So after the excitement of the victory in the NLD, and the deadline day transfer of a truly world class player that smashed our record and the record for the transfer of any German player, it is maybe time to reflect on whether this current squad has the personnel and resources to win some major silverware.
I personally don’t think it is entirely necessary to have literally covered all areas of the squad, and is possibly not even realistic. There are plenty of examples of teams winning major silverware while still having question-marks about certain areas of the team either in terms of quality or strength in depth in certain departments. Sometimes that deficiency, and lack of cover, bites back at you and you fall short, and sometimes you ride it out and turn out winners anyway. Often the key is having adaptability in the squad where you have 4-5 players with the ability to cover other positions aside from their best one.
Looking at our squad I would break it down as follows :-
I still have Chezzer (or TPIG to many) as our number 1 and am happy with this. I feel he is already a top class keeper and will only improve further. The addition of Viviano and the presence of an improved Fabianski, I personally think makes us strong in this department.
Verdict – Good number 1 and good cover in reserve.
Defence and defensive midfield :
I have paired the DM and defence together because of the potential adaptability factor in certain players. I actually think we are well covered in both these areas now largely due to the acquisition of Flamini. I look at it as having 2 very good right FB’s in Sagna and Jenkinson and 2 very good left FB’s in Gibbs and Monreal. We know Flamini is well capable of covering the left FB role and surely as a right footed player that should translate (if needed in an extreme situation) to being able to cover the right FB position. Central defence sees us with 3 senior and experienced centre backs to rotate in, Mertesacker, Koscielny, and Vermaelen. With Sagna also proving very able in this position how many more players can we accommodate or do we desperately need in the defensive areas?
Defensive midfield has been Arteta’s role in recent times and one he still performs to a high level. His most natural replacement is now Flamini whose acquisition has given us extra squad depth and more importantly added experience here. Beyond those 2, Ramsey and Wilshere playing as a deeper 2 don’t look easy to break down either, and even Rosicky can put in a shift in a deeper role if he is with the right partner.
Verdict – Quality FB’s, CD’s and DM’s as first choice and good adaptability with certain players to provide all round squad depth.
Attacking central midfield :
Probably our highest quality area with the greatest strength in depth. In our most attacking line up we have a maximum of 2 positions up for grabs here and have a choice of Cazorla, Ozil, Wilshere, Ramsey, and Rosicky before we even get to looking at some of the quality youngsters like Eisfeld and Zelalem.
Verdict – Well covered, if not the best in the league in this area.
Attacking wide players / inside forwards :
Having lost Gervinho we are left with 2 players who play mostly in these positions in Walcott and Podolski. At face value this looks like a slightly depleted position, especially considering Podolski’s lengthy lay off, but some of our quality and experienced ACM’s are well able to play in these positions, namely Cazorla, Rosicky, Ozil and Wilshere. I also feel that at least one of the young emerging players will get some increased playing time in this position this season, most likely Gnabry, so although another specialist attacking wide player may have been nice, we are still well covered and I don’t personally feel this will be the area that could potentially cost us this season.
Verdict – One more top attacking wide player would have been nice but we can still cover this area with high quality from within the squad.
Lead striker (number 9) :
This for me, and probably for many of you out there, is the one area that we may be caught short in. Worryingly reading between the lines with some reports that AW made last ditch bids for Rooney, Benteke, Djemba Ba, and Javier Pastore, it appears our esteemed manager recognised this as well. It is possibly the one area in this TW that I could find criticism with. We left it too late, and I think we possibly could have actually got a couple of those players if we had gone for them earlier. There are other potential missed opportunities. For instance how many of you would welcome the addition of David Villa to our squad right now and feel that we would be far more complete and have greater strength in depth up front, and be ready to challenge for the title if he were with us. He went for something around £5M I believe.
AW went big for a world class number 9 and I actually bear him no grudges on this, even if it has slightly backfired. The transfer window at the top end of the market is fraught with difficulties, especially with the addition of 2 new oil backed clubs in France snapping up quality players we may have normally had a chance with. This kind of situation and disappointment is not unique to Arsenal amongst the top clubs, and we just need to adapt and be strong until we have other options.
Ollie Giroud is now our only recognised regular number 9. Podolski had started to play this role a bit more recently, but is now out injured until Christmas. I have championed Walcott for the role in the past but am starting to prefer him as an attacking wide player. He could of course be an option for the role, but I feel it would depend on the type of opposition being faced. We have 2 youngsters that are more ready than some of the other young players to drop into the number 9 role in Sanogo and Akpom, but both have draw-backs with regard to age and experience at this level, and in Sanogo’s case also acclimatisation to the EPL.
The last option is one Mr Bendtner. Now many will laugh this one off but I have had pause for thought. For me NB is not the future of Arsenal or good enough to be a regular first team player, but also I don’t perceive him as a bad player either. He has far more big game experience than either Sanogo or Akpom and if fit he is the closest thing we have to Giroud in terms of a player who can hold the ball up and bring team-mates into play.
I think Ollie is a better goal-scorer and all round player, but if you look at the quality of our attacking midfielders behind the number 9 now, then it is maybe more important that our current number 9′s are players that can hold the ball up and bring advancing team-mates into play. I believe a fit NB can do this. His future is maybe not with us but it will not do him any harm to come into games with us and put on a good show and help us win games. We obviously benefit, and he would benefit where would be suitors will suddenly look at him differently. My hope is that if and when Bendtner is called upon, that the Arsenal faithful pay due respect and don’t start muttering. If he pulls on the Arsenal shirt and gives his all he deserves our support, even if his time with us is limited. It will not be too dissimilar to having a loan player in my mind.
Verdict on the number 9 – our weakest area, and needs addressing when we can, but I still feel we can overcome any deficiencies here for a while.
In summary and as I said earlier other teams have historically prevailed and won titles with slightly deficient areas in their squad and we just have to do the same. It is what it is now till the January transfer window and / or players are returning from injury. I actually believe we have a fantastic squad with great strength in depth maybe barring the one position, but I still feel that is a hurdle we can overcome.
Written by GoonerB