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? 🙂
……………. 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…