Friday, 31 January 2014

Could Deadline Day be any more "upon us"?

It's 31st January, and there aren't any signings yet for Arsenal. Sure, the rumours are there, but they yet haven't produced anything tangible in an official signing or departure. The clock is ticking away, and the manager needs to act quickly and decisively in order to salvage a season showing tremendous promise.

Chelsea did us a massive favour against West Ham, but I'd be doubtful that they would do us another at the Etihad. Nevertheless, we need to take advantage of their gracious slip-up, not only against the upcoming Crystal Palace, but also in the transfer market.

I've said it a lot of times before - it's no exaggeration when I say that our season literally depends on a striker. If we don't buy a striker (or a winger, and make Podolski a striker), the only chance we have of winning the title is if Olivier Giroud remains fit for 4 months straight and keeps scoring goals regularly, which is really unlikely. If we do want to win the title and recreate those glory days, a striker is nothing but a necessity.

A prime reason of Arsene Wenger's early success at Arsenal was because he had inherited George Graham's mean defence, and mixed it with scintillating attacking football. While our offense under Wenger has already been superb throughout the years, the "moving on" of The Back Four resulted in some appalling defending from around 2007 to 2012. Now that Steve Bould (another Graham product) is here to save the defence, we can focus on adding to the firepower up front.

It's almost ironic that after so many years of good offense-bad defence, when we finally find the solution to a bad defence, our attack has been found wanting. We already know that the path to reliving the glory days is a perfect blend of Graham's gritty defence and Wenger's pass-and-move philosophy. The thing is, while we have a lot of creativity in attack, we don't have the cutting edge to finish off the moves. That's what I want in this transfer window - along with some backup in defence.

Below are the targets that I want Arsenal to sign, which doesn't necessarily mean that I'm predicting that Wenger will buy them. Anyways, here they are:

A striker:

Well, this was an unexpected addition, wasn't it? :P

Look, it's painfully obvious that Giroud and Bendtner are incomparable to Manchester City's Negredo and Aguero. And Dzeko. AND Jovetic. City are our prime title rivals, and we need to match them in order to beat them. Giroud needs an excellent alternative that can complement him in order for Arsenal's strike force to shine.
Who I'd like: Dimitar Berbatov. Alvaro Morata. Jackson Martinez. Mario Mandzukic. Mirko Vucinic. Demba Ba. Anyone!

A centre back:

With only three center backs in our team - Mertesacker, Koscielny and Vermaelen - we need backup in that area in case any one of the above mentioned three get injured. With Kurt Zouma seemingly Chelsea-tied, our options are dwindling by the hour.

Vermaelen has enough competition with Mertesacker and Koscielny as it is, so I don't want a world-class defender or something that would put further pressure on him and push him towards the exit door. We actually have the luxury of getting a promising talent here, who can get more playing time in the FA Cups and give Mertesacker a rest.

Looking at "internal solutions" to solve this problem won't be a bad idea either. Promoting someone like Semi Ajayi or Issac Hayden might be productive for their development and our title hopes. Frankly, I would be content with quantity rather than quality here.
Who I'd like: Simon Kjaer, Semi Ajayi or Issac Hayden.

If we get these players, I feel that our squad will be complete, at least till May. We would be well-equipped to win the FA Cup, at least achieve second in the title race. While attempting glory at Munich would still remain a dream, the confidence exuding from the team due to these signings would at least make it a possibility.

However, I don't think that Wenger will buy anybody, mostly because our top four hopes are secure - the injury to Ramsey won't change that. Even though we have the money to activate Draxler's £37 million release clause, Martinez's £32 million release clause and certainly Berbatov's £3 million transfer fee, Wenger will not buy.

Why? Because he knows that his future is secure at Arsenal, Gazidis has already announced that. Even though there are a plethora of options that were available in the market at specific times (including NOW), Wenger is constantly creating the illusion of January being a difficult market to do business in. He's lying to our faces, and there are a bunch of supporters on his side as well, encouraging him to promote those lies.

Here's an extract that I wrote for Arsenal India Supporters on JANUARY 11th:

"He’s making it seem as if it’s really difficult to get a striker this month, while I have proved above that we can buy either Dimitar Berbatov, Alvaro Morata, Jackson Martinez or Diego Costa given the right effort. Why is he already making excuses beforehand when instead we could be sitting with a striker right now? There are only 2 conclusions that I can draw from this peculiar behaviour, which are:

1. He is content with his squad, and ultimately contented with a top four spot which he will doubtless achieve with this team. His habits of not spending extra to go that further mile seem to be at it again.
2. He’ll make a late dash in the window, possibly bag Dimitar Berbatov on 31st January. The logic behind this must be to avoid losses (clubs tend to bend the rules late in the transfer window due to lack of time) and bring the mentality of Arsenal supporters to, “We didn’t get a world-class striker, but meh, something is better than nothing”.
While I’d be much happier with the second scenario, both of these cases say a lot on Arsene Wenger. It says clearly that he puts money over football, and that he’d risk not getting in a striker at all for getting in a striker on the cheap. Whenever Arsenal’s top four hopes are on the line, Arsene will no doubt get quality – witness the £15 million Arshavin signing. However, if our title hopes are on the line, why would Wenger stall over getting a striker the whole footballing world knows that Arsenal need?
Arsenal supporters may not want to admit it, but this undoubtedly showcases a losers mentality. It shows that as long as our Champions League hopes are secure, Wenger will not get in a player. The fact remains that if Wenger wants to win the league, we would be in negotiations with a striker right now. Even after Bendtner and Walcott getting injured, we aren’t seeing serious activity from Arsene in the transfer window. It’s ridiculous, really."

In 19 days, NOTHING has changed. In reality it has worsened, witness Aaron Ramsey's injury that will rule him out for games against Liverpool, United and Bayern. However, Wenger is still showing no inclination of loosening the purse strings, even though he can get Alvaro Morata on loan and Dimitar Berbatov permanently for as little as £3 million.

I can't believe that people actually support Arsene Wenger. He has such obvious flaws that most of the Arsenal fanbase choose to ignore, simply because he achieved something remarkable a decade ago, which makes it all the more frustrating. Wenger should take 100% responsibility if he fails to get in a striker, because he gets too much insight into transfer dealings. Yet he won't, because there will be a bunch of people shielding him and instead blaming the board, the scouters, the Financial Fair Play or Chuck Norris instead.

There is an 80% probability that we're going to be inactive on deadline day. I had predicted that Wenger would make a late attempt on a player, and it seems like that was on Julian Draxler which failed. He might make another attempt on another player if the pressure of expectation on him increases, but I don't see anything else happening beside that.

At the moment, I see many Arsenal supporters who want Arsene Wenger to buy a striker. Let me tell you in advance that I shall have no respect for you if you sing a different tone at the end of the window, after realizing that Wenger had remained stubbornly inactive. Wenger is a person that has not received overdue criticism for a lot of mistakes that he has made, largely due to a deluded Arsenal fanbase. It seems like the same is going to happen on 1st February as well.

I realize that I have come across as increasingly harsh on the manager. After all there is still time in the transfer market to pull off a signing and rejuvenate our title challenge. However, I refuse to ignore evidence, and evidence clearly suggests that Wenger is not going to buy "top top quality" in the window. Let's hope that the coming press conference proves me wrong.  

Brace for disappointment Gooners, for I already have.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz, I'll be giving transfer updates over there)