I’m not particularly fussed about which superstar walks in the Emirates Stadium door. Ok, that’s not entirely true. But there should be a good level of interest with how Arsenal conduct their business this summer for “squad players” as much as the big names.
Two contrasting necessities: one being to reinforce the idea that Arsenal are a big club capable of attracting big names, as well as convincing captain Robin van Persie to stay. And the other to ensure the club can freely rotate a starting XI that is sure to feel the heat of 50-plus games next year.
He’s not a luxury signing, nor does he send the merchandise revenue through the roof, but players like Yossi Benayoun are integral members of any squad. Versatile, able to come in a do a job with little match time, and, above all, adds a real level of leadership to the dressing room. A glue for a starting XI who would feel the effects of losing a regular starter or two, Benayoun has shown in a number of games this season his high level of input when called upon.
It should be an exciting summer for Arsenal fans, not just because of the Podolskis and other transfer gossip chart toppers joining the club, but also the getting rid of the dead wood who command such a big chunk of the wage bill.
Yes the squad is essentially top-heavy with squad players, but they’re the wrong type. None of them, barring Benayoun and Tomas Rosicky, can come in and make an impression. There are players who could play significant roles with other clubs, but their place at Arsenal is limited to extremely minor roles, if that.
It should be said that this isn’t a call out of all the players at the club who are “terrible” and “who shouldn’t have been bought in the first place.” Rather it’s about the importance of being able to call upon a core group of players to plug a gap for a limited period in the season.
For too long Arsene Wenger has taken these opportunities to gift younger players premature roles in the squad. There’s nothing wrong with adding a little youth to a 25 man squad. There is, however, a big problem when those young players start to take up a big percentage of the squad.
You can understand Wenger’s thinking by adding a player like Mikael Silvestre—a squad player. It just so happens that he was, in fact, terrible.
What the club aren’t gifted with is the financial backing to piece together a squad in the shape of Real Madrid’s or Manchester City’s. But similar transfer activity should be taken. Players like Hamit Altintop and Esteban Granero have seen little time on the pitch this season, but, to varying degrees, they’ve shown that they’re capable of plugging a gap. They’re very good players, and very cheap players to land, but they help with the necessity of filling out a squad with individuals of more than capable ability.
If Arsenal are looking to make an impression next season on any trophy front, then enhancing the first XI comes first. But on their day, there’s not a whole lot wrong with Arsenal’s first choice starting XI. When the team hit a road block, either on the pitch or through injury, that’s when the problems arise.
It’s hard to imagine a “superstar” squad player to come in a play a limited role. But there’s no question that there are a few players knocking about who would add some excitement and a certain level of professionalism to those much overlooked roles.