Last year’s summer transfer window marked a change in Arsene Wenger’s approach to recruitment. Out went the over-reliance on youth and the long-term project, and in came a wave of experience. Questions of quality is one thing, but the injection of experience has been both frustrating and much-needed.
The youth project was always destined to fail if the important individuals were being shipped out. Every club needs to focus on the future, and bringing in players like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Thomas Eisfeld has added a degree of excitement to what they may bring. But it should always have been secondary, supplements to what was already in the squad and little talk of players being “killed off.”
The greater disappointment is that players like Cesc Fabregas never had the reinforcements of Mikel Arteta, Santi Cazorla or Lukas Podolski. Even Per Mertesacker has added a great deal of experience to the backline, and yet questions will remain as to how much more could have been done during Fabregas’ time had he been given a stronger supporting cast.
Right now, however, Arsenal need quality that is an obvious step up from what they have. They need alternatives instead of hopeful swings in the dark. Most importantly, it needs to remain in the experienced bracket.
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Rumoured target Wilfried Zaha excites fans in the same way the other British players at the club do: there is something to look forward to for the future, but it’s not necessarily what they may bring over the next six-months. Further rumours of David Villa—as likely or unlikely as it may be—are exactly what the club need. Villa’s versatility in attack is a bonus, but he’s a superstar signing that could be enough to drive the team on to a top four finish come May. Villa has won all there is to win in football, while still remaining one of the best forwards in the game.
The player is the wrong side of 30, but that didn’t deter Wenger when he opted to sign Mikael Silvestre or Sebastian Squillaci. Incidentally, there was little concern over Thierry Henry’s age when he returned last season, instead the manager talked up how good he looks in training regardless of age.
There needs to be a better attitude to bringing in players who will be a huge step up from what the squad currently has. It didn’t matter to the reigning European champions that much of their success was down to a 34-year-old Didier Drogba, nor have the Premier League leaders been put off by the age of both Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. Proven winners and players who know how to drag the rest of the team over the line. If Villa’s time with Barcelona is a bad comparison, his time with Valencia is probably more appropriate. But while Villa ticks two boxes Arsenal are greatly in need of—experience and consistent goals—he’s also unquestionably an Arsene Wenger signing.
Brining in Thierry Henry on loan once again and splashing out on Zaha as the only ‘real’ piece of January business would be another blow to the club, resigning themselves to a half-hearted finish when so much more could have been done. The Crystal Palace winger may provide that fearless approach of youth that may be needed, but there are no guarantees. He’s never played at the highest level in England, and placing a great deal of faith in him at an early age may once again have negative effects on his contributions for the foreseeable future.
The club are not on comfortable footing in the league table and it only takes a couple of back-to-back losses—something which is extremely likely—for the team to loss track of where they could have been. Nine points from the last possible 12 is promising for Arsenal, but this current squad are not good enough to build on it. A couple of smart and experienced additions to the team is more than imperative going into the January window.