All of their rivals have been busy doing transfer dealings since the January transfer window opened, but Arsenal have been conspicuous by their absence from the main transfer drama. Fans are getting restless, with defeats against Manchester City and Chelsea highlighting the vulnerabilities within Arséne Wenger’s squad.
On their day, with a fully fit first team, Arsenal are a match for most teams. The problem is that no first team squad can go through a whole season playing at their best two or three times a week, every week. Arsenal’s problems come when they have to bring players on from the bench to make a difference. This is a team with about 13 or 14 players of the required quality for a sustained Premier League campaign at the top. You need more than that though to challenge Manchester City or United.
A forward would be an important addition to the squad, because Arsenal lack consistent performers in that position below the first choice trio of Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski. David Villa is being energetically chased by Wenger, and he may yet get his man after reports emerged this week that the former Valencia man is agitating for a move. But is Villa really a better option than Adrian Lopez, the Atlético Madrid forward who Arsenal bid for earlier this window? They are similar in style, and while Villa’s career is on a downward’s trajectory, Lopez is going in the opposite direction. True, Lopez may never be as good as Villa was at his best, but Arsenal do not need a player like that. They need a squad option. Villas is hardly a squad option. Lopez is, and his versatility and ability to play across the front line, pace, technique and finishing ability make him the ideal target.
Arsenal’s midfield does not, contrary to popular opinion, need more options, although one extra body could be useful given how injury prone they seem to be in this area of the pitch. In Mikel Arteta and Francis Coquelin, Arsenal have two good options in the more defensive position. They are both ideal players, as they work hard, are tactically intelligent and disciplined positionally, unlike the departed Alex Song. The most important attribute in a defensive midfielder these days is not running around a lot putting in tough tackles, as the lazy stereotype goes, but positional awareness and passing the ball quickly into advanced areas for creative players to counter attack quickly. The game has become less about winning physical duels, and more about intercepting passing moves and counter attacking quickly. That is why Michael Carrick has been used in that role by Manchester United for years, and why they are so successful.
Going further forward, Arsenal’s other midfielders, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla, are both top class players, although neither Abou Diaby or Aaron Ramsey have shown the ability to perform consistently in an advanced role. For that reason, Wenger may consider bringing in another player who can play in the centre of midfield.
Arsenal’s real weakness recently has been in defence, where Bacary Sagna has been playing shambolically. Yet Wenger actually has a perfectly good right back, Carl Jenkinson, in reserve, and has been rather inept in not using the young Englishman instead of his underperforming Frenchman. At centre back, Arsenal have a similar problem. Wenger has been using Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen, who positionally can be questionable at times, allowing the opposition to carve Arsenal open with ease. It is strange that Laurent Koscielny has not been used more. He is Arsenal’s fastest and most intelligent defender, with the positional nous to prevent holes from appearing as regularly as they do at present. But Arsenal could really do with another player like him, preferably one who could also play at left back. A bit like Jan Vertonghen, except Arsenal did not put up any challenge to Tottenham when they signed him.
In goal, Wenger could do with a real challenge to Wojciech Szczesny, to keep the Pole on his toes. Vito Mannone did a good job earlier in the season, but lacks the quality required in a top class goalkeeper.
So these are Arsenal’s transfer needs in this window. I would recommend they sign Lope to bolster their attack and Isco from Malaga. Although Wenger should also consider a move for the Pescara midfielder Juan Fernando Quintero, a gifted young Colombian playmaker with a superb left foot, capable of carving open opponents of the highest quality at will. In defence, a move for Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa would have been ideal, and that Arsenal allowed Newcastle to sign the versatile Frenchman is bizarre to say the least. Another alternative would be the Swansea midfielder Leon Britton, whose ability to keep the ball moving would be ideal, and Arsenal would be wise to consider re-signing their former young starlet. In defence, the man Lorient replaced Koscielny with when he left them, Bruno Ecuele, could be an ideal addition to the Arsenal squad. In goal, an experienced head would be extremely useful, and Cedric Carrasso of Bordeaux would fit the bill.