Arsenal are to the point now where they need quality in depth more than anything else. The right players are in place for the starting XI, and I’ve mentioned in the past that Arsenal’s best XI are good enough to take the club to another top four finish in the Premier League. But it’s when you start looking past those important names and at the real lack of quality in the squad, then only does the need for serious investment come in.
This is Arsene Wenger’s weakest squad, there’s no doubt about that. The team are desperately short in a number of areas on the pitch, and if the club do hold as much value in Champions League qualification as they say they do, then strengthening in January is an absolute must.
The latest name to be linked with Arsenal is Bayern Munich’s Luiz Gustavo, who, regardless of the arrival of Javi Martinez, has continued to find playing time.
Following Alex Song’s move to Barcelona, Arsenal have needed to find a replacement figure in the centre of the midfield, and for the reported transfer fee of Gustavo, it would appear to be a good deal for the Gunners.
Gustavo is a name certainly out of leftfield and not what many Arsenal fans would have been expecting. For much of the summer, talk of Yann M’Vila filled the gossip pages and the Frenchman became the ideal replacement for Song. Even with Abou Diaby in the squad—although his contribution has once again come into question—the focus was on the need for another strong figure.
Gustavo is the all-action midfielder that Arsenal need, coupled with the necessary work rate and ability to carry the ball up the pitch. The concern, however, is that the player always looked very good alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger at Bayern, but clearly failed to convince when the German international was lost to injury. Gustavo’s partner in the midfield became Anatoliy Tymoschuk, who, despite his experience, can never control a game in the way Schweinsteiger does. All of that added to the need to pick up Martinez.
Gustavo is a good player who can add something to this Arsenal team, specifically through his work rate. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t prone to lapses in concentration. However, he’s a player who can still learn a lot, and Wenger has an excellent track record of bringing out the best in players.
Another worry should be the manner in which Arsenal set up for matches, that being without any real sense of tactics and discipline. How many times were Arsenal players caught out of position in the past, only to half-heartedly jog back into position? As mentioned with Bayern Munich, where will the safety net be if Gustavo isn’t performing to his maximum? Mikel Arteta may provide that safety net, but the biggest need for Arsenal is that they bring in a much more dominant figure for the midfield to help control the game and retain possession.
With transfer stories such as this, it’s always important to look at how possible the move may be. The problem Bayern have at the moment is that Holgar Badstuber has recently been ruled out for the rest of the season following an injury picked up in the game against Dortmund. With that, the obvious choice appears to be to move Javi Martinez into defence and keep the midfield strong in terms of personnel. Why then would the club move on Gustavo when they’ll be challenging in the Champions League and looking to recapture the Bundesliga title? Moreover, Gustavo has recently undergone surgery and won’t feature again this calendar year; do Arsenal really need another player who would need time to regain match fitness following an injury?
That aside, Gustavo can be a good signing for the Arsenal if he can prove to be an influential player without the need to lean on the bigger names as he has done in the past. He’s quick and can keep the ball moving, while his natural role is that of a defensive midfielder. He performed very well for Hoffenheim prior to his move to Bayern, and it will need similar good form for him to be a success at Arsenal. If picked up for the right price, he could be a good addition alongside any combination of Arteta, Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere.