Saturday, 26 July 2014

Debuchy, transfers, forwards and little bit pre-season

Right, while I've been away a lot has happened. There was the completely unexpected Debuchy deal, the 2-0 win against Boreham Wood, Wenger's firm quotes on not signing any more forwards, thoughts on Sanogo, Akpom and Campbell for 3rd choice and Vermaelen and Ospina links. Let's get on with it already.

Debuchy is a gamble, not a fail-safe...
Many people have credited Debuchy's signing as a solid, smart buy. In buying a 28 year old right-back (who will turn 29 in two days), Wenger seems to have bought an immediate fix, yet not completely shut the door on Jenkinson's and Bellerin's Arsenal future. On the face of it, Debuchy would simply slot into Sagna's void with ease.

I beg to differ. I've watched Debuchy extensively during France's World Cup campaign, and he is a long way from being a like-to-like Sagna replacement. A highlight of Sagna's playing style of Arsenal was his reluctance to make forward forays. Many had complained against this, but it was actually a blessing in disguise.

The forwards Sagna played behind - usually Theo Walcott, recently Ox and Cazorla - aren't exactly the ones who'd be a big help tracking back defensively. Yet Sagna managed his defensive work ably, which in turn had an adverse impact on his offensive play. He was a rock on the right defensive channel, providing the Walcotts and the Oxlades freedom to take care of the attack.

Debuchy would not do that. He's a full-back who tends to go forward every time he can. It's harmful to the team, because players like Walcott and Ox haven't got the workrate to help out their defensive compatriot, a trait that surfaced due to a certain reliability on Sagna's unwavering defensive duties on the right side. Debuchy changes that. Last season, Arsenal's left hand side was the weak link, because Monreal was average defensively and Podolski barely tracked back. This season, I expect the trend to continue on the right side.

Look, I'm not saying that Debuchy was an awful purchase. He really isn't. Buying a Premier League experienced right-back and an established international, who represents a short-term fix and doesn't kill the chances of Jenkinson and Bellerin makes all the sense in the world to me. However, assuming that there'd be a seamless handoff from Bac to Mathieu with little hassle is completely untrue. Debuchy will require a bedding in period. We need to give him that.

On transfer targets...
Ospina, Chambers and William Carvalho are mooted to be on Wenger's radar. They're somewhat surprising targets, considering that most of them would be used to merely strengthen depth. Ospina in particular interests me - I had expected Wenger to buy a more experienced Schwarzer-esque keeper who wouldn't mind playing second fiddle, and who would teach Szczesny a thing or two along the path to retirement.

Going for a keeper like Ospina, someone who's on a high from his World Cup and would push Chezzer all the way for first-choice, is highly unorthodox thinking from Arsene. As I had said before, the guy is changing his squads philosophy, from assembling a clear-cut first XI to a more egalitarian one. It's practical, healthy thinking, perhaps another sign that he is finally adapting to modern football.

UPDATE: Just before I hit Publish, Nice confirmed Ospina's deal. Welcome to Arsenal!

I'm less hopeful on Arsenal signing a really good DM. I don't think Wenger would be open to meeting Carvalho's release clause, or dishing out £27m for Schneiderlin. However, for all the angst over Khedira links stalling, I have to say I'd still be satisfied with a decent defensive midfielder. Signing a player of Khedira's ilk would be a bonus.

Regardless of whether Vermaelen departs (for United) or not, I feel a signing or two is key in the centre back area. Mertesacker and Koscielny played quite a lot last season (and also in the World Cup), so it isn't unreasonable to suggest that one of them would strain their hamstring soon. At such times, having a quality player to depend on would be vital. Which is why I strongly recommend promoting Semi Ajayi up the ranks, and buying Nastasic if Vermaelen leaves.

It looks like Wenger is signing Southampton's right-back Calum Chambers, though. He is an exciting signing, but that would mean either one of Jenkinson or Bellerin leaving on loan or permanently, which I never thought Wenger would do. Maybe it means converting Chambers or Jenkinson into a CB, or selling Bellerin, loaning Jenko and waiting until Debuchy crosses 30 and then bringing Carl into the fold. A curious case, this.

Is Wenger right in shifting his transfer priorities to defence?
It is noticeable that the positions Wenger is reportedly in the market for - a goalkeeper, defensive midfielder and right-back - are all potential defensive additions. In fact, the manager confirmed that there would be no more forward additions after the 2-0 win vs Boreham Wood, saying:

“Up front we don’t need any more. It’s not especially for numbers.”

It's a quote that would be greeted with acceptance or anger based on how the manager chooses to use his new boy Alexis Sanchez. I think the people who speculate on Wenger replacing Alexis on Santi Cazorla are the ones angry at this quote. On the other hand, those who believe Wenger would integrate Sanchez as a "modern striker" to replace Giroud would be satisfied. Personally, I don't know who's going to be replaced, but I hope it's Giroud. We'd anyways get a clearer idea of Wenger's plans for Sanchez once Walcott is fit, so I'm reserving judgement until then. You can read more of my thoughts here.

Assuming Wenger has the wisdom to make Sanchez a striker, his quotes would be justified. As for a third choice striker, my vote would readily be for Joel Campbell over Akpom and Sanogo. I can't understand Wenger's stubbornness on Sanogo, but I don't perceive him as a promising player. He's not raw, he's just bad. Period.

Akpom looks promising, but in the end he might just turn out to be another Eisfeld; a decent player who has no space at Arsenal. It's hard to see him being picked above Sanchez, Giroud and Campbell.


Okay, that seems quite it. There's also the matter of Arsenal in New York and Thierry Henry and all that, but I'm not feeling the atmosphere of all that shiznit, because I'm not in England or America. If I have the time and the midset I might review the match, if not... you guys already have a plethora of other references, don't you?

That's it for now, catch you guys later. Continue being obsessive on Sanchez.

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz]

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