Yes Arsenal fans I still pinch myself too. We’ve got Mesut Ozil.
Arguably our biggest signing since Dennis Bergkamp and by far our biggest signing with regards to our transfer record. A small price to pay when you watch Ozil play for us every week and see the way he has helped the likes of Ramsey and Giroud to express themselves more freely. However, he alone is not the answer and needs to now be surrounded by players of a similar standard.
Before the season started we needed improvements in all core positions throughout the team. We needed a goalkeeper to compete with/mentor Szczesny and it does seem as though Viviano’s arrival has woken him up because he has been one of our most consistent players since the Aston Villa game. With Fabianski unable to replicate his 2010/11 form that saw him keep clean sheets for fun and Viviano unlikely to be offered a permanent deal, there is space for a top and preferably experienced goalkeeper to be brought in in the summer.
In the summer we let Santos leave after his loan and with Gibbs’ progression and Nacho’s quality this is by far our best covered position across the back 4, no problems. We then let Squillaci, Djourou (loan) and Miquel leave and brought in no one. There is no doubting the quality of our 3 centre backs but one injury leaves us with no back up, something I am far from comfortable with. I personally feel this is the 2nd most important position we need to strengthen after buying another striker but more on that later. At right back Sagna is again living up to his title of ‘Mr Consistent’ performing exceptionally against Palace amongst others, amazing what a good pre-season can do for you after 2 broken legs. Jenkinson, on the other hand, is not impressing many this season but I do feel fans are being harsh on him. He gives his all every game and hasn’t had a real run out since last season, where he proved himself against Bayern Munich of all opponents. I am happy with him as Sagna’s understudy but perhaps a Premiership loan would aid his development, especially if Sagna does not renew his contract with us.
Now onto midfield, easily our best covered position both quality and number wise. In an attacking sense we are spoilt for choice with Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere who seems to be returning to his game changing best. With all of these weapons at our disposal, there isn’t a defence in the League we cannot breach as our scoring record shows. The only real room for investment in this position would be another Ozil standard player becoming available or Rosicky leaving.
Defensive midfielder, a position that no longer exists according to Wenger. That was until he resigned Flamini who has proven to be vital so far. Commanding, aggressive and vocal. Three of the traits lacking from an Arsenal midfielder since… Flamini. At the moment he is doing his job extremely well but given his age, I feel it is a position that should be looked at in the summer. Ideally we need to obtain a player who shares the same traits but is a few years younger and with more physical presence. Sami Khedira would be my ideal signing in this position but names like Gundogan and Bender would be music to many Arsenal fans’ ears. Mikel Arteta was our most consistent player last season but I feel to bridge the gap to the top and where we are now, he may have to be replaced. We would miss his leadership and passing accuracy but somebody like Khedira who could suddenly take the ball and run past 3 to open things up would more than compensate for the loss.
The last position and arguably our weakest depth-wise, is up-front. Olivier Giroud has improved on a good first season to become a great striker who can mix it with the best of defenders and possesses a real mix of skill, strength and energy. Him leading the line is more than adequate, but when he needs a rest or has a bad day who do we turn to? Niklas Bendtner had both feet out the door in the summer but a late change of mind by Mourinho about loaning us Demba Ba meant we had no alternative but the keep the Dane. Chu Young Park was recently close to a loan deal to Wigan but his massive wages put a stop to that deal. Sanogo and Akpom for me are far too raw to be anything more than emergency/cup options. This leaves Walcott and Podolski as our only remaining striking options, a position neither of them impressed in last season, however, with such quality and work rate in our midfield they would have far less to do and could focus more on link up play and running at defenders (Theo’s biggest asset). But if we want to go from a good team to a great team, we need another top striker as an alternative and possibly even replacement to Giroud. Diego Costa has a huge admirer in Wenger and Lewandowski will probably be the best free transfer in history next summer (Assuming he hasn’t agreed to join Bayern) so there are options available.
In closing, I feel that no more than two signings are realistic in January and they would be a centre back and forward. Signing these players could make the difference in our title chances and would be the catalyst for more Ozil standard signings in the summer where sales could lead to a top goalkeeper, defensive midfielder and winger/forward coming in. Until then, lets hope Giroud stays fit and we get some big results in the coming weeks.
Photo by Ronnie Macdonald