Monday, 3 May 2010

'Ins' and 'Outs' This Summer at Arsenal

With Arsenal's season pretty much over, I thought I'd take the opportunity to talk about who might be leaving and arriving this summer.

GK - current players: Almunia, Fabianski, Mannone, Szczesny

First, the goalkeepers. I think everyone (including, hopefully, Arsene Wenger) is now agreed that we need a new keeper. Manuael Almunia is good enough as back-up but shouldn't be starting every week. Meanwhile, Lukasz Fabianski has come in for a lot of stick this season due to some high-profile errors, but I'm still convinced he can become a top-class keeper given two or three more seasons. Unfortunately, we've now gone seasons without winning a major trophy and I no longer believe we can wait for him to mature. Vito Mannone has never really convinced me despite several very good performances this season but, again, could provide good back-up in future. Finally, Wojciech Szczesny looks the mutts nuts and will, according to Arsene Wenger, become Arsenal's numero uno one day. But he's not ready for the first team yet.

So who should we sign? Well, it's not easy to sign a top-class keeper. Many names have been mentioned who, to my mind, would not really be any improvement on what we have. Robert Green, for example. For me, Joe Hart looks quality and we should do anything we can to sign him. Unfortunately, it looks like it may be difficult to prise him away from Man Citeh, but we can always hope that he decides to submit a transfer request. Jussi Jaaskelainen could also fit the bill and might come a bit cheaper. I would be happy with either of those two. I wouldn't be surprised though if it's not someone relatively unknown like Jens Lehmann was (if Arsene Wenger decides to sign a keeper at all).

Defence - current players: Sagna, Eboue, Clichy, Gibbs, Vermaelen, Gallas, Campbell, Djourou, Silvestre, Senderos

Despite what has been said in the media, I think we currently have what we need in defence. Our full-backs Sagna, Clichy, Eboue and Gibbs all look pretty solid and I think we are pretty soild in that area. At centre-back we have the incredible Tomas Vermaelen, William Gallas, Sol Campbell, Johan Djourou, Mikael Silvestre and Philippe Senderos. Of those though, Gallas, Campbell, Silvestre and Senderos are all out of contract in the summer.

I, for one, won't be too disappointed to see Senderos leave and the least said about Silvestre the better, but it looks increasingly like Gallas will leave when his contract runs out and there are doubts about whether Sol Campbell will sign a new deal. I hope he does but, if not, I hope we sign a promising young player who will be happy to sit on the bench but also capable of coming in without too much disruption should either of the first-choice centre-backs be injured. Chris Smalling would have been ideal because he can also play full-back or defensive midfield, but sadly he decided to go to ManUre. If Gallas leaves, we need to sign a top-class player a la Vermaelen who can come straight into the team. Unfortunately, such players are hard to find. Brede Hangerland would fit the bill, but I doubt we will be able to persuade Fulham to part with him. I haven't seen Neven Subotic play but he comes with rave reviews. Whether we will be able to afford him though is another matter. Hopefully, Arsene Wenger already has someone up his sleeve (not literally of course, otherwise he would be too small for a centre-back).

Midfield - current players: Fabregas, Song, Diaby, Arshavin, Nasri, Rosicky, Denilson, Eastmond, Wilshere, Ramsey, Merida

Midfield is perhaps the most contentious area. I think we're currently well covered in this position with one possible exception. I believe Cesc Fabregas will still be with us next year despite the continued rumours of him moving to Barcelona, Real Madrid or Timbuktu, and Alex Song cannot be improved upon in my opinion.
Abu Diaby still continues to get stick from some fans but, although he is still a little inconsistent, he has improved greatly and I think he's worth perserving with.

Andrei Arshavin has had a poor season after a promising start and has also taken a bit of stick in the blogging community, but I think we have to remember that: (a) he has been carrying an injury for most of the season, and (b) he is often misquoted. We have all learned to live with the constant 'Fabregas to Barca' stories and take them with the huge lump of sodium chloride they deserve. The constant stories about what Arshavin has supposedly said fall into the same bracket in my opinion. Most of the stories seem to originate at the same tabloid-esque website, which I refuse to give publicity to. Samir Nasri is not the finished article, but he has his moments and he will only get better in my opinion. Tomas Rosicky has had a poor season, but he never lets anyone down when called upon (as they say), and as long as he's happy to sit on the bench, I think he's another to keeper.

It's with back-up for Alex Song that I think we have potential problems.Denilson is not good enough in this position and Craig Eastmond looks promising but not yet ready to play more than a few games a season. The problem is, whoever we sign is unlikely to get into the team ahead of Song and will have to be content to sit on the bench. If Sol Campbell leaves, I hope that we sign a promising young player like Smalling (but not him, obviously) who can play centre-back and also defensive midfield; otherwise, I think we will continue to be weak in this area. Personally, I'm hoping that I'm wrong about Eastmond and that he can develop faster than expected. So far, he's looked good in most matches, but he was a bit disappointing against Wigan last week when with someone with more experience in that position I think we could have gone on to win.

Jack Wilshere will also probably get more matches next season as well unless he goes out on loan again, and I think we may also see Jay Emmuanuel-Thomas getting a few games.

Finally for the midfielders, Aaron Ramsey we all know about, sadly, and Fran Merida will probably be leaving at the end of the season. I will be a bit sorry to see him go because I think he has a lot of potential, but sometimes young players get impatient.

Forwards - current players: van Persie, Bendtner, Eduardo, Walcott, Vela

Van Persie is our best forward and obviously must stay, and Nicklas Bendtner is also good enough in my opinion as long as he's not first-choice.

It looks very much as if Marouane Chamakh will be our first signing and I would very welcome that. That would probably leave us with too many forwards and I think Eduardo might be the one to make way. He's had very little playing time this season and just doesn't seem to have recovered properly from his injury, either mentally or physically. He seems to have lost a bit of pace and, sadly, it might be time to say goodbye. That said, Arsene Wenger sees him in training every day and he will know whether he just needs more time or if the damage is permenant.

I've included Theo Walcott as a forward partly because that's where he's listed on the official Arsenal website and partly because I'm not sure whether we will play 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 next season. Theo is another one who has come in for some criticism this season both from the media and from some fans, but I think we have to remember that he is still young and has been injured for long periods this season. When he comes back from the World Cup having been one of the key players for England, we will all love him a bit more. If we do switch to 4-4-2 next season or just use it in some matches, I think we will finally see the best of Theo Walcott.

Finally, Carlos Vela is another one who has not been seen much this season and I'm wondering whether Arsene Wenger has any confidence in him. For me, he is still a very promising young player and it would be a shame to see him go, but Wenger sees him in training every day and only he will really know if he can ever develop from being a talented youngster to being a world-class player.

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