I’m absolutely certain I’m missing something here: strive all season to land a top four place; talk up the importance of the Champions League and all its benefits; target Ashley Williams from Swansea as one of your prime summer signings.
Arsenal will probably suggest that there is method to the madness, but I can’t see it. I can’t see the sense in swapping out a very good defender in Thomas Vermaelen – a full international, a player with plenty of experience in the Champions League and one who is in the prime of his career – for Ashley Williams. Some may want to argue that Vermaelen is not a “very good defender,” but I simply won’t listen. I’ve mentioned it many times in the past and will continue to do so here: it just equates to short-term memory in football fans.
It’s a matter of progress. Sure, Williams looked good in the Swansea team. Hey, Wigan have a whole squad-worth of players who are FA Cup winners, why don’t Arsenal go ahead and pick a few of them up, too? Again, I’m probably missing the point here.
Doesn’t football have a lot to do with image and the one you create for yourself and then in turn how the rest of the football world looks at you? What I’m taking from this is that Arsenal are once again preparing to sell their captain and key player – because Vermaelen can still be a key player in a season consisting of 50-plus games – and then bringing in a player with two years’ worth of experience in the Premier League, not to mention the complete lack of evidence as to whether he’s capable of the step up to a Champions League team and one with aspirations of league titles.
The other side of the argument is that this could be an ideal signing for Arsenal provided other elements of this summer fall into place. This isn’t solely to campaign that Vermaelen should remain at Arsenal – although I do think he should – but rather one that highlights the regressive nature of possibly swapping one for the other. If Williams comes in as the team’s fourth choice centre-back and offers backup alongside Vermaelen, then it can be chalked up as a good summer signing.
I also don’t want to hear the absolute absurdity of an argument that suggests Williams will become anxious, unsettled or complacent without regular first-team football. What makes him better than Laurent Koscielny or Per Mertesacker? The League Cup is a no-go in that debate. The truth is he isn’t better. If there were problems with either of the first-choice pairing at Arsenal, you’d hope the club would have some sense to target someone other than the Swansea centre-back. But he can be a good squad member, relieving others when injuries or fixtures pile up – and it will happen. Barcelona, and Arsenal in previous years, are good examples of the need for depth. Williams can serve a purpose, yet only as an addition and not a replacement.
Furthermore, I wouldn’t want to insinuate that Williams is a poor signing because he doesn’t have that big-name-player tag. That really shouldn’t matter on the whole. Yes, this summer does need to be one that appeases the fans and marks a transition from one era into another, but it can still be a notable summer with low-profile names coming in. The biggest point to take from any of this is whether the signings are good enough. How do they match up when compared with teams who should be on equal footing around Europe? Are they going to take the club to the next level?
There will be a better understanding of this potential signing come September, as well as his status in the squad. The concern, however, is that Arsenal are moving backwards instead of forwards, or sideways at best. Last summer and the year before and so on, it was about the club replacing rather than supplementing. You can see where ‘squad’ players can come in and offer more than what’s currently available in the team, but based on what can be made from stories heading into this summer, the signing of Ashley Williams could be another move that offers little to the club in the bigger picture.
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