Sunday, 3 August 2014

Thoughts on transfers, Arsenal's defence, Gerrard, Sanogo, Joel, Sanchez and Khedira exclusive

Wenger is looking serious. He's having an excellent transfer window so far. Two more signings - Ospina and Calum Chambers - have been announced. And while they're only replacements, they're rather good ones. There's talk of a centre back, now that Arsene has fuelled the fire on Vermaelen, and signs of Khedira and Schneiderlin re-emerging.

On the pitch, we just trashed what I consider a decent team 5-1, playing some really supple football. My thoughts on Sanogo and Campbell are down below.

Alright, here we go.



We've got quite a goalkeeper and quite a situation on our hands. Ospina is young, reputed, enthusiastic and better at diving than Szczesny. His knee problem might give Wenger a reason rather than an excuse to put him out of contention, but after that the situation might turn ugly. I'm not sure that Ospina would come out on top in this circumstance, where both Szczesny and Ospina are forced to fight to stay in the sun. Mostly because I'm not sure Wenger will give him enough chances for him to prove his worth.

I can see Ospina leaving in two years. Wenger may have changed, but his habits of lesser rotation and poor tactical approach will still remain, and Ospina may be a victim of that. I'm more than happy that Wenger has bought a keeper of Ospina's caliber, but what's the point of buying good keepers and not using them much? Playing time was a major factor in Fabianski leaving, and unless Wenger plays Ospina more (apart from 3-4 Cup games), we may have to replace him in two-three years again. It's a waste of funds.

I enjoyed Stillman's analogy of the signing, calling it a 'Darwinist' approach by Wenger, handing one pistol to the two of them and seeing who makes it. Essentially, that's what he's doing, because either Szczesny or Ospina aren't going to enjoy being understudies to one another. I think Szczesny is earmarked to be Arsenal's long-term captain, so I'd personally hope the Polish comes out on top. We'll see.

Calum Chambers...
Look, I don't pretend on knowing much about defenders. I'm actually rather bad at it, because I thought Chambers did merely okay yesterday, and Twitter said excellent.

I'll tell you what I do know, though. Almost every person I know has highly valued his ability, and Southampton have a darn good academy. I know I shouldn't take everything at face value, as people might have overstated due to happiness out of our transfer activity. All I'm saying is that the signs seems good, albeit 16m was a touch too much. Some say that may look like a bargain three years down the line, but I'm not one of them.

Arsene Wenger has spent £25m on two right-backs, and I'm not certain that they fill Sagna's void or not. Debuchy isn't a like-for-like Sagna player, as I mentioned last blog, and Chambers will need his time.

Meanwhile, Jenkinson has been given an ultimatum, on loan to West Ham. For all his love for Arsenal and his special connection with the fans, I must say that he had never really convinced me. I mean, I like him as a guy, and think that he's an honest, hardworking Gooner. But then, so are we, you know? Being a Gooner doesn't mean shouldn't confirm a berth for you. That's not how it works. The same goes to Jack Wilshere, although I'm fairly confident he'll make it at Arsenal.

Anyway, this could all be a case of "Let's develop Jenkinson and Chambers until Debuchy is too old, and then let's prioritize with them". A good plan, assuming that's it.

You could read more of my thoughts here.

Vermaelen a definite departure...
In Arsene Wenger language, that's what one must assume when he says "It is a possibility that he goes."

Unlike an unproven Jenkinson, it'd be a huge blow for Arsenal if Vermaelen leaves. I'd understand it, as his man management has been really bad. He's been heaped pressure and spotlight upon when made captain (he wasn't ready), and he hasn't been rotated much into the foray, even when Mertesacker and Koscielny were fit.

I think he's a good defender, and would do a really good job for any Champions League team. The quality of centre backs in Europe is falling, and we were fortunate to have three excellent ones for two years. Unfortunately, it can't last, and I hope that he leaves for a team not in England. A guy like him could hurt us in the future.

That makes it two centre backs needed...
 It's quite a task. Chambers' role as right-back is pretty much confirmed, now that Jenkinson has made way. That would mean that apart from Mertesacker and Koscielny (50% of whom won't be available for the start), we have no one to rely on. 

Again, I'm emphasizing that I'm particularly bad at judging defenders, but I really feel we should give Semi Ajayi a shot. I've vouched for him for a good seven months, and that's because I've really studied the guy. I've watched him on Arsenal Player, and his highlights. Trust me, this guy is actually better than your Haydens or Miquels. I hope Wenger gives him a shot, at least for fourth-choice.

I'm a big believer in units for defences. Meaning, I'd prefer it if Arsenal actually choose two sets of defences and play them together in different matches. I wouldn't want players like Monreal or Chambers simply replacing one or two defenders, but keeping the other defensive structure same (unless suspensions or injuries force otherwise). If, for Premier League and Champions League matches, the set of Szczesny - Debuchy - Mertesacker - Koscielny - Gibbs start, then for  FA Cup and Capital One Cup matches, the substitute set of defence should play. The whole unit of defence must be rotated, rather than individuals.

We've already known that the back five of Szczesny - Sagna Debuchy (?) - Mertesacker - Koscielny - Gibbs have been a rock at the back, orchestrated by Steve Bould. What I'd want is a centre back who would be compatible with the defence line of Ospina, Chambers, Ajayi and Nacho. Which is why Wenger should consider asking Steve Bould about this, since he's the guy who trains the defence.

It's unorthodox, but hey, that's what Wenger has been this summer.

Khedira or Schneiderlin?
Both of them are possibilities. Check it out.

Schneiderlin doesn't look particularly pleased at the moment.


Now, this source was the same one that said Sanchez was an Arsenal target back in early June, so you'd believe me when I say "reliable". I'd be amazed if the Khedira links don't hot up in the coming week. Let's see what happens on this.

Both of Khedira and Schneiderlin would be an immeasurable upgrade over Arteta. While Schneiderlin offers Premier League experience and a more shoe-in replacement for Mikel, Khedira is big-name pedigree and would be more comfortable around Ozil and the German co. Choosing between Khedira and Schneiderlin is like choosing between a bite of Giroud's sandwich and a strand of Santi Cazorla's hair. Yeah, I'd have that.

Gerrard, uh...
I know that Gerrard is having a tough time. I know that he probably took a frustrated piss at Arsenal because he wasn't thinking straight. But I still laughed, because this was small club mentality from him.

“I would have been really sad and disappointed to see Luis go to Arsenal. With all due respect to them, I said to him that he was too good for Arsenal. I said if you score 30 goals for us and win the PFA player of the year, the press player of the year – I knew he was going to win them – I told him Real or Barcelona will come for you.”

Jokes aside, I don't know why we're pointing out the flaws in Gerrard's interview. As far as I'm concerned, Arsenal are above the Liverpools and Tottenhams. We're on the threshold of being in the English elite. Let's not allow low-lives like Liverpool drag us down. We're way better than that.

No disrespect to Gerrard, but I sincerely don't care what his opinion on Arsenal is. Frankly, we have bigger fish to fry. Right now, we're the joint second best team in England. Liverpool are far below. Why get bothered by them? It's like listening to Tottenham.

Anyway, Wenger responded with a hint of insult, but it was great banter nonetheless.

"You're never too good for Arsenal and Steven Gerrard knows that. But it didn't happen, and anyway, Suarez left."


Hopefully Gerrard has the sense to not push it. He's losing respect from neutral fans from stuff like this.

Sanogo and Campbell thoughts...
My thoughts on Sanogo hasn't changed yet. Sure, he scored 4 goals and I'm happy for him and all, but his performance was still bad. He didn't seem to be in control of what he did. His passing was poor, his lay-offs were poor, his finishing was poor as well. All the four goals were tap-ins. Sanogo only tops a guy like Giroud in movement. His positioning and movement is really good, I'll give him that.

But, for me, he's not a promising aspect. Players like Nasri, Henry, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain were promising because you could see it in their play, and big clubs also moved for these players. Sanogo is just an enthusiastic player who's way out of depth and shape, whose mind doesn't work with his legs. Yesterday was his day, but I'll be surprised if he'll have more of that.

Joel Campbell is a different story. That guy is one for the future. Quick, powerful, athletic, finisher, passer, he's what we want. Wenger has gone on record saying he's not going to be sold or loaned, which is absolutely the right call. His presence in the team makes me very comfortable about our forward options.

Campbell could be a massive Arsenal player two years down the line.

Finally, Alexis!It's obvious why we need him as a striker. He played in the middle as a substitute and looked understandably unfocused, but one highlight in this video showed exactly why we bought him (skip to 2:30). Giroud wouldn't have made the runs the way Alexis did. Sanchez gives us that pace and trickery only Walcott has.

He's playing today against Monaco on the right flank, which is where he'll be playing during the initial part of the season, until Theo gains fitness.

Right, that's me done. Time to catch the match!

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]