The FIVE transfers that would greatly improve Arsenal
Arsenal’s recent away loss to Norwich would naturally have sent a number of supporters into an angry frenzy. Arsene Wenger’s team had no right to play as poorly as they did, and one step further would suggest that Norwich had no right to win that game. But the major talking point—as it always is when Arsenal lose in embarrassing fashion—is what the club should be doing with all that cash that’s currently stuffed away.
There wasn’t too much said following the arrival of Santi Cazorla, although many were still upset at a lack of obvious replacement for Alex Song. But Arsenal had seemingly identified and addressed the problem areas in attack. All that was missing was transmitting the good-on-paper to good-on-the-pitch and getting results.
But Arsenal are still short—they always will be because Arsene Wenger appears powerless to stop big players leaving at the end of every season. He’ll replace, hopefully, but it is often never enough. Meanwhile, the cash reserves—a figure that would turn many other clubs around Europe green with envy—sits in a pot and gives Arsenal supporters plenty of ammunition to fire back at the club.
But regardless of how well Wenger did to land his three summer signings, there are still a number of holes in the team which need addressing.
Yaroslav Rakitskiy has three league titles to his name as well as three domestic cups. He’s a regular in the Shakhtar defence and has also gathered together a solid number of international caps. But the recently turned 23-year-old would bring plenty to an Arsenal defence that has improved but may still be lacking in quality in numbers. Per Mertesacker has been excellent for the best part of the season so far for Arsenal, and Laurent Koscielny proved to be the Gunners’ best defender last term. But Arsene Wenger’s side are not shy of dancing with a disastrous injury plague. Rakitskiy really impressed two seasons ago when his side played Barcelona in the Champions League. The Ukrainian champions were on the end of a heavy loss but the young centre-back managed to get himself a goal. He also picked up a number of links to major clubs in western Europe, signifying that he was perhaps one of the best young defenders in Europe. He’s versatile and would be able to plug a gap in midfield if needed, but he reads the game well and is positionally very good. As mentioned, Arsenal’s defence are improving, but how many are totally satisfied with what they’re seeing and the options available?
Yevhen Konoplyanka might sometimes find himself in the shadow of Andriy Yarmolenko whenever the two share a pitch for their national side. After all, the latter has been described as one to lead this generation of Ukrainian football. But Konoplyanka seems to have much more natural ability and is a player rightly picking up plenty of praise in eastern Europe. He’s a player who would greatly improve Arsenal’s wide position, where Lukas Podolski is the sure-starter on the left while Gervinho, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are the other options for the right. Arguably, neither of the two England internationals are natural wide players, while Gervinho’s inconsistency should prove to be a real problem going forward. Konoplyanka has the trickery of a successful and natural wide player. He also has excellent delivery on his crosses into the box while in open play and from corners—something which Arsenal have lacked in quality for many years. But he’s a player who can really bring an attack to life. He’s not afraid to shoot from distance and is a very good striker of the ball. The Dnipro midfielder is already a regular in the national team and undoubtedly fits the bill of a typical Arsene Wenger signing.
There has been plenty of talk about Adrian Lopez or Fernando Llorente arriving at Arsenal in the near future to reinforce the attack. However, there’s been surprisingly less said about the availability of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. The Dutch striker is currently in the last year of his contract at Schalke and has expressed a desire to leave Veltins Arena once the season is over. He was the top scorer in the Bundesliga last season, a natural predator around the box and is the favourite among Dutch supporters to start for the national team ahead of Robin van Persie. Huntelaar is sure to see interest in him rise as the season continues, but Arsenal would do very well to add a proven and natural scorer such as him to their squad. He’s managed to settle in Germany and could once again be ready for another big move. He’s comfortably one of the finest finishers in Europe at the moment.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen
Borussia Monchengladbach goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is part of the current rising group of impressive goalkeepers in Germany. The Gladbach keeper’s age should not deter potential suitors as, even at the age of 20, he has already picked up his first international cap and is the regular starter for Lucian Favre’s side. Arsenal don’t have any real competition for goalkeepers and Wojciech Szczesny is hardly the most comfortable in goal. The Polish international has seen a string of errors over the past season result from laziness and lack of focus. Szczesny is simply too comfortable in the knowledge that the other options at Arsenal won’t displace him, but the introduction of ter Stegen, regardless of his age, would be a big boost to the goalkeeping position at the club. Szczesny is a good keeper but needs real competition.
There were a few really hollow links with Arsenal and Bayer Leverkusen’s Lars Bender towards the end of the last transfer window, but the German international’s versatility would be extremely welcome in Arsene Wenger’s side. Bender is naturally a central holding midfielder, one with excellent defensive abilities. But he’s also capable of slotting in at right-back and performing well. The lack of real quality in that position for the German national team may see Joachim Low opt to deploy the 23-year-old into the right side of defence. But Arsenal are notably short of reliable quality at right-back. There’s no telling what Bacary Sagna’s future holds following his two serious injuries, and Carl Jenkinson, despite some very good performances, is still young and learning his trade. Lars Bender would act as another much-needed body for the midfield and could work extremely well in a two-man pivot with Mikel Arteta. Much of this praise, however, could be equally sent over to Dortmund and his brother Sven, who would also be a great addition to the Arsenal team.