As the game wore on at the Emirates Stadium between Arsenal and Tottenham on Sunday afternoon, several things became very clear.
Firstly, Mauricio Pochettino has done an excellent job with Spurs, reinvigorating a side that looked devoid of passion and enthusiasm before he arrived. Secondly, Harry Kane is still as good a striker as he was last year, and fully deserves to be in contention for an England starting spot. And thirdly, Arsenal really need to add some players to their squad in January.
To be blunt, they have got away with a lack of necessary recruitment in the summer up until now, but the midweek hammering by Bayern Munich and the North London derby will surely have convinced Arsene Wenger that serious investment is needed in order to seriously challenge for the Premier League title.
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Despite signing Petr Cech from Chelsea, their failure to recruit any outfield players of real quality and substance has clearly had an impact on several matches this season. In fact, even Cech has looked fallible at moments so far this season, although for the most part he has been pretty solid and secure.
It is more the outfield positions that are the concern, and in particular the centre of midfield. Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla are both fine players, but it is debatable to suggest they are at the level that Premier League winning centre midfielders need to be at. As was painfully evident at times during Sundays game, they fail to offer the kind of professional protection that a back four needs, especially when faced with a side full of youth, pace and vigour – like the Spurs side they came up against.
It’s not as if they have that many other options in that area either – Mikel Arteta seems to be permanently injured these days, Mathieu Flamini is past it as a top quality holding midfielder, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is still a winger in his own mind.
This is why it is so vital they reinforce in this area in January with the best midfielder they can buy. This is one of those occasions when Wenger must not worry about the price, and simply pay what he has to.
If he does buy a central midfielder of real authority and power, the Gunners can go all the way this season, or at least can challenge Manchester City right up until the last few weeks of the season.
The problem for Wenger is that most of the top quality midfielders made their moves in the summer, as shown by Manchester United snapping up Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastien Schweinsteiger, Liverpool getting James Milner on a free, and on a slightly lesser scale Manchester City moving quickly to secure Fabian Delph’s services.
This means of course that there are frankly not many options in this country for Wenger to look at, with possibly Victor Wanyama at Southampton the best candidate, along with Yohan Cabaye at Crystal Palace and maybe even Jonjo Shelvey at Swansea. The French or Spanish leagues are other possibilities, with Wenger’s background in the former and the strength of the latter meaning they are both excellent options.
Atletico Madrid in particular have several outstanding central midfielders, who due to their style of play would have no trouble fitting into the English game with its physicality and intensity.
After all these years, this season feels like the best opportunity for Arsenal to win the Premier League in around a decade. It would be a shame to see them fall short once again due to a lack of proper recruitment.