It would be premature at this stage to say Arsenal have hit a home run by picking up Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud. They are, however, two excellent footballers capable of finding the net and succeeding in the Premier League. I’d say that equates to Arsenal reaching third base on these transfers. Making up the final 90 feet to home plate will depend how quickly these signings hit the ground running and what effect they have on the club moving forward. Nevertheless, Arsenal are definitely moving in the right direction.
There comes a point where any club has to put aside their “Robin van Persie” issues and address what’s important for the club. Arsenal are absolutely in need of acquiring talent that enables them to spread the responsibility of goals more evenly around the team. Giroud was joint top scorer in Ligue 1, while Podolski provides the versatility to slot into a number of roles in the forward line. Arsenal players have certainly been a little shy of hammering long range efforts towards goal, but Podolski doesn’t need a second invitation to unleash all manner of hell.
There’s also a point to be made about the severe lack of creativity in the Arsenal squad. The issue is further made problematic due to Arsenal’s now impressive attack. Unfortunately, there isn’t a creator in midfield to offer those goal scoring opportunities on a regular basis. Mikel Arteta has done exceptionally well in restoring calm to Arsenal’s midfield. The team look a greatly improved side whenever the Spaniard occupies his deep-lying role in the midfield, yet his responsibilities restrict him from dictating further up the field. Meanwhile, Alex Song doesn’t possess the discipline or consistency to fill that void.
What is promising—albeit probably just newspaper talk—was Arsene Wenger’s liking of Alan Dzagoev. The Russian is capable of acting as a creative outlet for his club side CSKA Moscow, while his national side prefer to use him from a wider position on the right flank. Again, it’s just paper talk, but the positive is that Wenger understands the need for a player to take up the responsibilities left behind by Cesc Fabregas. Aaron Ramsey had a horrible time last season, and even though he is still somewhat on the road to recovery following his horrendous injury, he isn’t what the team need in that vital role on the pitch.
The earlier talk of Jan Vertonghen was also a good sign for Arsenal; not necessarily because they were targeting the Ajax centre-back specifically, but rather because there is a need to strengthen a backline filled with potential long term injuries. Should Arsenal be looking for a player who can come in and slot into one of the two centre-back positions straight away? It doesn’t seem to be a great need, as Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker offer excellent options. The real need, however, is to ensure that there is depth, including for the full-back positions.
The decision to bring Steve Bould into the mix was a great move on the part of Wenger. He addresses the problem of defensive coaches and adds an individual who’s not afraid of putting himself about. It will be interesting to see how casual this Arsenal defence are now with Bould in the dugout. Absolutely a smart move for the club going forward.
What has been pleasant to see from all of Arsenal’s transfer targets this season, including Yann M’Vila, is each of their desire to play for the Arsenal. The club has always held a particularly strong hand when it comes to dealing with France-based players, but Giroud seems particularly keen on opening another positive chapter in his career. The advances from Spain, and Malaga in particular, indicate that there would have been substantial pay increases had the player opted for La Liga. But at this time, Arsenal are the greater pull for the player. The club need battle-ready warriors; Giroud’s title success last season with Montpellier will go a long way to adding to that.
However, should Arsenal fans be particularly concerned at Giroud’s late arrival onto the footballing scene? Absolutely not. He’s worked his way up through the ranks of French football and only earned a meagre wage packet last season. This is a player who has worked hard for his position in football, and money seems far from a motivator for him. There are similarities to Didier Drogba’s career, which also launched much later than most. Arsenal are surely on the right track if Giroud can have a similar impact during his time at the club.
It’s a positive sign that Arsene Wenger has decided to ditch his policy of youth recruitment—for now—and is looking at much more established individuals. Yes M’Vila and Dzagoev fall into the category of younger players, but their development is much further along than Arsenal’s usual targets. Both players are very much capable of making an instant impact.
Right now, there’s very little Arsenal are doing to dissuade van Persie from extending his stay at the Emirates. However, I would like to think that the club are undertaking this kind of ambitious strengthening for more than just the demands of a single individual.