In these silly season days, most Arsenal fans are talking about the likes of Marouane Fellaini, Gonzalo Higuain, Wayne Rooney and/or Luis Suarez – and why shouldn’t they? All four players can add certain spices that the current Arsenal dish lacks.
Fellaini can add height, strength and defensive awareness of the highest quality; Higuain is a striker that will most definitely score a lot of goals; Rooney has an extreme amount of know-how on how to win big games and titles and has a winning mentality that most current Arsenal players can only dream of; Suarez is everything that Robin van Persie used to be for us.
I would take any one of these players in a heartbeat, even Suarez (and don’t give me any of that “his personality doesn’t fit a great club like Arsenal” shtick – Patrick Vieira was once suspended for 6 games for spitting at an opponent and players like Bergkamp, Parlour and Keown were no saints on the field.)
After years of gunning for the “not really world class yet”-category players, Arsenal have this summer tried their best to get their hands on players that most people deem world class. This is a much awaited trend break for the club and its fans and it seems that Arsene Wenger knows that this transfer summer is of a “do or die” nature.
Arsenal *must* strengthen their team with a few world class players – thus, understandably, the club has been trying very hard to make such deals happen. Unfortunately – so far – they have yet to manage to finalize such a transfer as of now. At the same time, Arsenal have finally gotten rid of some deadwood.
Johan Djourou (loan), Sebastien Squillaci, Andrei Arshavin, Denilson, Vito Mannone and Francis Coquelin (luckily, just on loan) will all not feature for the Gunners in the 2013-2014 season. This is of course brilliant news (except for Coquelin not being given a proper chance at prospering at Arsenal), but it is also potentially a negative aspect of huge proportions!
Why? Because we have not heard anything yet in media about transfers that are meant to replace these players nor has the club hinted about it. Let’s say that Arsenal do not manage to get their hands on any of their world class targets (a nightmare not all too improbable considering that other big teams are surely going to be interested in these players, as well as the players’ clubs being not too happy about parting ways) and that Arsenal continued to put almost all their focus and effort during the summer on these superb players.
What are the chances that Arsenal will meanwhile have replaced the leaving squad players with good enough replacements? Pretty slim I think, based on how little we’ve been hearing so far about such transfers. If this scenario were to happen, Arsenal would not only lack enough world class players to challenge for real silverware (a.k.a. any title that isn’t the Capital One Cup), but the club would also have a pretty thin squad.
Given the high amount of injuries Arsenal get every year, a big squad is always needed. You just know that somewhere down the line two centre-backs will be injured at the same time (though this past season was an exception) and where Arsenal could once call on Djourou or Squillaci to fill the void for a short period of time – they would now have to rely on the hapless Ignasi Miquel.
And if Mikel Arteta were to get injured, instead of Coquelin the club would have to rely on…well nobody really since Emmanuel Frimpong is injured at the moment and likely to go out on loan later to get some much needed game time (how else can he ever develop?) And even *if* the loveable Mr. Denchtastic were to stay and not be injured when called upon, he would not be ready for the Premier League what with his earlier displays and his two lengthy injury spells that have kept him out of top flight football for what seems like forever now.
Or imagine our top two goalkeepers being injured at the same time – which has happened way too often these last few years – and instead of Mannone, who actually has some sort of experience, Arsenal would have to rely on the completely unproven Damian Martinez who conceded 5 goals against Reading in that epic 7-5 league cup win. Talk about nightmare situations – on top of these injury-related problems, there’s also the good old rotation problem.
In recent years, Arsenal have lost important players to injuries and often enough their backups have gotten injured too. This has forced Wenger to rely on the same players game after game after game. Come April, these players are fatigued and cannot perform as well as they have done earlier in the season. Not only that – the risk of getting a muscle related injury increases the more fatigued a player is. Case in point – Jack Wilshere during his debut season.
Also, in Arsenal’s case, next season will feature big league games right after midweek Champions League games. Players could thus be forced to play two games a week and give it their all for months at an end and without proper rotation they are bound to get really tired once they reach March/April. In order to fight for titles that actually matter, players must be kept fresh throughout the entire season. This has already been a big problem for Arsenal these last few years but with a squad that’s even thinner than before, things could get really messy. And I’m not talking about messy like Lionel Messi (I know – worst pun ever, right?), but “9 years without a title – let’s fire Wenger”– messy.
But what about a future where we are actually buying one or two top top class players? Even with such players, our squad will not be bigger than it has been these last few years, and as such, we will still be in risk of not having enough players to call on once the injury bug hits us.
Hence, it is imperative that Wenger and Co manage to adequately replace the players that have left this summer. Most people only care about the big signings and think that getting such players will automatically give us a huge boost in the title chase. But forgetting about the fringe and squad players is something that could very well become a fate much worse than not buying any world class players this summer. So let’s hope that Arséne Wenger is not only craving for the crème de la crème, but also for the cottage cheese that usually pales in comparison to said crème.
Written by HirooNakamura.