writes Oli Price-Bates,
As we come to the end of a roller-coaster season Arsenal face a massive summer. As a critical Sol Campbell pointed out: “where are Arsenal heading?” You have to say he is right. If we are serious about winning major honors then we need to actually improve this summer. The wage bill is large, being occupied by ‘not quite good enough’s’ and ‘useful’ players. The fact is, if we want to challenge next season, many sales need to be made early, freeing up some funds and most importantly room on the wage bill.
Please note that in this report is as realistic as possible. I know many want to see Eriksen, Hazard, Messi, Gotze etc signed, but I’ve tried to get inside our managers head a bit.
So Pat Rice is set to stand down at the end of the season. Who should be number two? The likes of Tony Adams, Dennis Bergkamp and Steve Bould have been mentioned. Personally I would like to see Tony and Dennis gain more experience elsewhere, before maybe becoming Arsene’s successor. A name that hasn’t been mentioned is Ray Wilkins. I know he was no.2 at Chelsea but the fact is he clearly knows what he is doing. After he left Chelsea they have never been the same outfit and he could be a great addition to the backroom staff. The other candidate for me is Steve Bould. Done a great job as a youth coach at the club and he is still young, meaning he could learn from Wenger a lot; again a possible successor for Arsene. Neil Banfield the reserve coach has also been mentioned but I prefer the two former suggestions.
VERDICT – Steve Bould
Goalkeepers Wojciech Szczesny is fast becoming a legend at the club and there is no debate that this guy is special. We just need to make sure we keep hold of him. Second choice is tricky. Lukas Fabianski needs to be playing and so I think he will leave. Manuel Almunia, we just need to find somebody to take him, maybe even pay them, seriously. Then we have the young boy Damian Martinez who, from watching the reserves, I rate a lot. The problem is he has a young Szczesny in front of him; a loan is the best option for next season. James Shea will continue as reserve keeper and I don’t think neither he nor Charles-Cook has a chance at the club unfortunately. Then comes is issue for who comes in? It’s whoever is willing to sit on the bench, on a low wage and has ability. Wolves duo Wayne Hennesey and Stefan de Vries are candidates, whilst Jussi Jaaskelinan and Sorenson are possibility’s after being replaced at their clubs. Schwarzer and Stockdale are battling it out for the No.1 spot and we could swoop for whoever fails to get it. Perosnally I think an experienced stopper like Schwarzer, Jaaskelinan or Sorenson should be brought in, with a view to them having a coaching role after 1 or 2 years. With Schwarzer and Sorenson recently signing new deals however, it seems like Jussi is the best option. I don’t buy the Jack Butland rumours as we have two great young keepers, it would just be a money making signing. I’d love Gordon as a number two, who is free in the summer, but think he might want first choice.
VERDICT - Sell: Lukas Fabianski, Manuel Almunia Loan: Damian Martinez, Vito Mannone Buy: Jussi Jaaskelainen Keepers: Szczesny, Jaaskelinan, Martinez (recall), Mannone (recall), Shea
Centre Backs An area that has improved a lot as the season has progressed. Koscielny and Vermealen look like they will play centre half for
Arsenal for years to come. We just need to keep them. I feel Mertesacker was really settling in and doing well for us before that injury, and would like to keep him as 3rd choice. Johan Djourou is not the most reliable but is a good character and willing to wait for his chance, I’d keep him too. Squillaci has to be sold, and I’m sure he will be. Lots of rumours that Jan Vertonghen is joining, I’d love this. A player who would cover us at left back and defensive midfield as well as centre half. He wouldn’t be first choice yet, but would play a lot of games with Gibbs so injury prone. I also feel that he would get a chance in defensive midfield, which I will come to later. Then we come to the youth players, Kyle Bartley and Ignasi Miquel. I haven’t seen enough of Bartley to judge, but I’m not sure if he will ever make it here to be perfectly honest. Miquel is a player I like, he can slot in at left back too. I think he needs a loan though, and a full season as a starter in the Premier League would be perfect for the lad, but Championship wouldn’t be too bad as it would toughen him up a bit.
VERDICT - Sell: Sebastian Squillaci, Kyle Bartley, Sead Hajrovic Loan: Ignasi Miquel Buy: Jan Vertonghen Centre backs: Koscielny, Vermealen, Vertonghen, Mertesacker, Djourou
Full Backs An area that looked to have undone our top 4 hopes when Wenger refused to buy in January, fortunately a great run once the left
backs returned has rescued us. Bacary Sagna is a big player and we just need to keep hold of him. Carl Jenkinson, to his credit has done well in this massive step up and deserves to be second choice. Keiran Gibbs is an achilles heel in the defence because of his injury problems. However I feel at 22 he is a quality young player and worth keeping for another season to see if he can get over his injury problems. Andre Santos is heavily criticized but I like him. His defending is improving and attackingly he is a huge threat. My earlier suggestion to sign Vertonghen means that we would have 3 quality left backs. Coquelin is can be cover for right back, meaning we have 3 good options there. I know Yennaris is primarily a midfielder but I am going to include him in this section as I feel this is where he will end up for us. Certainly a player with talent, again a loan at the highest level possible would be the best option here, with an emergency recall. Let’s just make sure Johan Djourou doesn’t have to fill in at full back again. Bellerin has been impressive for the reserves and a loan would do him the world of good. With the fitness of Gibbs, young Luke Shaw from Southampton may be worth buying.
VERDICT - Sell: Nobody Loan: Nico Yennaris, Hector Bellerin, Luke Shaw Buy: Luke Shaw, (Jan Vertonghen) Full backs: Sagna, Jenkinson, Gibbs, Santos, (Vertonghen), (Coquelin), Yennaris (recall)
We all thought this would be our fall down this season after losing Cesc, but Mikel Arteta has been magnificent and Alex Song has stepped up another level. With Jack Wilshere out all season and us already impressing in this area, I don’t think a top class central midfielder is needed. As much as I’d love M’Vila I can’t help but feel it would be a waste of funds. Vertonghen again would come in handy here as I feel Frimpong needs to be loaned out again. Lucas Biglia would be a good addition, but I think we have just enough bodies there. I would like to see a top class attacking midfielder come in with Ramsey perhaps being sculptured into a deeper role. I think Gylfi Sigurdsson should be signed. Would only cost around £12million and has an eye for goal. A quality player to have on the bench and for squad rotation, he could win games from nothing and is still young. For me time is up on Diaby and Denilson, and if we can find a buyer they must go, however I can see him staying as a back up. The same applies for Craig Eastmond who has failed to live up to his potential. Other players that need season long loans are Chuks Aneke, and someone who has impressed me for the reserves, Josh Rees. I fear that Ozyakup might be losing patience, and a loan might not be his favored option. There is a chance of us losing his this summer but I hope he goes out on loan, as I believe this boy has talent. Benayoun is a useful player and if he is willing to drop his wages and play a minor role then we should take him, if not then he has to go for me. Lansbury either has to go on loan again or needs to go. His injury record is not great and as much as I rate him, I don’t think he will ever be a big star for Arsenal. I think these changes are enough, when you consider Chamberlain and others can play in the middle. Belhanda is another option.
VERDICT - Sell: Abou Diaby, Craig Eastmond, Denilson, Henri Lansbury, (Yossi Benayoun) Loan: Emmanuel Frimpong, Josh Rees, Chuks Aneke, Oguzhan Ozyakup Buy: Gylfi Sigurdsson, (Jan Vertonghen) Central Midfielders: Song, Arteta, Wilshere, Rosicky, Sigurdsson, Coquelin, Ramsey, (Vertonghen)
Wide players I think we need to make sure Theo is signed to a new contract. A frustrating player but we can’t doubt his ability; defenders are
scared of him. Gervinho has been a bit of a disappointment but I think he needs to be given another season. Many players take time to adapt and he is still young. He is very much a confidence player, but a good option when injuries kick in. Ryo is ready to be used in the first team in my opinion. It’s tempting to loan him again but with injuries he could fast be needed, and will often be required on the bench. If we get to January and he isn’t playing then loan him out. Dempsey is someone I’d love to see at the club. Plays best upfront and would be great back up for van Persie, whilst also an option on the wing. Serge Gnabry is one of my favourite players to come through the ranks for a while. A loan would be great for him if we could find a suitable club. Times up for Arshavin, and Sanchez Watt. Both for different reasons but neither have the quality needed for a title challenging squad. Podolski needs to be secured and Hoilett should be signed up on a bosman. The wide areas look a bit overloaded but I think their versatility means they’d all get time and we would have a quality looking bench.
VERDICT - Sell: Andrei Arshavin, Sanchez Watt Loan: Serge Gnabry Buy: (Junior Hoilett), (Clint Dempsey), (Lukas Podolski) Wide players: Walcott, Podolski, Chamberlain, Ryo, (Dempsey), (Hoilett), Gervinho
Forwards First things first, KEEP Robin van Persie. The captain the talisman it’s essential we keep hold of him and I think we will all agree
there! The signing of Lukas Podolski seems very close, and we need to make sure that is signed quickly before another Mata situation arises. Now for the back up strikers. We will be fortunate to see van Persie last another full season so reinforcements are needed. Nick Powell looks a little bit special. We should snap this guy up fast and then loan him out to a championship side. I think Park and Chamakh’s days at the club are numbered. Honestly I could see one staying but I hope not. As I said before bring in Dempsey, what a player he would be from the bench. A striker to bring on that might score! If we are looking for a goal he could come on wide, and would just be very useful. I might be being greedy with all these midfield/forward signings but I think having depth in this area is what separates us from the top 2 sides. I think Hoilett will be willing to wait for his chance and on a free transfer it’s a no brainer. Bendtner and Vela must go. I’m going to put it out there and say bring back Thierry Henry. If Hoilett doesn’t sign I think he’d be perfect. Happy to sit on the bench and is still useful.
VERDICT - Sell: Park Chu-Young, Maraoune Chamakh, Carlos Vela, Niklas Bendtner Loan: Benik Afobe, Joel Campbell, Nick Powell Buy: Lukas Podolski, Clint Dempsey, Junior Hoilett/Thierry Henry, Nick Powell Forwards: van Persie, Dempsey, Hoilett/Henry, (Podolski), (Walcott), (Gervinho)
OVERALL VERDICT -
SELL: Park Chu-Young, Maraoune Chamakh, Andrei Arshavin, Sanchez Watt, Carlos Vela, Niklas Bendtner, Abou Diaby, Craig Eastmond, Denilson, Henri Lansbury, Sebastian Squillaci, Kyle Bartley, Sead Hajrovic, Lukas Fabianski, Manuel Almunia
LOAN OUT: Benik Afobe, Joel Campbell, Nick Powell, Serge Gnabry, Emmanuel Frimpong, Josh Rees, Chuks Aneke, Oguzhan Ozyakup, Nico Yennaris, Hector Bellerin, Luke Shaw, Ignasi Miquel, Damian Martinez, Vito Mannone
BUY: Lukas Podolski, Clint Dempsey, Junior Hoilett/Thierry Henry, Nick Powell, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Luke Shaw, Jan Vertonghen, Jussi Jaaskelinan
With all the loans I have suggested I think many will begin once we have exited the League Cup. The likes of Yennaris, Aneke, Ozyakup, Gnabry Rees and Bellerin could do with a bit of playing time for the first team.
I feel these changes would give us a very strong XI as well as great depth. With these changes and a bit of luck I think we can challenge in all four competitions this season. I feel my suggestions are realistic and would only require minor investment.
What do you think about my squad report? Have your say in the comments below. If you enjoyed the report or want to ask me something then just follow me on Twitter: @OliPriceBates – Thank you for reading.