After the euphoria of the home win over Manchester United had subsided, I found myself wondering what exactly had gone wrong this season. Despite the odd blip we started so well, especially in the middle third of the season. And then everything just seemed to collapse. How is it possible that we had overcome the Mancs, Chelsea and Barcelona but failed against the likes of Newcastle, West Brom and Sunderland?
Is it our players? Do we not have a solid or deep enough squad? Did I put too much faith in the enigma that is Theo Van Nasregas? Maybe it’s our tactics? Should we adapt our formation to take into account the opposition? Is our defence really that bad? Could it be that we actually lack in Arsene’s fabled “mental strength”? And my greatest fear – are we really just a bunch of chokers?
Like any good blogger, when I don’t have the answers I turn to those with greater amounts of knowledge and wisdom. My fellow LPG blogger and podcaster extraordinaire Zara chose to tackle the issue of our squad and potential ins and outs this summer. The excellent author of http://www.gunnersrock.com Steve Rowe was kind enough to share his view on our tactics and – sometimes – lack thereof. And contributor to http://www.arsenalvision.co.uk/ and Twitter legend Sameer will discuss where and how we lost our mojo.
First up, here are Zara’s views on what additions we need to boost our squad and who needs to leave for the benefit of our club…
First of all, I just want to clarify that these are my views. Obviously I am not a premier league football manager or anywhere near as prolific or amazing as Arsene but it’s just based on my observations throughout the season and from recent transfer ‘rumblings’ which I am finding very entertaining right now but I’m sure I will tire of in a month or so. Mind you, I do not think a lot of Arsenal’s problems can be solved by buying a new player and much change has to be made in the development and training of our squad (particularly when it comes to team morale). I don’t believe making wholesale changes to our squad is an effective method to achieving our goals but I do think that we need to make several changes in our personnel to improve our overall performance next season.
It’s a widely known fact that Almunia’s days at the club are probably numbered. I cannot see Arsene going for a Buffon, Reina or a Stekelenberg this summer since I firmly believe that Szczesny will be our #1 for many years to come and Fabianski is a capable #2. It would be imperative to however sign an experienced goalkeeper to replace Almunia. Someone preferably with PL experience as well.
A proper #9
We’ve surely lacked one since that thug from Birmingham ripped Eduardo’s leg out (and just when he was gaining momentum as well) and if speculation of Bendtner wanting out, and the very real possibility of Vela being sold it is imperative that we get a proper striker. Robin’s been fantastic this season but imagine the heights we can achieve if he had a proper partner he could feed the ball to. One of the prominent names that have emerged so far has been Benzema from Real Madrid. Although he would be a perfect fit with the current team and gets along well with Nasri, the hefty 20 million price tag indicates it’s probably BS. Perhaps we don’t need to look beyond our own club for the new #9. Many have stated that Theo would be more suited to a forward position instead of being utilized in the wings. Although I can see Arsene’s reasoning for using him as a winger (his blistering pace), I’m not sure he has the confidence and no-nonsense nature of a proper fox in the box.
A Defensive Midfielder or a Centre Back
Koscielny and Djourou have done a great job this season despite a few individual errors here and there. Squillaci…not so much. *Insert stat of how many goals we let in this season*. With the imminent return of Vermaelen, hopefully this area will be considerably strengthened next season. Despite that, we are still missing a crucial piece in our defensive set up. Some might say it’s the English defender (Cahill! Jagielka!) but I think what we lack most is experience and someone who is not afraid to boss the rest of the team around. Verma did a decent job of it last season and this was one of the things we missed most from him. Another loudmouth addition would be ideal. Perhaps a Mark van Bommel? And since Vermaelen can also be a back up for Song when needed (he has played in defensive midfield before), I think either a DM or a CB signing would be ideal.
We have hardly seen Denilson play this calendar year and this leads me to believe that he is on his way out since we have also not heard about any injuries he may be incurring. Many are also not satisfied with the level of performances Diaby has put in this season and his overall temper. Although I believe that he has the potential to be an Arsenal legend one day, Arsene may decide that he has been taking a gamble with him for far too long and choose to cash in his chips in the summer. This opens up room in our midfield. It will be interesting to see if any of the reserves players make their way to fill the void next season. Perhaps we’ll see more of Frimpong or Lansbury or maybe even JET. There has been a lot of speculation that Arsenal may be making a move for Eden Hazard in the summer and if this is true it would a fantastic addition to a midfield that already boasts the likes of Fabregas, Nasri, Arshavin and Wilshere. He is arguably the player of the season in the Ligue 1 and it has been encouraging to hear that he would be keen on a move to Arsenal.
Overall, although there does need to be a change in personnel at the club this summer, and some may say even a drastic change looking at the ambitions of Man United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City, I believe that there also needs to be drastic changes made behind the scenes. The mentality of the players needs to be studied and much work needs to be done to build on their mental strength. Our season has been downhill ever since we lost the Carling Cup and most of the players seemed to have lost their sense of belief in themselves (except perhaps Robin and Jack). It’s a good thing there isn’t an international tournament this summer. I hope our players get the long rest they deserve and reflect on the past year in a fruitful manner. We can only learn from our mistakes and move forward.