Arsenal FC have had a prolific start to the season, but do they have enough strength in depth across all the positions?
As Arsenal fans try to get their head around the fact that Arsene Wenger spent over £40 million this summer, former Arsenal legend Robert Pires has urged the club to keep spending and bring in more players when the transfer window opens again in January.
Speaking to press, Pires said:
“If you look at all the successful clubs who won titles and trophies, they always buy after they have been successful. There is no question that Arsenal are at a high level at this moment. They are playing to the kind of football played during my time at the club. And Ozil – well, he is world-class.”
The Gunners have had a prolific start to the season, but do they have enough strength in depth across all the positions? Let’s analyze the same.
Starting from the goalkeepers: the early-season form of Wojciech Szczesny suggests he is beginning to fulfill his enormous potential. The 2012/13 season was a difficult campaign for him and only an injury to Lukas Fabianski allowed Szczesny to regain his first-team place. Throughout the summer Arsenal were linked with many renowned goalkeepers ranging from Victor Valdes to Brazil’s No.1 Julio Cesar. But eventually Wenger landed the Italian Emiliano Viviano for a season-long loan with a buy-out clause in his contract. The goalkeeping department looks sorted at the moment. But to keep Szczesny hot on his heels, Arsenal need to sign a world class goalkeeper, and with Barcelona’s Victor Valdes running out of contract at the end of the season, snapping him up would be a great move.
Last season the centre-back partnership of Per Mertesacker and captain Thomas Vermaelen was struggling. Vermaelen was in bad form all season making six defensive errors, the most by any outfield player, and making a defensive error every 373 minutes. Arsene Wenger decided to change the combination and dropped Thomas Vermaelen for Laurent Koscielny. The new partnership of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny has since flourished.
Last season, the partnership went undefeated: nine wins, five draws, and only conceded ten goals. The partnership works so well because they complement each other. Arsenal have been criticized constantly in the media for having a weak spine and being bad defensively. But after Vermaelen is back in form and along with the existing partnership of Mertesacker and Koscielny, Arsenal can feel secure at the back. Even though Arsene may need to buy another centre-back, he doesn’t need to spend £30m. He can afford to buy a young, talented centre-back who can be nurtured for the future and who can do the job in the League Cup and FA Cup matches.
Talking about the defensive side of things, the two Arsenal full-backs, Sagna and Gibbs, have been phenomenal so far. They have had significant impact on matches with their performances not only as defenders but also in the attacking third.
Gibbs has been touted as the successor to Ashley Cole by his teammates. He is a young versatile player but has had his fair share of injuries. He along with Nacho Monreal provide enough cover at left back. But as far as right full-backs are concerned, Sagna is in the last year of his contract and is not very keen on extending it. With only Jenkinson remaining for that position after this season (if Sagna decides to leave), Arsenal definitely need to buy one right full-back. Having said that, if Arsenal can hold on to Sagna for at least a couple years more, then it will be a comfortable situation for Arsenal to be in as it will provide Jenkinson sufficient time to develop.
Now let’s talk about one problem that no one thought they’d be talking about. Yes, it is Arsenal’s problem of plenty in the midfield. The foundation on which their strong start has been built is their burgeoning midfield ranks, recently boosted by the arrival of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid and Mathieu Flamini, who rejoined the club after leaving AC Milan at the end of his contract.
These two have joined Aaron Ramsey, who is fulfilling the promise he showed before breaking his leg in 2010, classy playmaker Santi Cazorla, England’s Jack Wilshere and Czech Tomas Rosicky in battling for limited starting places.
Former Arsenal midfielder Ray Parlour, who won three Premier League titles with them, told the club website:
“It’s looking very strong, no matter who starts. There is so much depth in the midfield with Mikel Arteta, Mathieu – who has been a great signing – Ozil, Jack Wilshere, (Alex) Oxlade-Chamberlain and Cazorla – so it’s a real headache for the manager.”
The one problem that Arsenal face while attacking is absence of quality wingers in their ranks. The three wingers Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski and Alex Ox- Chamberlain are all injured, and all the attacking midfielders that Arsenal have want to play the Number 10 role. This is affecting the performance adversely as the team lacks width and has found it difficult to break through defenses on several occasions.
If Wenger were a little more patient, Arsenal could have held on to Gervinho for one more season or bought a replacement before selling him. The former seems to be a better option after looking at the performances Gervinho has put in at Roma after reuniting with his former manager and mentor Rudi Garcia.
The talking point throughout the summer transfer window was to bring in a new striker to the Emirates. The Gunners failed in bids for Luiz Suarez and Gonzalo Higuain, while they were also linked with signing Wayne Rooney from rivals Manchester United. However, only Yaya Sanogo arrived to strengthen Arsene Wenger’s forward line.
Olivier Giroud has been excellent for the Gunners playing upfront, having scored 6 times already in all competitions. But Wenger may need to add to his striking options in January as an injury for Giroud could jeopardise his attempt for a long awaited title at Arsenal.