Monday, 16 December 2013

My idea of an ideal January transfer window

Now that our fate is sealed in the Champions League (Bayern Munich it is!) and we have a clear picture of what chances we have in all competitions, it's getting blindingly obvious that our squad needs reinforcements to win a trophy, any trophy for that matter. However mystical the circumstances, signing Mesut Ozil was a step in the right direction, but we still need to capitalize on that, especially when we finally have the financial muscle to do so.

The below signings are purely hypothetical in nature, and they are in no way predicting the manager's transfer dealings in the winter. Without further ado, here is the activity that I would like to see us indulge in in January 2014 to ensure a successful 2013/14 campaign:

Buy a striker:

Let's start with the obvious one first.

It's getting clearer with every passing game that the season has already taken its toll on Olivier Giroud. He's now failed to score in the past 6 games, and while it was entirely down to him when he failed to find the back of the net in Manchester (well he did, but the linesman wrongly called him off), the overwhelming burden for him to perform in every single match is clearly not something that he can handle.

True, Robin van Persie did it 2 seasons ago, but there's a significant difference between him and Ollie. Robin was world class, and while Giroud can be really good on his day, he's currently nowhere near the league of the finest. The need for support to Giroud couldn't be clearer, really. Just as Ivan Gazidis said, "We need to buy."

A striker who would provide suitable backup or competition for Giroud might be an acceptable signing even for the most pessimistic Arsenal fan. Yes, I am more than welcome towards that idea, but I feel that we should buy a player who is significantly different than Giroud. Ollie portrays a target man, and he is also more of a creator. This team needs a more of a finisher upfront, not to mention a more mobile striker than Giroud.

While signing Fernando Torres or Demba Ba isn't a bad idea at all, I think we've learned our lesson of not dealing with Jose Mourinho by now. We were really close to getting Ba this summer, but Chelsea apparently 'pulling out' of the deal makes me feel that Mourinho planned this scenario all along.

I also DON'T want us getting Luis Suarez, not just because he's a despicable bitey racist, but also because Liverpool won't be looking to sell him to a title rival, at least not for a £40m-ish price. We wasted our time courting him in the summer, and should really avoid doing the same in January. Plus, I'm confident that a player like him won't stay for too long at Arsenal. He'll probably bite another center back and hand in a transfer request to try to force a move to Real Madrid.

I'd be more satisfied with a signing like Alvaro Morata, frankly. He's young, he adds a new dimension to our side and he won't exactly cost us a fortune. Plus, he could be a powerful option from the bench, and would also provide Giroud with suitable cover, or indeed, healthy competition. He's 21, which would make him a short term answer as well as a long term one. Since we have so much experience in the team, young blood won't hurt us so much now as it used to earlier.

However, we need to remember that the Invincibles left us a blueprint. Sooner or later, we need to replicate that squad which won the league so famously 10 years ago. We already have Ozil who can replace Bergkamp and Santi Cazorla to acceptably fill in for Robert Pires or Freddy Ljungberg. However, Giroud or a possible Morata cannot come close to replace Thierry Henry, and while signing Morata would be a step in the right direction, on comparison with the Invincibles, it would actually seem like a step back.

The closest thing that I've seen to Henry in this footballing world is Karim Benzema, and I would absolutely love to see a player like him in Arsenal colours. He would be a phenomenal move towards recreating the glory days, and while such a marquee signing isn't really a necessity to win us the league this season, signing Benzema would have the exact Ozil implications on the club, maybe even more.

Even though he is cup-tied to Real Madrid this season, his mere presence might intimidate Bayern Munich and possibly get us through them. While I'm still open to the idea of signing a support striker similar to Morata, a marquee Henry-esque signing would not only near guarantee us the league, but also mark the beginning of a new era.

Sell Bendtner or Park:

The acquisition of any striker would undoubtedly pave the way toward the exit for either Park or Bendtner. While there are many supporters who want to see the backs of both of them leave at once, I feel that we need to keep at least one of them at the club for a bit of reserve backup. Of course, I would want Bendtner to leave, because even though his game is showing improvement and he is appearing more motivated, there is no doubt that he wants out of Arsenal in the near future. In addition, his mere presence is an infuriating sight to a healthy section of our fans, who are reminded of the bitter memories we had with him in the team.

Park should stay, mainly because I would hate for our striker options to jump from Giroud to Yaya Sanogo. Plus, he hasn't really had a chance at proving his worth for the club, and it's about time that he's given one.

Renew Bacary Sagna's contract:

Bac's arguably been our best defender this season, and yet there's the uncertainty of him having a future at this club. Sagna spoke out very recently, confirming reports that contract talks are indeed ongoing, but refusing to confirm if he will commit to them. Bac says:

"I would love to win trophies with this club, it's a club I love so much but something is missing. I've still got six months on my contract with Arsenal. We are in negotiations. It's an option to go somewhere in January but I always had a good relationship with Arsenal. I've been playing there for seven years and i hope we will end up on something good. First of all I want to finish champion because we have got a good opportunity to do it this year and after we will see..."

It seems that his decision to stay or to depart the club depends on our title hopes this season. You don't exactly need to read between the lines to understand that if we do manage to win a trophy this year, Sagna would happily pen his signature, pledging his future to the club. It's almost the same situation that we've had with our other departed world class players in our team, and it's imperative that we halt that right now. If winning the Premier League means that Sagna stays at the club, so be it.

Jenkinson's a satisfactory defender, but one feels that he still has a lot to learn. Handing Sagna around a 3 year extension would mean that he has plenty of time to pass on his experience and wisdom to Carl, after which he can retire a club legend or shift to being a center half, which would extend his remaining playing years. He's been one of our loyal servants throughout the drought, and we need to make sure it stays that way. Not the drought, but Sagna's future at the club!

The incentive to win a trophy this season just got bigger.

Sign a centre back:

We have three very good center backs, in Mertesacker, Koscielny and Vermaelen. It's more of quantity than quality that would satisfy me here, to be honest. A promising center half or a half decent, versatile defender would be more than okay with me. I won't even mind Djourou or Ignasi Miquel filling in here, after being recalled from loan. However, maybe we can give Semi Ajayi a chance and promote him to the Arsenal first team squad. Experience from Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen and Nacho Monreal might just work wonders for him, and who knows, we might have another gem on our hands.


So, there you go. If we manage to get a decent striker, seal Sagna's future and add depth to our defence, we'll have a squad well-equipped to win the Premier League or even the FA Cup in my opinion. Maybe adding depth to our defence isn't even all that necessary, seeing that we have Mathieu Flamini and Bacary Sagna who can slot in there temporarily.

I look at this current Arsenal side, and I see a glorious chance to end our trophy drought this season. With Villas-Boas sacked by the Spuds, we have a higher chance of getting past them in the FA Cup in January, because they would undoubtedly struggle to find their feet under a new manager. However, the unpredictable nature of the knockout tournament means that any shock loss would immediately see us exit from the competition. Winning the Champions League is almost a lost cause now, especially if Bayern Munich complete the imminent signing of Robert Lewandowski from Dortmund.

However, the Barclays Premier League is the only competition that we have in our hands. The nature of the league is such that you can lose against the big teams, yet give a real push for the title. We're atop the league at the moment, and we need to keep that lead until May to win a trophy we have a very realistic chance of winning.

It's since 2008 that we've been presented with a lead at the top of the pile, and a glorious chance of winning the league. Such opportunities clearly do not arrive regularly for us, and we need to capitalize on it by getting a striker, at the very least. Make absolutely no mistake, it's not the failure to qualify for the Champions League, but finishing anywhere other than first this season that would signal a disaster for the club.

January's a fortnight away, but the top of the table clash against Chelsea is only a week away. For now, our lads have to give their all for the upcoming match, and leave the transfer hassles to Arsene in January.

This is the best Arsenal side I've seen in years. Will we get better in January and finally lift that trophy?

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )