    Welcome back RA – we’ve missed you.

    But a word of advice – I wouldn’t mess with Cech’s food if I were you. He’s a big, strong fellow and might take offence.

    Of if you really must peer into Petr’s dish I would at least wait until he’s finished…

  15. Brilliant video to wake up to, thank you Fred 😁

  16. ……. seems like only yesterday

  17. Morning all

    We have a New Post ……………

%d bloggers like this: