Probably many Arsenal fans look forward to this summer with the excitement that £70 million in the pocket provides. The generous spend that the Premier League club are planning ahead of next season comes packaged – and here is the main difference with prior seasons – with the firm intention of keeping their key players in the squad. But if Arsene Wenger wants to take the team back to the top, the mentioned amount doesn’t sound enough to make The Gunners a force once again.
Having a look at the current squad suggests a goalkeeper, a centre back, a holding midfielder and a striker are, for several reasons, vital in order to strengthen the starting line up in positions that have showed weaknesses this season. We are not talking about players to broaden the choice, but signings that suppose a step up to Arsenal’s starting XI, so the expenditure should be concentrated in no more than five big names.
Looking at it that way, the £70million will have to be spent wisely and carefully. Arsenal have invested over £100million in 13 signings over the last two years. Those acquisitions have made a more solid squad in terms of choice and variety, but other than Cazorla, none of them have covered the gap that the stars recently sold – Fabregas, Nasri, Van Persie – have left. It is time now to throw a few cherries on top of the cake.
Starting the analysis line by line, the goalkeeper position is the least urgent to cover at the Emirates. It is an improvable spot and, if the club come across an experienced goalkeeper at a reasonable price – Victor Valdes could be a good example – the move should be considered. Otherwise, there is no point in blowing half of the budget on a top-class goalie, and investing in a long-term option does not seem as the best idea when Szczesny is only 22 and shows margin for improvement.
The heart of the back-four need a fourth central defender to join Mertesacker, Vermaelen and Koscielny. Having already three relatively solid centre-backs and new blood with the likes of Ignasi Miquel, it would be an unnecessary expense to bring in ‘just another central defender’. If that position is reinforced, it should be with a proven player that notably improves what Wenger already has, able to pair up with Vermaelen or Mertesacker and lift Arsenal’s defence to a higher level. It will mean an ambitious outlay, but there is no point in bringing someone in that role if he is not going to bring the consistency the back-four have lacked in the last few years.
On that line, a right back will most likely be needed as Bacary Sagna could be set to leave. A decent competitor for Carl Jenkinson seems necessary, although it shouldn’t be a position to deposit a vast amount of the budget into.
Moving up to the midfield, the creativity and talent that the likes of Isco can bring to the team sound very appealing, but the urge is in the holding midfield position. With Diaby out of the game until the end of the year and the uncertainty the injury-prone midfielder will inevitably carry when he returns, the signing of a solid defensive midfielder is vital. An experienced anchorman with very specific duties would brace the team defensively and give freedom to players like Arteta or Wilshere to concentrate on what they do best.
Finally, the attacking line need more goals. The fact that Walcott and Cazorla are the team’s top scorers in the league should be enough warning on this matter. There is absolutely no need to bury Giroud, whose first season might not have blown minds but is quite acceptable. Simply a bit of competition for the Frenchman could turn highly beneficial for Arsenal, adding more goals to the squad and possibly releasing a better version of Giroud, who is perhaps a bit too comfortable as the only No.9 choice. A strong investment – Higuain, Lewandowski – is always a guarantee when it comes to goals, and the opportunity should be taken should it present itself, but cheaper options such as David Villa should also be weighed up. Besides, the Barcelona striker can also perform on the left, giving more choice to Wenger when planning his formation.
Arsenal need to sign a lot of talent and experience to take that step up and join the fight for silverware, and the £70million doesn’t seem that much when you look at it this way. The immediate reaction invites to think recent signings have been poor, but excluding a couple of them, they are not bad.
The squad is relatively strong and most of the faces brought in the last two seasons cover needs that the team had, but the gap left by the big boys sold is yet to be fulfilled.