Balance key for Arsene Wenger to Arsenal’s summer transfer plans
Arsenal, 5/1 with Coral to win the Premier League next season, swept aside Aston Villa 4-0 in the FA Cup final, though admittedly their opposition were poor. Despite this, the Gunners were nothing less than quality, however, with some fantastic goals on display.
Arsene Wenger was quick to respond to rumours after the match linking the club with a host of players and suggestions that the Gunners were again going to splash the cash.
Last summer, the north London side brought in Alexis Sanchez, David Ospina, Calum Chambers, Mathieu Debuchy and Danny Welbeck, while in January they added Gabriel Paulista and 17-year-old Polish midfielder Krystian Bielik.
Spending the best part of £80m, they could easily have been able to spend five times that, in available resources via profit and dividends, before they would have needed investment from their wealthy owners. However, Wenger, an economist by profession, having gained a degree in the subject at university, has mastered the art of finding value.
When thinking about it, the only signing who has made a huge impact is Sanchez, though it proves that Wenger identified the right world-class recruit, and it was £30m very well spent as proven by the following footage.
The rest definitely have potential; Debuchy has struggled for fitness this season, though undoubtedly is a talented right back and youngster Hector Bellerin’s rise to prominence this term gives Wenger two quality options.
Chambers is a promising work-in-progress, who is also versatile, showing aptitude to play either on the right or in the centre of defence, while Wenger is also said to be exploring the possibility of him playing further forward as a defensive midfield anchorman as his career progresses.
Ospina has shown he can definitely hold down a place, though he isn’t in the top class bracket of goalkeepers, which could see the Gunners bring in Petr Cech from Chelsea, especially if as, widely speculated, Wojciech Szczesny moves on.
Welbeck, meanwhile, has shown that he does fit into Arsenal’s style; his link-up play and understanding with Sanchez and Mesut Ozil gives the Gunners another dimension. While he isn’t as prolific as the Chilean, when he does score, they are usually delightful. Welbeck is also a natural athlete, a trait that Wenger has always promoted in his team, and can be a key squad player for Arsenal for seasons to come.
It could well be in the position of centre back that Wenger may choose to strengthen. Brazilian Paulista, who arrived from Villarreal is a raw talent, and at just 24 has a promising future.
With a pre-season under his belt, he will benefit from developing a relationship with Arsenal’s existing defenders, and will have a decent period of time to work in training with them over the summer, uninterrupted.
Following their FA Cup final win, which saw Wenger collect his sixth winners’ medal in the competition, the manager played down reports linking the club with big name, lucrative signings.
“We would not get involved at that level for financial reasons. People forget that for years we had to sell our best players and that was a very difficult period. That is the reality,” he said.
“Since we are buying again, we are slowly coming back to a more competitive level. You speak maybe about stratospheric numbers where we will not be involved.
“Santi Cazorla was voted man of the match in the (FA Cup) final. I think he has not cost £150m. (Francis) Coquelin was one of the best players on the pitch. You have to always look at the real quality of people.
“I am not against spending money, I have shown that recently. But I want a good rapport between price and quality. I’m always more focused on quality,” he said.
One player who has been like a new signing in recent games is Theo Walcott. Having recovered from injury, he came on against Manchester United at Old Trafford and scored a vital equaliser, hit a sensational hat-trick against West Bromwich Albion a week later and followed this up with a fantastic opening strike against Villa in the final.
Walcott can undoubtedly break into the world class category, something which Wenger will have full confidence in him doing next season as a regular starter alongside Sanchez, Ozil and Aaron Ramsey, another player who is on the verge of something special.
While rumours linking them to the likes of Porto’s 28-year-old hitman Jackson Martinez, Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema and Juventus box-to-box midfielder Arturo Vidal are massively wide of the mark, they are more likely to bring in Villarreal ace Luciano Vietto, and are understood to have triggered the talented striker’s £14.2m release clause.
At just 21, he has already been compared to a young Sergio Aguero in both style and ability and is the type of signing that would elevate Arsenal to the next level, while increasing what is already a healthy competition and team spirit at the Emirates.
Tabloids are persisting with suggestions that Southampton star Morgan Schneiderlin is the club’s answer to what was once defensive midfield problems, however, Wenger is likely to be unconvinced that the 25-year-old has the discipline to remain in a holding role consistently, as he is prone to roaming up and down the pitch.
Having brought Francis Coquelin back from a loan spell for the second half of the season, this has proved to be a masterstroke. The 24-year-old has been one of their best players since January and one of the key reasons behind the Gunners’ successful form, drawing comparisons to former favourite Gilberto Silva, who also occupied that role to great effect.
One player who would be realistic, who could come in under the radar, is Swansea City’s Ki Sung-Yueng, who is said to be in talks with Arsenal and operates in a similar position to Coquelin offering similar qualities. He is also the kind of industrious, classy, cultured player who Wenger likes and a fee in the region of £12m for the 26-year-old would represent good value for money.
It remains to be seen where Jack Wilshere will be plying his trade next season, with various reports indicating that the club have lost patience with the 23-year-old who has demonstrated a lack of maturity and professionalism in recent months, after being photographed smoking and caught on camera making disrespectful anti-Spurs chants during Arsenal’s FA Cup parade, after being involved in the match for all of 15 minutes.
Manchester City are said to be interested to boost their contingent of British-based players, and having reluctantly sold a number of personnel to the club in recent years, this is one sale that Wenger may not lose too much sleep over.
Despite also being linked away from the club, it is likely that Olivier Giroud will stay and has consistently improved since joining Arsenal. While the team aren’t at their most fluid while he is on the pitch, he definitely offers a different dimension physically, being a handful for defenders and is very useful when up against tough teams, or the Gunners are chasing games.
He demonstrated this to great effect earlier in the season against Man Utd at the Emirates, when he came on after recovering from injury to pull a goal back, scoring a super strike past arguably the best goalkeeper in the Premier League; David De Gea.
Another player who has been linked away; Cazorla, alongside Sanchez has probably been the player of the season for the club and makes them tick. There is no doubt that he will figure in Wenger’s plans for next term, and has formed one of the best partnerships in the league, alongside Coquelin and was sensational against Villa.
Whatever happens in the summer, Arsenal are sure to mount more of a challenge for the Premier League and even the Champions League next term. Just a few tweaks and they will be there.